Young Bess Wallace, Young Harry Truman, handwriting background.


The Dear Bess and Dear Harry Podcast, from Harry S Truman National Historic Site

Harry S Truman

From Harry S Truman National Historic Site; a chance to share some of the stories associated with Harry Truman, Bess W. Truman and their times. We will share letters written between Harry Truman, Bess Wallace Truman, Margaret Truman, and others. We will link to digital versions of the letters in case you'd like to see them. You may need to refresh the page for the latest episode.


Dear Mamma and Mary (Truman) : April 12, 1945


Welcome to the Dear Bess, Dear Harry podcast for April 12, 2024, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service. We come to you from 219 North Delaware Street, Independence, Missouri, which from 1945 to 1953 was the second most famous address in the United States.

Today we would like to share with you a different type of letter written by Harry S Truman, one written by him as Vice President of the United States, and written to his mother and sister, Mrs. Martha Ellen Truman and Miss Mary Jane Truman, back home in Grandview, Missouri.

Just a note---we are grateful to have photocopies of the letters that Harry Truman wrote to his mother and sister. As former President Truman was writing his memoirs, he borrowed these letters from his sister, and had copies made. Mary Jane Truman for reasons unknown destroyed the originals.

Vice President Truman had been in that office for just over 80 days. Constitutionally, the Vice President serves as the presiding officer of the Senate, and Truman dearly loved the Senate, and had good working relationships with many of its members. Sometimes we live our lives not knowing what fate has in store for us. As Harry Truman wrote this letter to his mother and sister, he had no way of knowing that just a few hours later he would be President of the United States, and the radio address he mentions would never happen. His life would change forever, as would the lives of his family. We’d like to share this letter with you today.

April 12 1945

United States Senate Washington, D.C.

Dear Mamma & Mary: I am trying to write to you a letter today from the desk of the President of the Senate while a windy Senator from Wisconsin is making a speech on a subject with which he is in no way familiar. The Jr. Sen. From Arizona made a speech on the subject and he knew what he was talking about. The Wisconsin Senator is Wiley and the Arizona Senator is McFarland.

We are considering the Mexican Treaty on water in the Colorado River and the Rio Grande. It is of vital importance to South Western U.S. and northern Mexico. Hope we get it over some day soon. The Senators from California and one from Utah and a very disagreeable one from Nevada (McCarran) are fighting the ratification. I have to sit up here and make parliamentary rulings-some of which are common sense and some of which are not. Hope you are having a nice spell of weather. We’ve had a week of beautiful weather but it is raining and wintery today. I don’t think it’s going to last long. Hope not for I must fly to Providence R.I. Sunday morning.

Turn on your radio tomorrow night at 9:30 your time and you’ll hear Harry make a Jefferson Day address to the nation. I think I’ll be on all the networks so it ought not to be hard to get me. It will be followed by the President whom I’ll introduce.

Hope you are both well and stay that way.

Love to you both.

Write when you can.


On April 12, 1945, Vice President Harry S Truman was presiding over the United States Senate and decided to write his mother and sister back home in Grandview, Missouri...even encouraging them to tune into a radio broadcast where Truman was going to introduce President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Fate had other plans. A few hours later America would be mourning one president and learning about their new one. And the war was still raging on two fronts.

Dear Bess: March 29, 1944


Welcome to the Dear Bess/ Dear Harry podcast for March 29, 2024, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service, coming to you from Independence, Missouri, a place that Harry S Truman called the center of the world.

We’d like to share with you today a brief Dear Bess letter written on this date in 1944 by United States Senator Harry S Truman. Please be sure to see the link to see a digital copy of the original letter, preserved by the Truman Library. This letter was written on special Senate letterhead. The Special Committee Investigating the National Defense Program had a more common nickname in 1944…the Truman Committee. Via a series of hearings, meetings, visits around the country, Senator Truman, the Committee and its staff were able to investigate expenditures made in the name of defense, expenditures that seemed odd for whatever reason. The Truman Committee, although Truman didn’t care for that name, was able to save the American taxpayers billions of dollars. An initial budget of $15,000 expanded to $360,000 and saved an estimated $10-15 billion. It also made Truman a national figure.

Also in this brief letter Truman refers to an in-law, his wife’s cousin Gates Wells. Bess Wallace Truman’s mother’s maiden name was Gates. Also, please note the kind regards the Senator sends to his mother in law.

Regarding the Truman Committee, we recommend checking out a new book on it by Steve Drummond called The Watchdog that came out last year. There are some important lessons we can learn from that committee.

