tv American Artifacts Harry Truman Home CSPAN March 24, 2019 6:02pm-6:26pm EDT
this is american history tv on c-span3. 48h weekend, we feature hours a programs. you can check out our website at c-span.org/history. on american now, artifacts, we travel to independence, missouri, where harry and beth truman lived after his presidency. doug richardson, chief of interpretation of the national historic site lead a tour. this is about 35 minutes. >> it is good to be back home. what i called the center of the world. independence, missouri. is the greatest town of the united states. i have been all around the and other places. i still like to come back home and i will continue to feel that way as long as i live.
>> harry truman formally moved into this house after his wedding to his longtime love after their marriage on june 20 8, 1919. into a home that was full of his in-laws. he is one of the very few presidents that did not own a home of his own prior to his presidency. so, when he moved into this home, his grandmother in law, his mother-in-law, his brother-in-law, and his wife and he were living in this home as well as one of bess' brothers. for many years, even though we call it the truman home it was known as the gates mansion because it was built by bess truman's grandparents, george and elizabeth gates. and the first part of the house was built in 1867 and the grand addition where i'm standing now was built in 1885. so somebody walking by this house at the turn of the century would have seen probably the
grandest house in the nicest area of independence. and then by the time he became president in 1945, the house had seen better days, age was starting to show on the house, and so mrs. truman oversaw a rather major renovation of the house replacing some wood and some steps and it got a lovely new paint job but chose a new color for the home. white. and so it became known as the summer white house. in 1901, harry truman graduated high school not far from this home. and in that graduating class was the great love of his life, bess wallace, as well as his best friend, charlie ross, whom he would call upon to become his press secretary when he became president of the united states. but at about the same time, harry truman's father faced some financial reversals that caused the truman family to have to leave independence. so harry truman and the family would move into kansas and then
eventually he and the family would move on to his maternal grandparents' farm in grandview, missouri. and every time that harry truman would return to independence after that, he would stay at the home of an aunt and an uncle, joseph and ellen noland, and he would stay at this home at 216 north delaware street and visit two of his favorite cousins. and this home just happened to be right across the street from 219. and so we like to imagine being in the joseph and ellen noland home and imagining young harry truman looking across the street at 219 north delaware street knowing that the great love of his life was in that home. well, one day in 1910, and unfortunately we don't know the exact date, harry truman happened to be visiting his cousins at the noland home.
and bess truman's mother, gates wallace, happened to make a cake for the nolands. and the cake plate needed to be returned. with the speed of light, truman ran across delaware street, rang the door bell at 219 north delaware. bess wallace answered the door. and they laid eyes upon each other probably for the first time since they graduated in 1901. and that started one of the greatest presidential romances of all time. and so the earliest letter that survives from harry to bess truman is from december 31, 1910. and they would court for the next nine years and then on june 28, 1919, perhaps ironically, the day that the armistice was signed and in world war i, they would be married and have their wedding reception on the beautiful lawn outside of this
beautiful home. we're going to walk now into the living room of 219 north delaware street. and this is a room where mrs. truman and mr. truman would spend a lot of time. and a room where the dignitaries and v.i.p.'s would visit in their post-presidential years. in this room we love to talk about the painting that hangs over the fireplace. that was one of mrs. truman's favorite images of her husband. and it was a painting, it's a one of a kind really. and it was intended to be a portrait of senator harry truman. it was done by a gentleman by the name of jay wesley jacobs. and it was started while he was the senator from the state of missouri. and continued during his brief vice-presidency and then completed while he was president of the united states. and it's perhaps the first painting of president harry truman done from life. harry truman was not known very well outside of jackson county
by the age of 50 when he became a senator for the state of missouri. it's been my privilege to be a united states senator for the past 9.5 years. and i expect to continue the effort which i've been making in that capacity as a united states senator to help win the peace under the direction of the great -- our great leader franklin d. roosevelt. >> and he became president at the age of 60. on april 12, 1945, harry truman happened to be in the capitol building when he received a phone call from the white house asking him to hurry to the white house and to come quietly. truman rushed to the white house and was received by eleanor roosevelt who broke the news to now president truman. eleanor roosevelt said harry,
the president is dead. and president truman just didn't know what to say. and he eventually was able to look at mrs. roosevelt and say, mrs. roosevelt, is there anything that i could do for you? and mrs. roosevelt looked back at mr. truman and said no, harry, is there anything that i can do for you, for you are the one in trouble now? after he took the oath of office at 7:09 that night, one of his cabinet members took him aside and told him, mr. president, there's something that you need to know. and so over the next few weeks, he would get a crash course basically in the new atomic bomb that america was developing. this is a solemn but glorious hour. i wish that franklin d. roosevelt had lived to see this day. >> harry truman's birthday is on may 8. and so much of the world may 7
and may 8 celebrated victory in europe day. what a beautiful birthday present that was but recognized only half the job wrass done and even though peace was on its way to formation in europe that the war was still raging in the pacific. and so america was preparing for that. in a few months, he would travel to germany, and meet with joseph stalin, winston churchill and clement atley at the potsdam conference and on the way home to the united states, he would authorize the use of the atomic bomb on military targets in japan. history tells the rest of the story of that in august of 1945 to two atomic bombs were dropped on hiroshima and nagasaki. >> the japanese began the war from the air at pearl harbor. they have been repaid many fold. and the end is not yet. with this bomb, we have now added a new and revolutionary increase in destruction.
