Edward Jacobson Papers
Dates: 1913-1974.Kansas City Businessman; U.S. Army Associate, Business Partner, and Friend of Harry S. Truman.
The papers of Edward Jacobson document his life and business career; his relationship with Harry S. Truman; his role in advocating U.S. support for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine in 1947-48; and his involvement in the early history of the modern state of Israel. The papers include correspondence, financial records, legal documents, memoranda, newspaper clippings, printed material, and other items.
Size: Less than one linear foot (approximately 800 pages).
The papers of Edward Jacobson document his business and personal affairs, and particularly his long friendship with Harry S. Truman. Through this friendship, Jacobson-a Kansas City haberdasher who never sought public office in his life-played an important part in the founding of the modern state of Israel.
Eddie Jacobson and Harry Truman met in Kansas City as young men and renewed their acquaintance during World War I, when they served together in the 129th Field Artillery. While stationed at Camp Doniphan in Oklahoma, the two men operated the regimental canteen with such success that they decided, upon their return from Europe after the Armistice, to go into business together. The Truman & Jacobson haberdashery opened for business on November 28, 1919, at 104 West 12th Street in downtown Kansas City, a prime location just across the street from the Muehlebach Hotel. The store ran into financial difficulties during the postwar economic recession and finally closed in September, 1922, leaving Truman and Jacobson heavily in debt. For the next two decades Jacobson worked as a traveling salesman of men's clothing. In 1945, he was able to open his own store in Kansas City, Westport Menswear.
Jacobson's friendship with Truman survived their business failure and continued through the 1930s and 1940s, as Truman advanced from county administrator to U.S. Senator to Vice President and, ultimately, President of the United States. As one of Truman's closest Jewish friends, Jacobson lobbied the President in behalf of a cause that was very important to him: the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine as a refuge for survivors of the Nazi Holocaust in Europe. On a number of occasions, often at the behest of Jewish leaders who were aware of his close ties to the President, he corresponded or met with Truman to urge that the United States support this cause. During a memorable face-to-face encounter at the White House on March 13, 1948, it was Jacobson who persuaded Truman to meet with Dr. Chaim Weizmann, the leader of the Zionist movement. Two months later, on May 14, 1948, the United States became the first nation to grant diplomatic recognition to the new state of Israel.
Jacobson and his wife visited Israel in 1949, and his interest and involvement in the affairs of the new nation continued during the early years of its existence. Through a variety of tributes and honors, Israelis and Americans alike recognized his contribution to the founding of the Jewish state. His friendship with Harry Truman continued until Jacobson's death in 1955. Truman once wrote that Eddie Jacobson was "as fine a man as ever walked."
The papers of Edward Jacobson consist of five series: a World War I File; a Truman-Jacobson Haberdashers File; a Correspondence File; a Personal File; and a Cross Reference Sheet File. The World War I File consists of printed material and other items relating to Jacobson's wartime service in the 129th Field Artillery of the 35th Division. The material in this series includes a book of scripture readings and a prayer book for Jewish servicemen, a pictorial history of the 35th Division, and a songbook. The World War I File is arranged in alphabetical order by subject. The Truman-Jacobson Haberdashers File contains financial records, legal documents, and correspondence pertaining to the haberdashery. This series includes an account book for the store with entries in Truman's handwriting; correspondence and investigative reports regarding a clerk at the haberdashery who was dismissed for stealing; a copy of the lease for the property at 104 West 12th Street; and legal papers regarding the indebtedness of Truman and Jacobson after the failure of the store. The Truman-Jacobson Haberdashers File is arranged in alphabetical order by subject.
The Correspondence File consists of correspondence and other items, much of it documenting Jacobson's relationship with Truman and his involvement in the founding and early history of the state of Israel. This series contains approximately forty letters from Truman to Jacobson, and copies of fewer than ten letters from Jacobson to Truman, dating from 1945 to 1955. Although most of this correspondence is personal in nature, a few letters touch upon the Palestine issue. Especially notable are Jacobson's letter of October 3, 1947, supporting the United Nations partition plan for Palestine, and the President's letter of February 27, 1948, expressing his frustration over the refusal of Jews and Arabs to reach a peaceful settlement. Subsequent letters between the two friends concern such matters as a proposal, made by a Kansas City Jewish leader in 1952 and immediately dismissed by Jacobson, that Jacobson be named president of Israel ("I'll say that he couldn't nominate a better man," Truman wrote, "but I sincerely hope you won't take it, for your own welfare and benefit.") The last communication between the two men in Jacobson's papers is a handwritten letter from Truman, dated June 30, 1955, in which the former President describes his plans to visit Israel, perhaps in the company of Jacobson. Jacobson died soon thereafter, and Truman never made the trip.
Other material in this series includes correspondence between Jacobson and Eben Ayers, a White House aide who was researching the history of the haberdashery in order to refute charges that Truman had behaved improperly with regard to his debts; Jacobson's correspondence with Chaim Weizmann, Abba Eban, James McDonald (the first U.S. Ambassador to Israel), and others regarding Israel and Jacobson's visit to the new nation in 1949; two undated and unsigned memoranda describing political machinations in the U.S. that followed the founding of Israel in May, 1948; and a 1974 letter from Mrs. Jacobson to the director of the Truman Library, concerning the donation of her late husband's papers. The Correspondence File is arranged in alphabetical order by subject.
The Personal File consists of memoranda, printed material, newspaper clippings, and other items relating to various aspects of Jacobson's life. This series includes several memoranda written by Jacobson for the historical record: an autobiographical sketch; a handwritten "chronology" of his role in events surrounding the recognition of Israel; and an account of his visit to Washington in October, 1950, during which he attended a series of meetings concerning U.S. economic aid to Israel, and also met with President Truman on this subject. The Personal File is arranged in alphabetical order by subject. The Cross Reference Sheet File consists of a single folder containing cross reference sheets for items transferred from the papers to the Truman Library's collections of museum artifacts, photographs, and books.
Other collections at the Truman Library contain information relating to Edward Jacobson and U.S. foreign policy toward Palestine and Israel. Correspondence between Truman and Jacobson, and other relevant materials, can be found in the papers of Harry S. Truman: Papers as U.S. Senator and Vice President; President's Secretary's Files; White House Central Files; and Post-Presidential Papers. Additional relevant information is located in the Miscellaneous Historical Documents Collection, the records of the Weizmann Archives, the records of the American Jewish Archives, and the papers of A. J. Granoff, Clark Clifford, and David Niles.