Here’s the letter:

Southern Pacific March 29, 1944

Dear Bess:

We are progressing down the Southern Pacific at a pace which would land us in Washington in about two weeks if we were east bound instead of southbound. Left Seattle at 4:30 yesterday and now we are approaching Sacramento at about the same time today. I was supposed to fly to Los Angeles yesterday morning so I could make a speech to 1200 Democrats who had paid $2500 a plate for the privilege of being present. I felt I couldn't leave a committee hearing to make a political speech after the furor that resulted in my statement released Monday morning. But I'm going to address the same sort of a meeting in San Francisco tomorrow night. I don't care whether they like it or not. I'm not going to be completely muzzled just because the Special Committee has made good. We had a very fine hearing in Seattle. As I told you yesterday Magnusson and Wallgren had talked too much as the parrot did. The Liberty Ship program has been a success and that, I think, is what history will say. But when demagogues can get up and say that soldiers and wounded are being put into them as troop ships we had to look into it. Naturally we are bound to displease some people. Kaiser made a good witness and most of the papers seem to be happy. The Portland Oregonian said last night we were playing politics. That will be the cry from now on no matter what we do. Think I'll shut down after this trip until fall.

Will mail this in San Francisco as soon as we arrive. Your cousin Walter Gates came to see me yesterday at the Court House. He is selling insurance in Seattle. Said his family were in Portland. He couldn't get a house to live in. Kiss my baby. Love to you. My best to your mother.


In this brief letter, Senator Harry Truman talks to his wife a bit about the famed select committee he is leading investigating waste and fraud in defense spending. The committee was bearing much fruit already, saving taxpayers money.

Dear Bess: March 25, 1918 (circa)


Welcome to the Dear Bess and Dear Harry podcast for March 25, 2024, brought to you as a service of Harry S Truman National Historic Site, and coming to you from Independence, Missouri. It was forty years ago that the Truman Home in Independence opened to the public, and we are honored to serve the American people.

We wanted to share this Dear Bess letter with you, a letter we think dates from this date in 1918. First Lieutenant Harry S Truman and his men are en route to Europe to be part of the Great War effort, and had stopped off for a brief rest in New York. While there, Truman acquired a few pairs of glasses. It’s easy to see that the officer from Jackson County, Missouri, much prefers home, and is eager to fight on behalf of that place he calls home.

Please note that in this letter Truman uses two words that are today considered racial slurs, one for a Jewish person, one for an Italian person. Truman used those words in his letters and in conversation. They sound shocking to us today in 2024. We include them for completeness and context.

As always, we thank you for listening. Here’s the letter.

Dear Bess:

Your telegram and letter were both waiting for me when I returned from New York this afternoon. I was in on strictly business today. Bought two pairs of glasses which makes me six pairs so I don't suppose I'll run out.

I accidently ran into an honest optician who happened to belong to my goat tribe (ie Scottish Rite) and he sent me to the best or one of the best oculists in the city. He gave me a complete and thorough examination a prescription I can use in Paris or Vienna and lots of good conversation all for the whole sum of $5.00 and then he asked me if thought I could stand that. How is that for the crookedest town in the universe? Then the optician who also gave me lots of good advice only charged me $17.50 less 10% for two complete pairs of regulation aluminum frames and glasses, throwing in an extra lens that he happened to chip on the edge in the grinding. I can't understand it. Watts stung me for $22.00 for two pairs and Dr. Leonard charged me $10.00 the last time I bought any and they were supposed to be friends of mine, too. This place is on Madison Ave. just off 42nd St. and I know he pays more rent for a week than Watts does for a month. Evidently these men are patriotic even if one of them is named Haustettee. That's the optician's name and he says it loses him business although his son has made some wonderful inventions in observing instruments for the U. S. Navy since we went to war. I sent you a small package today for Easter. I hope it arrives intact. When you wear it think of me out on the Atlantic thinking of you and seeing your face in the moonlit waves of Old Neptune, and wishing, wishing oh so badly that I could only see you. Really I'm almost homesick for you & mamma & Mary. If I could only have stayed these two days in Kansas City instead in this kike town I'd have felt much better. I am crazy to leave because I know that if the British stem this tide there'll not be another and I do want to be in at the death of this "Scourge of God." Just think what he'd do to your great country and our beautiful women if he only could. This is the reason we must go and must get shot if necessary to keep the Huns from our own fair land. I am getting to hate the sight of a German and I think most of us are the same way. They have no hearts or no souls. They are just machines to do the bidding of the wolf they call Kaiser. Old Julius Caesar's description of the [illegible] exactly fits the Germans of today and to think that Wilhelm should call himself Caesar. Attila or Tamerlane would be nearer the truth.

As I told you before I've seen this town from cellar to garrett and from the Battery to the North End and I can't do much for it. When a New Yorker shows you the Woolworth Bldg or Sen. Clark's house or Grant's Tomb or the Hudson River he expects you to fall death with admiration and if you don't he's confident your education has been overlooked. When one of our N.Y. Lieuts showed me Grant's Tomb from the Hudson Ferry I did him like Mark Twain did the dago who showed him the paintings of Michaelangelo. I said, "Well! Is he dead." The nut didn't even think it was a joke. He thought I wanted to know sure enough. Anyone from west of the Mississippi can make these people believe anything. I believe I could sell gold bricks on Broadway and make 'em cry for more.

