Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

FAQ: Whatís a "key to the city" (question from children)?

Traditionally, a "key to the city" is a gift made by a city (or town) to a visiting dignitary that generally takes the form of a larger-than-life sized model key. The key represents the cityís welcome of the visiting dignitary by, symbolically, placing the city at the visitorís disposal (like offering a key to your home to a houseguest).

During the "Whistlestop" campaign of 1948, President Truman received the keys to many different cities along the route of his trip.