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 Bess: September 15, 1911


Welcome to the Dear Bess, Dear Harry podcast for September 15, 2023, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

Today’s Dear Bess letter was written on this date in 1911, and while not very long, gives an interesting insight into life on the Truman Farm then. By then, Harry Truman’s maternal grandmother, Mrs. Harriet Louisa Gregg Young, had been dead for a couple of years, so the property was now being operated now by the Trumans. You’ll hear Harry Truman writing to his sweetheart, Miss Bess Wallace how his father, John Anderson Truman, had an accident. When a farmer has such an accident, it can have quite an impact on the output on the Farm, as any of you dear listeners who may work on farms may know! Truman himself knew. Earlier in the year he himself had worn a cast.

Truman also makes a reference to “His Majesty.” Any idea who he is referring to? Well, in case you’re wondering, he uses the reference a lot. He uses the reference when referring to the devil, and specifically to jobs he hates, and in circumstances he feels are against him.

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

Grandview, Mo.

Sept 15, 1911

Dear Bessie:-

You owe me a letter and I am going to write you a note and tell you so. Do you know what has been hurting me all week? I actually came away and forgot that Columbian you gave me. I thought of it as soon as I got on the car and kicked myself from there home. I suppose I shouldn't tell you I forgot but should cook up some long-winded excuse for not taking it. But forget I did and I am sorry. Save it for me and I'll get it if you'll let me have it.

Do you know I believe His Majesty himself has a special grudge against us. A horse fell on Papa Tuesday and broke one of the small bones in his left foot. He'll be laid up for a month the M.D. says. I suppose as soon as he gets around again I'll take another turn. I am going to have the blacksmith make me some cast iron shoes and sox. They will name us the Insurance Grabbers Association sure now. Don't ever take out any accident insurance. Things begin to happen at once when you do. We'd worried along all our lives without any and a certain gentleman with a large vocabulary and a bent for using it roped us last December. We've been having accidents in job lots since. I really don't know but what those policies had something to do with the dry year.

I got a copy of that red Life last Saturday night and am sending it to you "under another cover", as the ad men say of a particularly heinous offense in circulars. I was in K.C. today buying small pieces of a grain drill. If you buy a whole one, it cost $75; but if you buy it by the piece, it costs $275. A binder whole costs $150, in small bits $600. They always intend to sell as many repairs as they can, too. I tried to get into connection with you over the Bell but couldn't and didn't have time to try over the Home. You owe me two letters.



Harry Truman's father suffers a broken bone in his foot, and Truman blames "His Majesty." Who is that?

Life on the Truman family farm!

Dear Bess: September 11, 1948


Welcome to the Dear Bess, Dear Harry podcast for September 11, 2023, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

We at Truman join the rest of America today in pausing to remember all of those who died on September 11, 2001…22 years ago, in the terrorist attack on New York, Washington, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. We hold their memories, and their families, in our hearts today.

Today’s Dear Bess letter was written on this date in 1948. President Harry S Truman was in the midst of a tough reelection fight against Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York. Few were giving President Truman a chance of winning the election. In fact, about the time this letter was written, many of the major polling organizations in the country suspended their operations, thinking that Governor Dewey’s victory was certain.

Truman had some special weapons in his reelection arsenal…his family. The electorate, as always, loved seeing the family of the President of the United States, and Truman’s was no exception. Margaret Truman, 24 at the time, was gregarious like her father, to an extent. But Mrs. Truman? Not so much. But she was a good sport, and did what she could to help her husband. One of Harry Truman’s nicknames for his daughter was “Miss Skinny,” thus why you hear that reference in this letter. At the end of the letter you will hear that Truman optimism at work.

Thanks for listening. Here’s the letter.

U.S.S. Williamsburg, AGC-369 Sept. 11, 1948 Dear Bess:

I accompanied Margie to the train yesterday at noon. We arrived at the station just about two minutes ahead of leaving time for the train. They drove us into the east entrance but we walked from the fence to the train. Margie thought that was showing discrimination.

We made it to the car and she plastered my left cheek with lipstick as she went aboard and very carefully wiped it off with her glove! Had a wire from her about 5 P.M. signed "Skinny." I'd been stewing around about not hearing from her and Capt. Dennison started to call Mrs. Stewart and they told him at the White House that this telegram signed "Skinny" was there. He very timidly asked me if that by any chance could be Margie. Went back to the White House and saw a lot of customers and finally arrived aboard here at 1:30 when I was due at 12:30. It rained and rained but I won a bet that the sun would shine all day today and it has and is. I'm out on the "back porch" of [inserted: my] deck in a swimming suit taking more burning. We've had a very satisfactory conference on the western speeches.