I shall try my best to find White's and spoil a photographic plate if it will please you. This is Wednesday evening and Friday we leave so I don't know whether I can make it but I'll try.

Don't you worry about me not taking care of myself. I'm not out for V.C.s or Croix de Guerre. I'm going to use my brains, if I have any for Uncle Sam's best advantage and I'm going to aim to keep them in good working order, which can't be done by stopping bullets.

Agnes must want my fine plug pretty badly, but she doesn't want to pay what he's worth. He has a pedigree that would make the King of Spain green with envy. He's worth $300.00 for a saddle horse and being himself he's worth $500.00. If Agnes wants to make an offer like that I might listen to it. Although I promised Col Danford that I'd keep him until the war is over and let him have him if he wants him. That was the only way I'd take him because it would have been stealing to buy him for $100.00. Agnes must think I want $50.00 mighty badly. I do need it and badly but my grand saddle horse isn't for sale. This letter is not what it should be but I'm trying to make up for what I didn't do at Ft. Sill. I hope you'll forgive me because my intentions were the best but I was trying hard to make good for Uncle Sam. I did down there and if I can only hold up on the other side perhaps I can do him and you and everyone some small service. A telegram just came from Gates Wells to know if I can see him. I shall try to meet him at the McAlpin tomorrow if he can come up there and I can get away. It's fine of him to want to see me. Tell your mother I love her almost as much as I do my own and if you ever throw me down I'm going to call her mother anyway. I'll write you tomorrow and wire you Friday.

I shall cable you direct when I land. My cable censor address is Boxley and I can cable oftener because it's about ½ the cost. Keep on writing to the same address the letters will be forwarded.

Yours always,


In this Dear Bess letter, written while Harry Truman was en route to serve in the Great War in Europe, he describes buying some new pairs of eyeglasses, his impressions of New York City, and more.

Please note that in this letter, Truman uses racial slurs for Jewish, Italian,and German people. They read and sound shocking us today. We include them for completeness.

Dear Bess: March 19, 1911


Welcome to the Dear Bess/ Dear Harry podcast for March 19, 2024, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service. We come to you today from the Noland Home, the home of Harry Truman’s aunt and uncle, across the street from the Truman Home, in Independence, Missouri.

We’d like to share with you a great Dear Bess letter written on this date in 1911. This letter was written in the first year of the courtship of Harry Truman and Bess Wallace, if Harry Truman’s letter of December 31, 1910, was the first letter.

The first paragraph is most fascinating. Harry Truman’s family was mostly Baptist, although Truman’s mother also was described as a “lightfoot Baptist” because she liked to sing, dance, and play games. Miss Wallace’s family is a little more complex. Her grandparents, George P and Elizabeth Gates, were members of First Presbyterian Church on Maple Street, just a few steps from their home on Delaware Street. Bess Wallace’s mother was raised in that church, as were her siblings. But at some point, there was a personnel issue at First Presbyterian that spurred Madge Gates Wallace to move her membership to the nearby Trinity Episcopal Church. Mrs. Wallace remained a member of that church the rest of her life, as would Bess Wallace Truman. It was in Trinity that Bess Wallace married Harry Truman in 1919, and where their daughter Mary Margaret married E Clifton Daniel in 1956.

Note how Truman remarks how he could envision himself retiring to Independence someday…but as a retired farmer. Could he ever imagine he would retire to Independence, indeed…but as a retired President of the United States?

Thanks for listening. Here’s the letter.

Grandview, Mo.

March 19, 1911

Dear Bessie,

I sincerely hope you enjoyed the playing of that musical editor was well as I did. He was simply great. You know that I think when good music is played in his style it is always enjoyable. Hope I didn't cause you to do anything against your religious principles. You know that I know nothing about Lent and such things and when I was urging you to go with us to dinner at the Baltimore I was merely thinking of giving you all a good time. That was the first "time" I was ever at an Episcopal Church and I like the service very much. But I guess I'll have to remain a Lightfoot Baptist for a while yet anyway. You know I told you that I also had strayed from the Presbyterian fold; but I went in the other direction. In place of more form we haven't any. But there are many things I do not like. For instance they do not want a person to go to shows or dances or do anything for a good time. Well I like to do all those things and play cards besides. So you see I am not very strong as a Baptist. Anyhow I don't think any church on earth will take you to heaven if you're not real anyway. I believe in people living what they believe and talking afterwards, don't you? Well hang religion anyway; it's a dull subject, but I'll not ask you to dinner any more till after Easter Sunday. Will that be all right?

Mary has not arrived home yet. The last I heard she was in Independence. When she gets down there she never knows when to come home, and I don't blame her. I like Independence and if I ever get rich enough to retire (be a retired farmer, ah) I think I'll land in Independence.

We go to sowing oats in the morning. It will take a week or two as we have about eighty acres to sow. Mr. Hall wanted to know of me if we were planting wheat now. You know a town farmer always gets his verbs mixed. We sow wheat, oats, and grass seed and plant corn and potatoes. See the difference?

