Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


Susan Medler
PH 816.268.8245
FAX 816.268.8299

Bess Wallace Truman Family Papers Opened for Research
at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum

Opening includes Truman ledger (1945-53) and newly declassified documents


FEBRUARY 13, 2009 The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum has today opened for research documents from the Bess Wallace Truman family. The opening – scheduled to coincide with the 124th birthday of the former First Lady – includes the papers of Madge Gates Wallace (Bess’s mother), George Porterfield Gates (Bess’s maternal grandfather), and Fred Wallace (the youngest of Bess’s three brothers). The more than 23,000 pages of material provide valuable new insights into Bess Truman’s roots and into life in Independence, Missouri during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.


The Family Papers of Bess Wallace Truman

The papers of Madge Gates Wallace (1862-1952) contain nearly 1,600 pages of material dating approximately from 1857 to 1952. Born Margaret Elizabeth Gates, Madge Wallace was the oldest of seven children. She was graduated from the Independence Female College in 1881 and married David Willock Wallace in 1883. The couple had four surviving children, of whom Bess was the eldest. After the tragic death of Bess’s father in 1903, Madge Wallace moved her family from their home in Independence, Missouri at 608 North Delaware Street to her grandparents’ home at 219 North Delaware Street. In 1919, newlyweds Harry and Bess moved into upstairs quarters of the home, residing with Madge Wallace until her death in 1952. Noteworthy materials in the Madge Gates Wallace Papers include a 1924 letter from Bess Wallace’s grandmother, Elizabeth Gates, to her daughter Madge about the birth of Harry and Bess’s newborn, and then-unnamed, daughter (Margaret Truman). In addition, the papers include a poem written by Madge’s grandmother on the occasion of her sixteenth birthday (see attachment).


Bess Wallace’s maternal grandfather, George Porterfield Gates (1835-1918), moved to Independence, Missouri in 1866, and, with William Waggoner, organized the Waggoner-Gates Milling Company, producer of Queen of the Pantry flour. His papers contain correspondence, financial materials, printed materials, legal records, and other material concerning Gates’s family and various business interests. The collection contains about 17,600 pages of material dating approximately from 1855-1917. Of particular note is the earliest known example of Bess Wallace’s handwriting (see attachment).


The Fred Wallace Papers include correspondence, financial records, printed materials, and memorabilia primarily relating to Wallace’s personal affairs. The nearly 4,000 pages of material from 1898 to 1954 primarily consist of letters to Wallace from his friend Lillian Tannehill, whom Wallace courted before his marriage to Christine Meyer in 1933; from his mother Madge Gates Wallace; and from other friends and relatives. Included in the collection is a handwritten 1919 letter to Wallace from his future brother-in-law, Harry S. Truman. Fred Wallace (1900-1957) was the youngest of Bess Wallace’s three brothers; trained as an architect, he worked with the architectural firms T. H. Buell and J.C. Nichols before moving to Denver, Colorado in 1943.


Complementing these family documents are about 150 newly released photographs that came into the control of the Truman Library after the passing of Margaret Truman Daniel last year. Included are ancestral photographs of the Gates family, including pictures of Bess Truman’s grandmother and mother, and formal portraits of Harry, Bess and Margaret Truman.


New Truman Materials Opened

The Truman Library also has released approximately 1,200 pages of newly declassified documents, which come from the Papers of Harry Truman, Psychological Strategy Board (PSB) Files. The PSB reported to the National Security Council and was composed of the Under Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and the Director of Central Intelligence. The PSB’s responsibility was to plan psychological operations and coordinate their implementation by government agencies. The documents opened relate to various subjects, including post-war Germany, East-West trade, the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc countries, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, as well as PSB program planning and administration. This opening represents the Truman Library’s first release of documents under the Remote Archival Capture project, an interagency initiative to facilitate the declassification of documents in the nation’s federally managed presidential libraries.


Finally, a remarkable gem has been opened to the public, a ledger book containing a record of President Truman’s personal expenses and income during an eight-year span, from 1945 to 1953. The handwritten entries were likely made by one of President Truman’s secretaries, perhaps Rose Conway. A sample page is attached.


More Details

Online finding aids for the Madge Gates Wallace Papers, the George Porterfield Gates Papers, the Fred Wallace Papers, and President Truman’s ledger book can be accessed on the Research page of the Truman Library’s website, TrumanLibrary.org, as can a list of the newly declassified PSB documents.


Researchers may schedule a visit to the Research Room of the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, located at 500 W. U.S. Highway 24, Independence, Mo. The public is welcome free of charge Monday – Friday, 8:45 a.m. – 4:45 p.m.


The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum is one of 13 presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration and is supported, in part, by its not-for-profit partner, the Harry S. Truman Library Institute. To learn more, please visit TrumanLibrary.org.


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