>> and so the first five months of truman's presidency were among the most challenging of any president's in our history. mrs. truman suffered a loss in december of 1952 with the death of her mother, mage gates wallace. she died just a few weeks before christmas in 1952 and really just a few weeks before president truman would leave the presidency. in january of 1952. she died without a will. and so what mr. and mrs. truman did was they bought this home from the estate of madge gayts -- gates wallace and all the paperwork was done by the middle of 1953. and then we could legally call it the truman home. and really from 1953 to 1972, were the only years in which harry and bess truman lived in this home by themselves.
and many say perhaps those were the happiest 19 years of their lives. >> good feeling. your thought of us is always highly appreciated. we're back home now for good. i'm in the army of the unemployed now. [laughter] although it's a very small army. and i'm here to tell you that a little later on, when i get the job done, mrs. truman has for me, which she says i'll have to do to unpack our goods and chattel and think about seven or -- and it will take about seven or eight men three months to get it done so i don't know how long it's going to take one man to get it done-done. after that i'll be open for dinner engagements and things of that kind but i may be hungry at that time. [laughter] >> after they came home in 1953, almost every room in this house got some type of a makeover where there was hardwood floors and put down carpeting and put
up new wail papering and furnishings they brought back from washington, d.c. as visitors walk through the house today, it feels and it appears like any of the trumans were going to walk around the corner at any moment. and everything in this house has a story. every chair, every knickknack. both mr. truman and mrs. truman were fond of books and were fond of reading. president truman said that every leader must be a reader. and from a very young age, he was an avid reader and was up until his passing. so almost every room in this house has the collection of books. and so here in the living room, for example, there is a book case here that has even a signed copy of linden johnson's memoirs called "the vantage point." the johnson and truman's were quite close.
right here in this room, linden johnson visited and not only six times but signed a piece of legislation designated united nations today. it's fun to think of some of the people who sat on that couch. the wonderful relationship between president truman and former president herbert hoover, two men who had completely different political ideologies but formed a very warm relationship in the post presidency. i like to think about mr. and mrs. truman visiting with eleanor roosevelt. i like to think about some of the popular entertainers and celebrities of the day. jack benny did an entire episode of the jack benny program at the truman library and visited this home. and both mr. and mrs. truman had wonderful senses of humor. and i can only imagine the laughter that was in this room. we're standing in the dining room in the grand addition of the gates mansion, later the truman home. and what we see on the table today is a formal setting for
six. and the setting was personally placed by margaret truman daniel. and i think when she set this, that she was remembering how dinners were formal in her youth. margaret remembered because it was her grandmother's house she sat at one of the heads of the table and that being that she was a widow, that harry truman acted basically as the male head household and he would sit at the other end of the table. and then mrs. truman beside her husband and then when margaret was big enough, that she would sit between her mother and her grandmother wallace. the chandelier that hangs is not original to the 1885 addition. when the trumans came home to immense in 1953 from washington, d.c., mark rhett wars by that -- margaret was by that time a new yorker with her singing and television career. and she saw that chandelier in a store in new york and sent it
back to independence thinking it would put a lovely signing room that the trumans had done with the furniture they had acquired while living in washington, d.c. and so this beautiful chandelier was assembled by the entire family piece by piece and hung and installed by bess' brother, george wallace. now, in this post-presidential years, when it was just mr. and mrs. truman, eating at this table, it probably wasn't set like this. but once dinner was over for the evening, after the dishes were done, then they would proceed to go into the reading room because they weren't television watchers and would proceed into a room that meant a lot to them. this spot is very special to all of us because behind this table, harry truman loved to spend a lot of his time here in the reading room. and on this table is one of his
favorite books about one of his favorite heroes that's a biography of andrew jackson. andrew jackson would be one of his political influences and somebody who he would look to in the history books for guidance as to how to be a president of all of the people. when truman was a young man, just about six years old or so, about the time that his family moved to independence, he was diagnosed as having a condition known as flat eyeballs. and so he received a pair of glasses with a special prescription. he was legally blind. he said later, change the way of his boyhood and that he couldn't play the sports that other boys did. baseball, football and other rough-housing. and it restricted him to playing the piano and reading. and he later claimed that the love of books came to him largely because of that increasingly ability to read. and he claimed that he read by the time he left independence
every book in the independence public library. here in this room, they were surrounded by the books that they loved. it's a very eclectic collection of books. he has everything from a couple additions of the holy bible to many biographies of everybody from alexander the great to jacqueline kennedy. a wonderful collection of charles dickens. best truman as the letters infer, introduced him to the characters that charles dickens created and dickens would hold a special place in harry truman's heart. so in the evening hours, mr. and mrs. truman would retreat to the room and they would sit side by side and also music lovers but they were lovers of classical music. so to bess and harry truman, music meant chopin, beethoven, bach. mostly classical music. the modern music of the 1950's, 1960's and up to his death he called noise.