I did certainly enjoy Miss Dicey's (I guess that's how you spell her) excitable conversation. I bet she is a person who enjoys life. You know when people can get excited over the ordinary things in life, they live. You know a good author makes common things seem great in books, and people who can live them that way always enjoy life. I never did know but one boy that way and only one man. Neither of them can cross the street without having an adventure worth telling of.

When she was telling about those chickens and that trip to St. Louis I thought I'd go up. I guess they thought I was a perfect chump because I forgot to tell them and you too that I enjoyed the evening, but I most certainly did and you please tell them, will you? Next time I'll do better provided I can have a next time.

Mamma has seven little chickens and more coming. They looked rather out of place when we had that snow. I told her she would have to begin knitting socks if she was going to raise chickens in the winter. The last few days have been fine on them though. One of my numerous cousins was over this evening and she had seventy-six chickens big enough to fly. They were incubator chickens. I hope you don't cook yours before they hatch. They say that is generally what happens the first time. So be careful.

Did you get your suitcase all right? I wish we had thought and taken it to the N.Y. Life Building and then we could have got it. No one ever thought that man would play overtime. They don't generally. Now please don't wait so long to write as I do enjoy your letters even if you do call them notes.

What do you think of Mrs. E. C. W.? Isn't she a caution? Some time when she has a swell recital if you care to go out, we'll go and then you'll see her show off proper.

Well I'm going to quit because I have to run overtime but if you don't want to read, remember you owe me a letter now and I am looking for it.

Sincerely yours, Harry

Harry S Truman, farmer, writes about religion and theology, books, chickens, and more in a most delightful letter from early in their courtship.

Dear Bess: An Undated Letter, Likely From 1915


Welcome to the Dear Bess/ Dear Harry podcast series for March 1, 2024, brought to you by the staff of Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service. We come to you from the Truman Home in Independence, Missouri.

Today we would like to share with you a great Dear Bess letter, written by Harry S Truman, farmer, to Miss Bess Wallace, the love of his life. But here’s the thing. We can’t date this letter very well. He didn’t put a date on the letter, and the postmark is mostly illegible. But the letter is a gem. Based on context, we think it’s from 1915. And since he references snow, either early or later 1915. Truman alludes to his Uncle Harrison Young, his mother’s brother. When he refers to ‘Old Liz,’ he is referring to his car, a Stafford touring car he had recently bought. The car was a maintenance headache for Truman, but he loved it.

But perhaps most importantly he refers to taking care of the Grandview Post Office. He was appointed to that job, but didn’t have it long. It’s been said Truman gave the job up to allow a lady to take it, a lady who needed the money. But at the very least, Truman became familiar with the postal service, and this helped him in his knowledge of how government works. And with these letters, he certainly gave the post office some business!

Here’s the letter.


Dear Bess:

I got your letter this morning and I can tell you I most certainly appreciated it. I am very glad you like the flowers and only wish they could have been more. If I could have been in town I'd have sent you some fresh ones every day. I am hoping that you'll be up very soon so I can get to see you. It has been so long since I last saw you that it seems like a year. If you don't hurry and get well, Mr. Warfield is going to get by. They tell me that Blanche Ring is as fine as ever at the Orpheum.

I have finally succeeded in getting Uncle Harry home. He remarked when he got here that he was either awful sick or awful drunk, one. It was a combination. The doctor has succeeded in getting him sober and we hope to keep him that way for some time to come. I was in the city Saturday and it did seem entirely wrong not to go to Independence anyway. I sent you a little bunch of homegrown sweet violets. They told me that they are more fragrant than the California variety. I like violets better than any other kind of flowers both to eat and to look at. I shall try and send you some more before the week is out.

We are having a mostly lovely snow out this way. I am hoping it keeps up. Mrs. Chas. H. Lester has asked Mary and me to come out there to dinner tomorrow evening but I fail to see how I'm going to make it over roads like they are now. Old Liz hasn't been out since Thursday when I brought Uncle Harry home. This is the longest rest she's had for some time. I've got to put her back in the factory. She is suffering from a worse knock than ever. It seems that experts are experts only in getting money out of people. They expert an engine all to pieces and do it up again only to find it won't run any better than it would before. They also charged me up with thirty hours labor at seventy-five cents an hour. I don't know how they got it in as the car was only there a day and a half. Charging and getting are two altogether different processes. I am going to jaw with them some even if I have to pay in the end.

I am supposed to take active charge of the post office today but I haven't done it. The thing is a white elephant on my hands. Every person in Grandview who could possibly run the thing has asked me for the privilege of doing it. I have had the efficiency gag, the poor widow who is the only support of her family, the plain, easy-money one, and every other hand drawn on me to get the job. I have so far turned a deaf ear to all of them and allowed the boy I promised it to to keep it. There's no telling what I may do if they keep on. Political promises are no good anyway and I may break mine yet. I have an idea that I'll simply resign and let 'em fight it out all over again among themselves.