Farm speech at Des Moines on Sept. 18, conservation at Denver on the 20th, reclamation at Salt Lake City on the 21th -- in the great Mormon Tabernacle, believe it or not -- only Presidents of U.S. and high Mormons can do that. Then San Francisco, L.A., San Diego, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Ky. West Va and Washington D.C. Seems like a nice little trip - what.

Charlie Ross is flying up to D.C. to attend the wedding of his neice Virginia's daughter. I'm sending letter up on the plane that brings him back. We are anchored at the mouth of the Potomac at Blakiston Island where Lord Baltimore landed in 1734.

There is a monument on it which says that's so. I went and looked at it--that's how I can tell you. This is a most restful day --and how I needed it. Six speeches on Monday was rather strenuous. I told the press boys on Thursday that Labor Day was only a sample of what they'd get on the western trip.

We had pictures on Wednesday and Thursday night. Had Irv, Annette, and Mrs. Davis Wednesday & Jane, Drucie and Irv and Annette on Thursday.

My finance meeting Thursday was a grand success. Margie "stole the show." We're off to win I think.

Lots of love


A President writes to his First Lady in the midst of a difficult reelection campaign...but that President is quite optimistic. (Even if the pollsters and media aren't)

Dear Bess: September 5 1911


Welcome to the Dear Bess/ Dear Harry podcast for September 5, 2023, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

Today’s Dear Bess letter was written on this date in 1911, and is rather a heartbreaking one. A few weeks earlier, Harry S Truman, farmer, had written to Miss Bess Wallace quite excitedly, stating that he was going to build her a tennis court somewhere on the family farm near Grandview. He asked her for directions on how to build one, and he even bought himself the proper outfit to wear to play tennis. He sent her a map on the best way to get to the farm, and worked on making the tennis court perfect for her. Yet despite the heartbreak, Mr. Truman gives us one of our most favorite lines about cake…we hope you like it, too!

But she didn’t come. And you can sense the heartbreak and disappointment in this letter. Evidently she said it was raining in Independence, although Truman said it didn’t down south at the farm.

Yet despite the heartbreak, Mr. Truman gives us one of our most favorite lines about cake…we hope you like it, too!

As always, thanks for listening…here’s the letter.

Grandview, Mo.

Sept 5, 1911

Dear Bessie:- It was quite a disappointment when you couldn't come yesterday. I really worked all day Sunday getting that court ready for you. We also had a supply of watermelons on hand. But you can make it some Saturday and Mamma says you must come to dinner next time. The weather was fine out here. It merely sprinkled in the forenoon and after dinner it was cool and nice as could be. The autos were thick. I guess Independence must be better than we anyway. They seem to land more moisture anyway.

It seems as though it is impossible for me to ever get to an Independence fair. I have never been to one. I had made up my mind to be present sure this time. Mamma made up her mind she'd have a couple of rooms papered about two weeks ago - so she had 'em emptied and all torn up, and the paper hangers came last Saturday. I went after them every day in between and so, of course, missed the fair. I had made up my mind to go Saturday and let the hangers go hang and they came. Maybe if I had done that before we'd have had them sooner.

My insurance company settled for the broken pin the other day and now I shall have to go to work in earnest. We begin sowing wheat next week and it is a job. I guess we'll sow about 160 acres.

Say, be sure and save me a piece of those cakes. There is nothing better than cake but more cake and the same is true of pie. So be sure and save me a piece. The devil's food you know would be doing its full duty if I ate it. Don't you think?

I told you before you owed me four pages and you sent them, but you didn't seem to know what I meant. I had sent you four, therefore you owed me the same, see? You do this time too. Although I'll not object to eight or nine.

I am trying to rake up some business in town the end of the week, and if I do, I'll phone you. Write when you can to

Sincerely, Harry

In part a heartbreaking letter. A few days before, Harry Truman was excited about building his sweetheart a tennis court on his family's attempt to win her over, a way to get her to come to the farm more often.

She didn't come.

Dear Margaret: August 23, 1945


Welcome to the Dear Bess, Dear Harry podcast for August 23, 2023, from Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

We wanted to do something a little different today. Normally we share with you a Dear Bess or a Dear Harry letter with you …but today we wanted to share with you a Dear Margaret letter, Margaret being Margaret Truman, the only child of Harry and Bess Wallace Truman.

