While serving in France during WWI, Harry Truman often wrote to his fiance Bess Wallace. In one correspondence he wrote, “I heard a Frenchman remark that Germany was fighting for territory, England for the sea, France for patriotism, and Americans for souvenirs.”
Truman would often repeat this story later in life when souvenir hunters threatened to tear the former U.S President's house apart. However, Truman was no stranger to souvenir collecting either. “Trench art” is any decorative item made by soldiers, prisoners of war or civilians directly linked to armed conflict or its consequences. It offers an insight not only to their feelings and emotions about the war, but also their surroundings and the materials they had available to them.
There are several pieces in the museum collection of Harry S Truman National Historic Site and the neighboring Harry S Truman Presidential Library and Museum. They include pieces made from mortar shells and rifle cartridges. This particular one has a raised crest with a castle, crown, and the word ”Verdun.” Spent shell casings were fashioned into vases and other commemorative items.
See more trench art pieces by exploring the park’s museum collection