I am hoping to see you before the week goes by again. When you get well you've simply got to give me another picture of yourself so I can have one downstairs and one up. It's right unhandy to chase upstairs every day to see how you look. Here's hoping to see the original before long.

Most sincerely,


In this undated and most wonderful letter, Harry S Truman talks about his Uncle Harrison, his car, and his new job as caretaker of the Grandview Post Office.

Dear Bess: February 22, 1918


Lawton, Okla. [Feb. 22, 1918]

Dear Bess:

This day has been a bright one. So was yesterday. I got your letter both days, and I have been the delinquent party this week. I hope you won't blame me when I tell you what has been happening. The overseas detachment is again having spasms of preparation to leave. I am still on it, thank heaven, and so of course I am having spasms too. I had a regular one yesterday when Colonel Danford ordered me up before an examining board not for efficiency but for promotion. I think I failed miserably because General Berry was so gruff and discourteous in his questions that I forgot all I ever knew and couldn't answer him. He said, "Eh huh! You don't know, do you? I thought so. You don't know. That'll be all, outside." He kept me and the two others, Lieutenant Paterson and Lieutenant Marks, standing out in the cold so long that we took a terrific cold and I couldn't get up this morning for reveille. I got up for breakfast and outside of a slight headache I am all in good health and spirits. That is as good spirits as could be expected in a man when he falls down on an examination. We had no opportunity for preparation and I suppose that it would have been no better if we had. I have been looking for them to say that it was a mistake and that an efficiency board is what I needed instead of an examining one. Please don't say anything about it until the announcement is made as to whether I get the promotion or not. If I don't get it then we won't say anything. If I do then we can tell it. I guess it is a compliment anyway to get ordered up even if I didn't pass. They almost sent me home on a physical, too, yesterday but I talked past the M.D. He turned my eyes down twice and threatened to send me to division headquarters for a special examination and then didn't. I guess I can put a real good conversation when circumstances demand it. You see by taking everything together if I hadn't gotten your letters, I'd sure have been a blue person. In addition to all the other things I did yesterday I turned the exchange over to Captain Butterfield and sat on a general court martial. Some day, wasn't it? Can you wonder that I didn't get up for reveille and still have a slight headache?

I shall cable you as soon as I arrive in Europe. I thought I told you I would once before. I intended to anyway. I am glad Uncle William was landed safely and I hope to see him when I get across. I don't know much to tell you about leaving, but I'll let you know immediately I start. I shall also let you know if I get the two bars. Please don't say anything about that though until I hear that I'm turned down, which is what we all think. I am no longer Trumanheimer. Did I tell you I met a pretty girl in Guthrie who was nice to me until someone sold her my name was Trumanheimer, and then she wouldn't look at me anymore. She thought I surely must be of Hebraic descent with that name. She of course didn't know that it is little I care what she thinks or doesn't.

Please write me as often as possible because the days are sure brighter and not so hard when your letters come.

I think of you always.

Yours, Harry

An amazing letter written by Lieutenant Harry S Truman to his fiancee, Miss Bess Wallace, shortly before his mobilization to Europe in the Great War.

Truman is examined for a promotion. Will he get it? He is also examined for his did that fare? Listen to find out.

Dear Bess: February 10, 1937


Welcome to the Dear Bess and Dear Harry podcast for February 10, 2024, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, from the Truman Home in Independence, Missouri.

Today we would like to spotlight a Dear Bess letter from on this date in 1937. It’s a letter that we’ve shared before, but it’s so good, why not share it again?

In this letter Harry Truman, Senator from Missouri, writes a few golden nuggets. Truman makes reference to some type an offer from Lucky Strikes cigarettes…this is ironic because Truman didn’t smoke. Lucky cigarettes were made by the American Tobacco Company, and sponsored Jack Benny’s show for many years. But later in this brief letter Truman writes one of his most romantic lines…actually a few of them. He shows his knowledge of classic literature when he cites several ancient goddesses, and references Proserpina. Like Truman, we recommend you look her up!

As always, thanks for listening. Here’s the letter.

February 10, 1937 Washington, D.C.

Dear Bess: I didn't accept the Lucky offer. Wouldn't my friends, who know my love for cigarettes, have a grand time wondering how much it takes to buy me. I'm glad you are all well, so am I and I expect to stay that way. I'm going to Oscar and Elsie's for dinner tonight. There has been considerable flu here but it doesn't seem to be the fatal kind. You'll get a small package from Mr. Julius Garfinckel's along about Saturday, your seventy-second birthday or maybe it's your thirty-second-I haven't kept very close count on it. It would make no difference if it were your one hundred and fifty-second-to me you'd still be the prettiest, sweetest, best, and all the other adjectives girl on earth-in heaven or in the waters under the earth. You were not only Juno, Venus, Minerva all in one but perhaps Proserpina too. (You'd better look that one up.)

