• Boyhood
  • Farm Years
  • Becoming a Man
  • Family
  • Military Service
  • Home from the War
  • County Judge
  • Senator
  • Senate to the White House
  • Living in the White House
  • Traveling President
  • Mr Citizen
  • Harry S. Truman: His Life and Times
  • Museum Hours
  • Directions to Museum
  • Educational Activities
  • News Release
  • Truman Library Home
  • Back to Overview

  • Boyhood

    Truman as a babyBorn in 1884, Harry Truman was in many ways a typical child of his time. He was taught the importance of honesty and hard work at a young age. Traditional values and his Southern roots shaped his views of the world around him. He inherited his family's frontier spirit of self-reliance and their prejudices. However, young Harry was unusually bright and curious, and his strong work ethic extended to his education. His appetite for reading, his fascination with history, and his love of music gave him glimpses of a world beyond his boyhood home.


    Harry Truman's grandparents came to Missouri from Shelby County, Kentucky. They passed down a legacy of integrity, independence, and hard work. Harry said that his grandfather, Solomon Young,"could do anything he set his mind to, and mostly he did." His family was of English, Scots-Irish, French and German origin.

    "We're a little of everything. If you shook the family tree anything might fall out."

    A Love of Music

    Music program featuring Harry TrumanFrom an early age, Harry Truman loved music. A serious piano student, he practiced diligently, with typical self-discipline, on the family's upright Kimball. He was thrilled when his music teacher
    arranged for him to meet the great concert pianist Ignace Paderewski. He worked as an usher at
    Kansas City theaters to gain free access to performances, including one that was to have special meaning in his life, the musical comedy, "The Girl from Utah".

    Great Men and Famous Women

    Books were Harry's windows to the world. His mother and teachers instilled in him an early passion for learning. Reading was also a safe way to have adventures without breaking his glasses, an expensive item for this family of modest means. While most children in town stopped going to school after seventh grade, Harry went on to complete high school. Throughout his life, Harry was fascinated with history.

    "Reading history, to me, was far more than a romantic
    adventure. It was solid instruction and wise teaching which
    I somehow felt that I wanted and needed."

    Clinton's Drug Store

    For several months the fourteen-year-old Harry worked at J.H. Clinton's Drug Store on the
    Independence town square.

    " I can remember the first $3.00 I received for working a week-seven days from seven o'clock until school time and from four o'clock until ten at night, all day Saturday and Sunday. I had to wipe off bottles, mop the floor every morning, make ice cream for sodas, and wait on the customers…. That three silver dollars looked like three million and meant a lot more. I bought a present for Mamma and tried to give the rest of it to my dad and he wouldn't take it. It was as I say a great day all around when I got that $3.00. I've never had as much or as big a payday since."