Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


Susan Medler
PH 816.268.8245
FAX 816.268.8299

Truman Library to Open for Research Never-Before-Seen
“Dear Harry” Letters on Oct. 14, 2009

OCTOBER 13, 2009 — On October 14, 2009, the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum will open for research eight letters written by Bess Wallace Truman to Harry Truman in 1923 and 1925.  Of the 180 known letters from Bess to Harry Truman, these are the first to be opened to the public for research.  Affectionately known as the "Dear Harry" letters, this body of correspondence offers a slim counterpoint to the 1,300 letters from Harry to Bess in the library's holdings.  Fifteen of the "Dear Harry" letters were displayed at the museum in 1998, in one of the most popular temporary exhibits presented by the institution in recent decades.

“Dear Harry”
The former first lady was a remarkably private public figure, and much of what is understood about Bess Truman today comes through secondary accounts, rather than her own words. When, during their post-White House years, Harry came upon Bess burning her personal correspondence, Harry urged her to reconsider, decrying, “But Bess, think of history.” She famously retorted, “I am.”

However, Mrs. Truman missed at least eight letters to Harry, and these came into the control of the Truman Library after the passing of Margaret Truman Daniel in 2008.

The eight letters that will be opened tomorrow are dated July 1923 and July 1925.  Bess was in her late thirties at the time she corresponded with Harry, whom she had married in 1919.  

In July 1923, Harry Truman was at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for Army Reserve officers training.  Bess's letters to Harry at this time involved such matters as the hot weather in Independence, her dental work, Harry's physical examination, and Harry's training.

In 1925, however, the Trumans were parents to 1-year-old Margaret, and when Harry was at Fort Riley, Kansas for reserve officers training, Bess reported that Margaret missed her father and frequently asked for “da-da.” And, like many women of the day, Bess was considering trading in her long locks for a fashionable bob, and she shared this news with her distant mate.

The main theme in all of these letters from Bess to Harry, as well as those from Harry to Bess, is the difficulty of separation. They missed each other terribly, and the pain of being apart comes through more than any other thought in these remarkable letters.  

The remaining "Dear Harry" letters will be opened for research at a later date that has yet to be determined.

For Researchers
A finding aid for the “Dear Harry” letters will be available when the Truman Library opens the Bess W. Truman Papers.

Copies of eight “Dear Harry” letters will be available beginning tomorrow in the Research Room of the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.  Researchers may schedule a visit to the Research Room of the Truman Library, 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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