Anyway I never had but one from the time I was six and a half to date-and maybe that's more foolishness according to modern standards, but I'm crazy enough to stay with it through all eternity. Kiss Margie, love to you,


A charming letter from Senator Harry S Truman to his wife, near her birthday. One of his sweetest letters to her.

Dear Bess: January 30, 1912


Welcome to the Dear Bess/ Dear Harry podcast for January 30, 2024, brought to you by the staff of Harry S Truman National Historic Site in Independence and Grandview, Missouri.

We’d like to share with you today a Dear Bess letter from on this date in 1912. At the time, Harry Truman was working on his family’s farm in Grandview, while becoming increasingly involved in the community. You’ll hear all of this and more in this wonderful letter. In the brief span of a few pages, Truman touches on everything from his involvement with the Masons, hard work being done on the Farm, some business, some politics, and some family affairs.

Truman, too, makes a reference to Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, with no idea that in 33 years he would join that exclusive club of American presidents.

As always, thanks for listening. Here’s the letter.

Grandburg Jan 30,1912

Dear Bessie:- Give me credit for a very early response. You certainly did write me one fine letter (put emphasis on fine, not on one, because they're all fine) and I am going to answer it immediately.

I am going to start in real earnest now to get some of the dirty pelf, for what you say sounds kind of encouraging, whether you meant it that way or not. I am glad Mary Paxton and I can agree on [underlined: one] subject if it is unintentional. We never could when we were kids. But Mary's correct this time. I hope she gets her millionaire someday. I am not resting up to go to work-I have been working up to get in trim. Shucked shock corn all day Saturday and got my eyes so full of dust that I could almost scoop it out. They looked like a professional toper's the next day. We have about four hundred shocks left to shuck before we are done. It is a job invented by Satan himself. Dante sure left something from the tenth circle when he failed to say that the inhabitants of that dire place shucked shock corn. I am sure they do. I hope never to see another year when it is necessary to save so much of it. We are lucky, though, to have it, as it takes the place of hay at twenty dollars a ton. Papa pretends he doesn't mind doing it, but he does just the same. I went down to Drexel last night with Mr. Blair and acted as assistant district lecturer. Went down on the K.C.S. and got back at 5:50 a.m. Got four hours sleep. You ought to see me teach blockheaded Masons how to talk. (Don't ever say that to anyone, for we don't admit that there are any of that kind.) They'd have to be blockheads if I taught them. We had lots of fun. There was a big, old fat guy present who got me tickled and I lost all my high-and-mightiness in short order. We met an old fellow at the hotel who was a cow buyer and a character. He'd quarrel with anybody on any subject. He bet a dollar that Taft would be nominated and then bet two that Teddy would. He fussed with the hotel man because the damper on the stovepipe was not turned at the proper angle. I guess he must have been seventy, but he was six feet tall and straight as a boy. Everybody thought he was funny. He didn't mean half he said but it sounded mighty mean when he said it.

I have to go help Mr. Blair out when it is possible for me to get away, because he has paid my expenses a couple of times to State Lodges of Instruction. I saw his wife on the train the last time I was in town, and she said he had gone off somewhere that day. Said she guessed it was on Lodge business because he always told her where he went except when he went to Lodge.

I won a pound-box of candy on your name the other day. What do you think of that? I went up to Grandview and a man in the confectionary business had one of those cards all full of girls' names. Each name had a number under it on a slip. I took a shot at the best name in the bunch and won a sixty-cent box of Louney's for a dime. That's the second time I've done it. Before, I tore off Elizabeth and won two pounds. I was going to bring you that box but those cousins of mine came out, and Mary knew I had the box and so I had to give it up. They never knew how I got it though.

I shall sure be glad to go to Salisbury's for dinner Sunday. But don't you think people would think I am a terrible tightwad if we walk? I'd like to walk all right and would certainly enjoy it, but please be sure I am perfectly willing to invest in a rig for one day. I hope Miss Dicie does loosen up for Saturday evening, because my time is getting short and I am dying to see Mrs. Polly (as I said before.) I hope this baby hasn't whooping cough. She would think her visit was hoodooed sure if anything was to happen to it.

If Miss D. takes a notion for Saturday, will you call me up? Have it reversed because I'll be the one who benefits. I wonder if her ears burn. Maybe writing doesn't have the same effect on a person's ears as talking. If it does, Miss Dicie's ears ought to be about done enough for sandwiches. Don't you think? I ought to be helping Vivian and Luella to move, but Papa sent the hired men and I am putting my time to better use-at least I think so whether you will or not. Maybe you'll wish I had helped more. I hope not though. And I also hope you'll think you owe me a letter. Two of these tablecloth size sheets are equal to almost four of your size, so I send more words if you do send more sense. I am glad to get them though, any size or style. Hope to see you Saturday and shall Sunday.

Sincerely, Harry

One of the greatest Dear Bess letters from 1912. Truman talks about the Masons, family, hard work on the Farm, and more.