Mary Margaret Truman was born inside 219 North Delaware Street on February 14, 1924. At the time, she was born into a crowded house…her great grandmother, Mrs. Elizabeth Emery Gates was still alive, as was her grandmother, Mrs. Madge Gates Wallace. Her Uncle Fred Wallace lived in the house as well as her parents. She had her uncle George and May Wallace and Uncle Frank and Aunt Natalie Wallace living right behind…so she was born into a wonderfully supportive family.

This letter was written on this date in 1945, still within the first six months of her father’s presidency, and just a few days after the use of the first atomic bombs. For context…in the year Mary Margaret was born, in 1924, Harry Truman was an out of work county elected official, having lost re-election as County Judge. Twenty-one years later, he was now the most powerful person in the world, and had recently made the most important decision any human ever had to make.

When Margaret received this letter, she was 21 years old. Her life changed when her father became president. She lost a lot of independence, having had to have Secret Service presence 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She adored her parents and family, and worried about the stresses the job had on them. But she also knew that she was an important part of history.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t much of a letter writer as her father was. But we thought we’d share this letter with you today.

Here it is.

The White House


Aug. 23, 1945

Dear Baby:-

Mamma says you're busted - not physically but financially - so here's a little of the circulating medium to tide you over. She said to send you twenty bucks so I'm sending twenty for her & 20 for me. As mama says "Now you behave yourself." You'd better come home some of those days or send me a picture or something - I've forgotten how you look.

I expect to see your hair grey if it's much longer until I see you. Mr. De Gaulle was here last night. He's a real high pockets 6 ft 6 in tall and a pin head really. Looks to me like he wears a 6 5/8 hat but I may be mistaken.

I pinned 28 medals of Honor on 28 soldiers this morning.

Your ma has gone to Shangrila to see what it's like. We may go up there Friday.

Tell your grandmas hello for me and also your sundry Uncles, Aunts and Cousins.

Lots of love


A little change of pace today, a charming Dear Margaret (Truman) letter, written on this date in 1945. A few days earlier, her father had made the most momentous decision ever made by a human being, that being the use of the atomic bombs on Japan. But Truman makes no mention of that in this letter to his daughter.

Dear Bess: August 18, 1924


Welcome to the Dear Bess/ Dear Harry podcast for August 18, 2023, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

Today’s Dear Bess letter was written by Harry S Truman on this date in 1924. It’s an interesting letter for a few reasons. For one, it’s the only surviving Dear Bess letter from 1924. In that year, Harry Truman suffered an electoral defeat when he lost re-election for county judge for Jackson County, Missouri. But there was some happiness in his life in 1924, in that he and Mrs. Truman welcomed their only child, Mary Margaret Truman, born in February. Also in 1924, Mrs. Truman’s grandmother, Mrs. Elizabeth Emery Gates, who owned the family home at 219 North Delaware Street, died. Mrs. Gates’ daughter, Mrs. Madge Gates Wallace, Bess Truman’s mother, ended up buying the house and owned it until her death.

Thanks for listening. Here’s the letter.

Hotel Connor, Joplin, Missouri

August 18 1924

Dear Bess:

I hesitated a long time over the salutation and finally stuck to the old much used and really the best one. You might accidentally leave the opening statement exposed and someone would be sure to say we were a couple of idiots if I should start off "Dear Hon" or "Sweetie" or "Honey Bunch" or a half-dozen equally descriptive and proper words.

James and I had a very satisfactory trip and would have been here by nine o'clock had we not run into a small chuckhole and broken a front spring. The hole was not half as large as forty or fifty we'd been over before but the old spring broke right in the center just as completely as if it had been sawed with a hack saw, every leaf. I had another put on this morning for $7.50, half of which Jimmy insists on standing so I won't be out so awful much, might have broken it if I'd stayed home. We had to make a detour and I went through Lamar, the first time I've been there since I was a year old. I couldn't see much change in the town except that Pop's old livery stable apparently is a garage now.

