or Lydia Steinberg
Barkley Evergreen & Partners, Inc.
The letters Truman wrote to his cousins are full of affection and often personally revealing. In the earliest letter in the collection--to Myra, postmarked December 24, 1906--Truman opens, "I am just awfully ashamed of myself for not having written you before." He tells her he has been working so hard in the corn field he has been too tired to write her, and he says he can't go to an upcoming party "unless the world runs backwards a while and lets me catch up." Myra sent Truman a card for his birthday on May 8, 1907, and Truman sent her a letter to thank her. He wrote her that he hoped she would "pass many birthdays of descending numbers but assending [sic] beauty and joy--and that you will be able to come out a while when chickens are ripe." He signed himself "Your Cuss in."
The next letters in the collection are from the years when Truman was a United States Senator. He sent Myra an eight page handwritten letter on December 11, 1939 in which he described a 13,000 mile trip during which he inspected the country's defenses in many parts of the country, and then went to Latin America. He wrote Mary on August 12, 1940 about his difficult primary campaign against Lloyd Stark for renomination for a second Senate term. The campaign, he wrote, "was a lot worse than I thought it was going to be and much dirtier than it should have been. Every unscrupulous thing that was ever thought of by the dirtiest political organization in the whole United States was resorted to by the Governor [Lloyd Stark], but in spite of all that, he has been returned to the orchard [Stark's nursery business]. He is so thoroughly put out that I haven't heard from him and don't expect to." Truman added a postscript to this letter which suggests the emotional cost of the tense climax of the 1940 campaign: "I lost and won the same night. I'll never be the same again. I gain[ed] 3 pounds on it."
During his presidency, Truman wrote more often to Myra Colgan than to Mary. He shared with her the burdens and frustrations of his office. "What a damphool a man is to be President any way," he wrote on December 5, 1945, "and one who would want to be should be examined by a nut doctor." In another letter, dated November 24, 1949, he told her about his busy schedule, full of meetings, greetings, public appearances, and decisions. There was a luxurious side to being President too, he admitted. "What an easy life a US President has--a yacht, a plane, a private car, a Shangri-la [Camp David], Key West [the "Little White House"], a valet, a barber etc etc ad lib--and a new expense account. I'd give 'em all[,] the little I use 'em[,] for ten minutes of my own time to do as I damn pleased." On October 26, 1952, with election day near, Truman told Myra about his heavy campaigning schedule. "I've been giving Ike and his cohorts some painful times. He and his McCarthys and his Jenners [Senator William Jenner of Indiana], his Tafts and his Deweys. I'm sorry to say Ike has turned out to be a phony. He would be a most dangerous occupant of the 'great white jail' and if I can prevent it he'll not come to the White House." Truman's campaigning could not prevent Eisenhower's victory, however, despite the huge crowds that came to hear him speak. "I can't understand it," Truman wrote Myra about the great crowds he drew. "What they come out to see and hear a has been for is too much for me."
Truman wrote less often, but just as affectionately, to Mary Colgan. "Wish you could have been with us longer," he wrote her after a visit sometime near Christmas 1947. "I always appreciate a chance to see you and Myra. It brings back memories of happy days when I had nothing and was nobody in particular. They were really happy days--but we didn't know how happy."
The letters of Myra and Mary Colgan, whose married names were Myra Colgan Hornbuckle (usually called "Polly" by Truman) and Mary Colgan Romine, were loaned to the Truman Library, together with some other family materials, by Roy T. Romine, the son of Mary Colgan Romine. Mr. Romine has allowed the Truman Library to copy all the materials and make them available for research.
"This important collection of letters will give historians and the American people insight into the character and career of Harry S. Truman," said Dr. Ray Geselbracht, supervisory archivist at the Truman Library. "They are precious, and we are very grateful to Roy Romine for letting us copy them and make them available for research."
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.