Dear Bess: January 7, 1919


Welcome to the Dear Bess/ Dear Harry podcast for January 7, 2024, brought to you by the staff of Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

Today we would like to share with you a letter written by Captain Harry S Truman on this day in 1919, to his fiancée, Miss Bess Wallace, back home in Independence, Missouri. Captain Truman and his men are still in France, awaiting their orders to return home after fighting in World War I.

You will hear in this letter that Miss Wallace and her brother, Frank, and Truman’s sister Mary had the flu. In our recent history, as we dealt with Covid19, we heard a lot about the Great Influenza of 1918. The Great Influenza wreaked havoc everywhere, and may have claimed Miss Wallace’s grandfather, George Porterfield Gates, as a victim in the summer of 1918. Is Truman referring to this influenza? That’s hard to tell. But in their world, just like ours with Covid, everyone was still on edge, having seen suffering and death like never before.

And, half a world away, Captain Truman couldn’t help but worry about his fiancée and his family.

Camp La Beholle, near Verdun

January 7, 1919

Dear Bess:

Such a joyousness—two letters from you last night, one from home, one from Boxley, one from Morgan, and one from some uneasy papa of one of my irresponsibles to know if his son is shot or not. He isn't and never has been over half-shot since he's been over here. (I should be shot saying that, because the kid's one of my best corporals.)

You've no idea how this muddy spot brightens up when letters come. I was so glad to get yours because I have been scared to death, ever since you told me Frank had the "flu," that either you or your mother would get it. I'm so glad you're getting well. It had been almost two weeks since I had received a letter and I was certainly uneasy. Mary was down with it too so you can imagine how I felt. Geo Arrowsmith was in to see me yesterday evening and I told him you had been sick, and he said yes he knew it but wasn't going to tell me if I didn't know it. Considerate man, isn't he? Mary says she is much better and I hope that by the next mail I'll hear you are both in excellent health.

I thought perhaps you'd like to see how I am wasting away, pining to get home and out of the armee, so I'm enclosing you a Kodak picture of me made by Captain Paterson. I am supposed to be engrossed with a letter to you but inadvertently I am holding a pencil instead of a pen. I am thinking of you anyway because Paterson remarked that he'd flatter me as much as the camera would admit because he knew you'd like it that way. Don't you think I'm getting thin? It took Pat nearly five minutes to get me posed so my double chin wouldn't show! The colonel says I'm getting thinner. I'm not so obese as I was a week or so ago and I'm still wearing my American uniforms, which by the way are better than any that can be bought over here now. Tell Uncle Strother that I'll certainly get him an iron cross if it is at all possible to obtain one and I'm good and sure it is. I didn't get one in Verdun the other day because there are no more refugees coming back this way. I am going over to Mars le Tour next Sunday and will try my luck over there. In Metz they sell for 3 marks which is about 75 cents in good money. The Y.M.C.A. is giving a show tonight but I stayed in to finish this letter because I'll have so much to do tomorrow I won't be able to finish it then. I am going to take the Battery out mounted tomorrow for the first time since it came out of the line. We have a lot of new horses, American horses, and new harness. It sure looks good to get lined up like a real battery once more. Parade ground stuff is great for use in peace time but when honest to goodness shootin' is going on you get in and shoot and a few good cuss words properly placed get more immediate action than all the drill ground maneuvers ever did. We've got to exercise our horses and keep the men busy so we should worry. I have some very fine looking horses and I hope I get to keep them until we go home.

I do hope you are well and that all danger from that dreadful flu is past. I am hoping for another letter later than the ninth. I'm glad you like the 77s. They don't amount to much as a present but they are worth something for their associations and the Vosges, Saint-Mihiel, Argonne-Meuse, and Verdun are the fronts the 129th worked on. Yours always


Captain Truman writes his fiancee, Miss Bess Wallace, from France, where he and his men await their orders to come home after their service in the Great War. Truman is worried about Miss Wallace and her family, as they have been quite ill. We can only imagine how worried and helpless he felt half a world away.

Dear Bess: December 31, 1910---The First Letter!


Welcome to the Dear Bess, Dear Harry podcast, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

We take care of the Truman Home in Independence, Missouri, and the Truman Farm Home in Grandview, Missouri, as well as some other special historic homes on behalf of the American people, and it is our great honor to do so.

Today we would like to share with you a very special Dear Bess letter…the oldest known one…from December 31, 1910.

Harry Truman had met Bess Wallace back at a Sunday School at First Presbyterian Church in Independence back in 1890. He was six, she was five. He fell in love immediately. Miss Wallace? Not really. Now Miss Wallace was the granddaughter of one of Independence’s most notable citizens…George Porterfield Gates, who was a partner in a successful flour mill. In 1890 the Trumans had just moved to Independence.

Harry Truman and Bess Wallace went through school together, graduated in 1901. Their lives diverged after that. But then fate played a hand, and were reunited, possibly in 1910. Family tradition has that Harry Truman’s kin the Nolands had him return a dessert plate across the street from their home to the Gates mansion, where Miss Wallace was living. The rest, they say, is history. Starting with this letter, Truman used his words to convince Miss Wallace that he was worthy of being the one for her.