The convention opened with a bang. The mayor turned the town over to us, and a Hebrew gentlemen by the name of Herowitz read an address from Governor Hyde. We accused him of writing it himself but he said he didn't. I told him I didn't think Hyde could write as good a speech as that. We are invited out to a chicken dinner at the club tonight. It is strictly stag so don't get uneasy. Jimmy is trying to get the state headquarters moved to Independence but I don't think it can be done. It looks as if Carl Grey will be the next commander. George Cowls is here. I saw Ralph a little bit ago. He's taken the pledge--says he's not drinking any more. I hope it sticks. I was pretty homesick last night and am yet. I'd like mighty well to see Miss Mary Margaret Skinny Fatty Sweetness, etc. ad lib. right this minute. It's peculiar how your own wife and children grow on you, isn't it?

I hope to see you Thursday about noon or two o'clock.

Your Harry

The only surviving Dear Bess letter from 1924. Harry Truman suffered an electoral loss that year, but had a daughter. He references visiting the town in which he was born, Lamar, Missouri, on his way to an American Legion conference in Joplin.

Dear Bess: August 14, 1911


Welcome to the Dear Bess/ Dear Harry podcast for August 14, 2023, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

If this is the first time you’ve dialed up this podcast series, the intent is to share with you some of the extraordinary letters that Harry S Truman and Bess Wallace Truman exchanged between 1910 and 1959. While, unfortunately, most of Mrs. Truman’s share of these letters have been lost, it’s believed that all of Mr. Truman’s survives.

Today’s letter was written on this date in 1911 by Harry S Truman, then a farmer, working on his family’s farm near Grandview, Missouri. In August, 1911, Harry Truman was still in his first year of courting Miss Bess Wallace, who was living in her grandparents’ home in Independence. This is one of our favorite Dear Bess letters. There is so much that is wonderful in this letter, but the last paragraph is a gem. Harry Truman was intent on doing everything to win the heart of Miss Wallace, who was known as one of the best athletes in Independence. He offered to build her a tennis court somewhere on the farm in Grandview. Where, exactly? We don’t know. Would this effort bear fruit? Stay tuned!

Thanks for listening. Here’s the letter.

Grandview, Mo. Aug. 14, 1911

Dear Bessie:- Got your letter yesterday but came near not getting it after it arrived. Nellie went after the mail and she decided that I shouldn't have it or anything else. I finally wheedled her out of it. They have been having a big time. We had fourteen for dinner yesterday. Almost threshing day. Everybody helped some though and it wasn't so hard. Say, I had the -est (you can put any adjective you think strong enough) time getting home you ever read.

The southbound train stood on the siding in Noel until my train passed because a freight was off the track. I got to Sulphur at 12:00 P.M. and of course had to stay over. Next morning I decided I'd get you some films down there if I could because I couldn't get to Kansas City in time. Well after going to three places (as many miles apart) I got them and was very thankful I tell you. Then I thought I'd come on home, for if the train was on time I could still see to the clover seed. Well it came into Sulphur one hour late but made up some time to Joplin-but about twenty-five or thirty miles this side of Pittsburg a freight train ran off the track while trying to get in the clear for us and we sat there three hours. I got home at 9:00 P.M. Maybe you think I didn't wish I'd stayed. I've been kicking myself ever since because I didn't. Sorry you didn't get your hay ride. It must have been some fierce booze if it was the Arkansas variety that Frank used. I feel sorry for him. I hope he's well now. I sure do want to see those pictures and would like to have some of them if you'll let me pay for 'em.

Will you please send me the plan for a tennis court. I am going to try and make one. We have a dandy place for it. Wish you could all come out in the machine while all these girls are here. If I get my court built you can come out Saturday afternoons and play in the shade all the time. I was very glad you enjoyed the eggs, and am glad I took them if it caused such a good feeling toward me afterwards. I am going to try and get in toward the end of the week, will call you up from the city if it is all right. Write when you can as I always like to hear from you.

Sincerely, Harry

A charming letter from the first year of the Harry Truman/ Bess Wallace courtship.

Near the end of the letter, Truman offers to build Miss Wallace a tennis court. It's an attempt to get her to come to the Grandview farm more often. Will it work? Stay tuned.

Dear Bess: August 9, 1946


Welcome to the Dear Bess/ Dear Harry podcast, for August 9, 2023. This series is brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service. Our park turned 40 years old this year…we couldn’t do what we do without your support, and we thank you.

Today’s Dear Bess letter was written by President Harry S Truman on this date in 1946. It’s not a long letter, but a sweet one. It’s so clear that President Truman, writing to his First Lady, back home in Independence, is still mad about her, and misses her very much. And you can easily tell that the president’s mother, Mrs. Martha Ellen Truman, is not well, and her son is worried. Truman hints at a family dynamic…we wish we knew a bit more about this intriguing line.

