or Dean Davison
Barkley & Evergreen Public Relations
(Independence, MO) - He fell in love with her the first time he saw her-in Sunday School at the Presbyterian Church. She spurned his first offer of marriage twenty years later. But Harry and Bess Truman's enduring love survived more than 60 years through business failures, two world wars, many political campaigns and an historic presidency.
For the first time, the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Mo. reveals one of the greatest love stories of the 20th Century through its new exhibit, "Dear Bess: Love Letters from the President." The exhibition opens February 12, 1998 and runs through September 1, 1999.
The exhibition draws on the Truman Library's unique collection of 1,322 handwritten letters from President Truman to Bess Wallace Truman dating from the start of their courtship in 1910 through their post-presidential retirement in Independence.
"No President has revealed as much about his hopes, his dreams, his anxieties and his fears as did President Truman in these letters," said Truman Library Director Larry Hackman. "The 'Love Letters' exhibition reveals the deep affection the Trumans had for one another, some of their moments of joy and sorrow, and President Truman's dependence on his wife for advice and support."
Dozens of artifacts from the museum's collection enhance the exhibition. Included are Truman's World War I uniforms that he stored for 50 years in his Army footlocker, the desk from Senator Truman's Capitol Hill office, ornate chandeliers from the Jackson County Courthouse that Truman built during his service as Jackson County judge, and Bess Truman's wedding dress.
Bess Truman saved the letters her beau and then husband, sent her, stashing some of them in shoeboxes in the attic at 219 N. Delaware St., and using many others as bookmarks. Mrs. Truman, who was always a modest and private person, apparently destroyed most of the hundreds of letters that she wrote to her husband.
According to Margaret Truman Daniel, one day around Christmas of 1955 Harry walked into the living room and found Bess burning her letters in the fireplace. He implored her to stop, saying, "Bess, think of history."
"I have," was her reply and kept tossing the letters into the fire.
"Bess Truman did not enjoy the glare of public scrutiny," said Hackman. "This exhibition will help people understand her and the remarkably resilient relationship that she and her husband shared through public and private turmoil. This is one of the most ambitious exhibitions we have ever created here."
The Truman Library and Museum is located at U.S. Highway 24 and Delaware in Independence, Mo. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays from 9 a. m. to 9 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. The museum is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Admission is $5 for adults, $4.50 for seniors, $3 for children ages 6 to 18, and free for children 5 years and under.
The Harry S. Truman Library is one of ten Presidential Libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration.