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  • Traveling President

    Truman and Clark CliffordHarry Truman loved to travel. He had driven extensively around the country by car during his political career. Campaigning in 1948, he criss-crossed the nation in the Ferdinand Magellan, the Presidential railroad car. Truman also had a modern advantage: he was the first President to fly regularly. Flying made it easier to get away from Washington. Truman performed his Presidential duties from his home in Independence, and he also took refuge at the Key West Naval Station, where he could work in more relaxed surroundings. Closer to Washington, Truman also escaped the pressures of the White House aboard the Presidential yacht, the USS Williamsburg.

    Away From Everything

    Truman inherited the use of the Presidential yacht USS Williamsburg when he took office. For a Missouri man of limited means, pleasure cruising was a new experience, but Truman quickly came to appreciate its serenity. He relaxed on short Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay cruises and on longer cruises along the Eastern Seaboard. He sometimes traveled alone or with a skeleton staff; other times he entertained friends and Cabinet members, often passing evenings playing "games of chance."

    The Missouri White House

    When he wanted to get away from Washington, Truman often spent time at his home in Independence. He was happy to retreat to the town of his youth, taking comfort in the familiar surroundings of 219 North Delaware, which reporters sometimes called the "Summer White House." Bess made frequent and sometimes lengthy visits home to spend time with her mother and to escape the Washington merry-go-round. When Truman joined his family he frequently worked from a suite of rooms in the Muehlebach Hotel in downtown Kansas City.

    Key West

    Another favorite Truman getaway was the "Little White House" at Key West Naval Station in Florida. It was an ideal place to escape the pressures of Washington. He could fish, enjoy the sun, play poker, and get plenty of rest. Truman liked it so well that he spent 175 days there during his nearly eight years as president.

    Key West March 15, 1947

    Dear Bess,

    "I am getting some much needed rest and already feel and
    look much better. Have been going to bed at eleven o'clock
    and getting up at seven or eight, so you see I am really doing
    some sleeping."