you could always tell in those last years where mr. and mrs. truman were by where the lights were on. and many remembered walking by 219 north delaware street and they would see the lights on here in the study. and through the windows, they could see the silhouettes of mr. and mrs. truman sitting and reading. he believed that history was best taught by biography and so when he would talk to a young person or to truman library, speak to a group of young people visiting the library, he would tell them that. that you are the future of this country. you must read and learn our history. mrs. truman liked history and biography as well but she was a big fan of mest riss and who done its. and after margaret moved to new york, mrs. truman and her daughter, margaret, they would ship back and forth boxes of mysteries and they would talk on the phone every night and i would love to have heard some of the conversations as they talked
about the books that they were reading. and i think that that perhaps inspired margaret truman to become an authoress of the capital crime series and on this table, at the bottom of this pile, is actually a first edition copy of margaret truman's first mystery novel, murder at the white house. we're going to move from the grand addition of the house to the original 1867 portion of the house. and this is part of the pantry, the butler's pantry and one of the most wonderful objects in our collection is a beautiful memorial plate that was given to mr. and mrs. truman in 1945 commemorating their wedding on june 28, 1919. and it's so wonderfully romantic that after nine years of courtship and after so many years of having a love crush on beth wallace that he achieved
his goal of matrimony. but as we cross the threshold here, we enter into probably the oldest part of the house, the kitchen. once they came home in 1953, and purchased this home, and they modernized the rest of the house, this kitchen was one of the few rooms that they updated after that. so this kitchen received a few updates between 1953 and 1971. frequently, we have people say that this kitchen reminds them of their grandmother's kitchen or the kitchen of one of their aunts or uncles or somebody in the family. many people make comments to the wallpaper and ceiling paper. and this paper was part of that last renovation in 1971.
and it was chosen by president truman himself. and i always say that two of the best places perhaps to get truman d.n.a. remains under the lamp here on this wall where you can see the wallpaper is worn away as they would turn on the light here. and then also on this wall where you could see the wallpaper worn away under this lamp over here. one thing in this room that means a lot to us is the calendar that hangs on the wall remains on the wall. and it's a very simple calendar.
it's a government printing office calendar. and it's from october of 1982. and mrs. truman left us on monday, october 18. and of course the date is hashed off and days would be hashed off after that. her funeral would be later in the week as she wished. it was a very simple funeral and she would be interred next to her husband at the harry s. truman presidential library and museum. and then the hashes stop on the 26th and after that, the house was closed. and the end of an era. when harry truman left the presidency on january 20 of 1953, he did not expect a big sendoff from washington, d.c. but when he got to the train station, there were just thousands of people there to see truman off. and that really emotionally struck mr. and mrs. truman. and along the way, at every stop, there were people who were
crowding around to say hello, mr. president. could i have your autograph, mr. president? thank you, mr. president. and he would frequently say no, it's president eisenhower now. you can call me harry. when he arrived back at the independence train station, there were 10,000 people that were gathered there and there was a set of microphones. >> your thoughts of us is always highly appreciated. we're back home now for good. i'm in the army of the unemployed now. [laughter] >> but when you watch very closely the faces of harry and bess truman, you really sense the love there and the sense that they were back home. and when people would ask harry truman what he wanted to be remembered for, he would say that he wanted to be remembered as being the president of all people. and he would say that when a governor or a senator or a if governor or a senator or a congressman or a mayor, when that are elected to their respective positions, that they are elected to represent a certain portion of the population. but there was only one person who was elected to represent all of the people of the united states. and that was the president of the united states.
and truman said that he would like to be remembered as being the people's president. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] announcer 1: trouble with us to historic sites every sunday on our series, american artifacts. this is american history tv on c-span3. wordncer 2: the french detente means a release of tensions and is used to describe the relations between the u.s. and soviet union from the late 1960's to the 1970's. stephan kieninger, the author of "the diplomacy of detente "the diplomacy of detent