It was destiny.

As always, thanks for listening. Here is that letter.

Grandview, Mo.

Dec. 31, 1910

My Dear Bessie:-

I am very glad you liked the book. I liked it so well myself I nearly kept it. I saw it advertised in Life and remembered that you were fond of Scott when we went to school.

Nothing would please me better than to come to see you during the holidays or any other time for the matter of that, but Papa broke his leg the other day and I am the chief nurse, next to my mother, besides being farm boss now. So you see I'll be somewhat closely confined for some time to come. I hope you'll let the invitation be a standing one though and I shall avail myself of it at the very first opportunity.

I guess Ethel & Nellie have been busy with their exams is the reason you haven't seen them. I got a letter from Ethel the other day saying she was suffering so from cramming, both mental and physical, and from "epizootic" (whatever that is) that she and Nellie would be unable to come out this week. You know they always spend a few days at Christmas out here. It was just as well, as I would have had to cancel their date anyway after Papa's accident. We haven't quite got over the excitement yet. A horse pulled a big beam over on him in the barn. We were so glad he wasn't killed we didn't know what to do.

If you see fit to let me hear from you sometimes, I shall certainly appreciate it. Farm life as an everyday affair is not generally exciting. Wishing you and all of you the very happiest New Year, I am very sincerely

Harry S. Truman

On December 31, 1910, Harry S Truman, farmer, wrote what may have been his first Dear Bess letter to his sweetheart, Miss Bess Wallace. It would be his most famous campaign. He had loved Miss Wallace for 20 years, since meeting her at a Presbyterian Church Sunday School. Could he win her over?

A Special Episode---President Truman's 1951 Christmas Message from the Truman Home


December 24, 1951

[Broadcast nationally from Independence, Mo., at 5 p.m.]

CHRISTMAS is the great home festival. It is the day in all the year which turns our thoughts toward home.

And so I am spending Christmas in my old home in Independence with my family and friends. As the Christmas tree is lighted on the White House grounds in Washington, I am glad to send this greeting to all of my countrymen.

Tonight we think of the birth of a Little Child in the City of David nineteen and a half centuries ago. In that humble birth God gave his message of love to the world. At this Christmas time the world is distracted by doubt and despair, torn by anger, envy and ill will. But our lesson should still be that same message of love, symbolized by the birth of the Redeemer of the World in a manger "because there was no room for them in the inn."

Our hearts are saddened on this Christmas Eve by the suffering and the sacrifice of our brave men and women in Korea. We miss our boys and girls who are out there. They are protecting us, and all free men, from aggression. They are trying to prevent another world war. We honor them for the great job they are doing. We pray to the Prince of Peace for their success and safety.

As we think about Korea, we should also think of another Christmas, 10 years ago, in 1941. That was just after Pearl Harbor, and the whole world was at war. Then almost every country, almost every home, was overshadowed by fear and sorrow.

The world is still in danger tonight, but a great change has come about. A new spirit has been born, and has grown up in the world, although perhaps we do not fully realize it. The struggle we are making today has a new and hopeful meaning.

Ten years ago total war was no longer a threat but a tragic reality. In those grim days, our Nation was straining all its efforts in a war of survival. It was not peace--not the prevention of war--but the stark reality of total war itself that filled our minds and overwhelmed our hearts and souls at Christmas, 1941.

Tonight we have a different goal, and a higher hope. Despite difficulties, the free nations of the world have drawn together solidly for a great purpose: not solely to defend themselves; not merely to win a bloody war if it should come; but for the purpose of creating a real peace--a peace that shah be a positive reality and not an empty hope; a just and lasting peace.

When we look toward the battlefields of Korea, we see a conflict like no other in history. There the forces of the United Nations are fighting--not for territory, not for plunder, not to rule the lives of captive people. In Korea the free nations are proving, by deeds, that man is free and must remain free, that aggression must end, that nations must obey the law.

We still have a long struggle ahead of us before we can reach our goal of peace. In the words of the Bible, the day is not yet here when the bow shall be broken, and the lance cut off, and the chariot burned. But we have faith that that day will come.

We will be strong so long as we keep that faith--the faith that can move mountains, the faith which, as St. Paul says, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Let us ask God to bless our efforts and redeem our faults. Let us resolve to follow his commandments--to carry the gospel to the poor; heal the brokenhearted; preach deliverance to the captive; give freedom to the slave. Let us try to do all things in that spirit of brotherly love that was revealed to mankind at Bethlehem on the first Christmas day.

The victory we seek is the victory of peace. That victory is promised to us. It was promised to us long ago, in the words of the angel choir that sang over Bethlehem: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." To all my countrymen: Merry Christmas.

President Harry S Truman delivered this message to the American people from his family's home in Independence, Missouri. The address was in connection with the lighting of the National Community Christmas Tree.

This is dedicated to all members of our Armed Forces and their families. We thank you for your service and sacrifices.

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