Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

President Truman's Desk

Student Activities

  1. Knowledge/Comprehension:

    Share the background information with students, then have them conduct research on the desk itself, the history of the Oval Office, or life in the United States in the 1950's and present their findings to the class.

  2. Application/Analysis:

    Divide students into pairs or small groups. Give each group a copy of the "Truman's Desk Inventory" and "Desk Detective" worksheets. Ask students to complete the worksheet and to share ideas with the class. (Alternatively, students may work online at computers if you have enough equipment available.)

  3. Evaluation:

    Parade Magazine, May 22, 1949, used the following terms and phrases to characterize President Truman, based on the items he kept on his desk:

    an average American man
    sentimentalist
    family man
    patriot
    joiner
    clock-watcher
    automaton
    frugal
    practical

    Have students make a list of specific objects that match the attributes mentioned above. (For example, frugal = he kept give-away calendars). Do they agree with the writer's conclusions? What other conclusions might they have come to using the same list of objects?

  4. Synthesis:

    Hand out copies of the "My Personal Desk Inventory" worksheet. Have students complete them by listing the objects found in and on their school desks. (You may want to have a group try to inventory your desk!) Collect the inventories. Read some unusual ones aloud and have students try to guess to whom the list belongs.

    Have students create imaginary desk inventories for other Presidents or famous people. (How about one for their school principal?) Have them create imaginary inventories for what they might find in the purse or pocket of a President.

    What if President Truman were elected in 1998 instead of 1948? How might his desk look then? What about 1848? 2048?