Thanks for listening. Here’s the letter.

The White House Washington [/letterhead] August 9, 1946

Dear Bess:-

Two letters today! Made it very bright and happy. You know that there is no busier person than your old man--but he's never too busy or too rushed to let his lady love, the only one he ever had, hear from him no matter what portends. It hurts just a tiny bit when he finds that trips uptown, time to dress etc. interfere with letters from his lady love. But complaints never got anyone anywhere--so "as the fates decide." I am enclosing you a letter from Mrs. Hill, the doctor's ma-in-law. It is a good thank you note. I didn't acknowledge it. I don't know if it should be.

Thanks for the ten. If you need it I'll send it back. Glad Dr. Greene went to see Mamma. She is on the way out. It can't be helped; but I wish it could. She's a trial to Mary, and that can't be helped either. Wish you could be more patient with both. But I can't ask too much I guess.

Had a press conference today which was a honey. They asked me about Slaughter, Axtell and everything else including Jim Mead, Palestine, Jim Byrnes, Schwellenbach, Anderson and who would win in the 5th district of Mo in November and who would be Governor of New York. Will send you a copy of the questions and answers when I get it tomorrow.

Can't leave here until next Friday. Told you yesterday what I hoped to do. Puerto Rico is off. Kiss my baby--she ought to write her daddy I think. My best to your mother, Frank, George, Natalie, May and –

Lots of love to you


A brief, but charming letter from a President of the United States to his First Lady, who he is still crazy about! This letter is a fantastic blend of personal matters and state matters, reflective of the lives of the Trumans.

Dear Bess: August 1, 1943


Hello, and welcome to the Dear Bess and Dear Harry podcast for August 1, 2023, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

Today’s letter, a brief one, was written by Senator Harry S Truman on this date in 1943, 80 years ago. Senator Truman was in Omaha, Nebraska, and was writing to his wife, who was home in Independence, Missouri.

Of course, by 1943, Senator and Mrs. Truman had the ability to talk by phone…they had done that since they had begun courting in 1910. But they remained bound by writing letters to each other, being 19th century persons at heart. But even if they just wrote about the mundane things they did that day, that was more than enough…and that is more than enough for us, today!

It’s a brief letter, but, nonetheless, we thought you’d like to hear it on its anniversary.

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

Hotel Fontenelle


Aug. 1, 1943

Dear Bess:-

I told you about the first day of the tour. Got [inserted: up} at six yesterday and just barely caught the seven o'clock Chicago Great Western to St. Joe. Road a very pleasant air conditioned day coach with two seats all to myself and the old thing pulled into Joseph on time. Joe Healey and Theo Quinn met me at the station and took me to the Federal Court Room, where Judge Otis performed the ceremony of administering the oath. All the antis were there including Mr. Clark and the president of the St. Joe Bar Assn. who fought Dick to a standstill.

I think that Mrs. Duncan and I enjoyed the show as much as Dick did. Had an afternoon session with the Legion boys and accumulated some extra funds and then took a nap. The banquet was a grand success. Bennett stayed sober and made a very grand statement on his position on Dick. I think he made some friends. I went to bed at 10:30 got up at one walked twelve blocks to the station (no cabs on Sat night) went to bed again on the train at 2:15 and had another four hours sleep. Will get two more here before we leave. The booking man took care of my big grip and I'm hoping it's here. Hope you all had a nice trip home. Love to you Harry

A brief letter, from on this date in 1943. Senator Harry S Truman (D-Missouri) is in Omaha, Nebraska, writing to his wife, back home in Independence, Missouri.

Although brief, letters like this can still provide valuable insight into the daily lives of Mr. and Mrs. Truman.

Dear Harry: July 17, 1923


Welcome to the Dear Bess/ Dear Harry podcast for July 17, 2023, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

We have a treat for you today…a Dear Harry letter. They’re rare.

Why are they rare? Well, as Margaret Truman told the story in her 1950s autobiography, called Souvenir, one day former president Harry S Truman came home one day from his office in Kansas City (this was before the Truman Library was finished) and he found his wife, Bess, burning some papers in a fireplace in their home. After asking her what she was doing, she replied, and he, in turn implored his wife to “think of history.” She told her husband, “I have.” To this day, we really don’t know all of what Mrs. Truman burned in her fireplace. But we know that she burned most of her letters to her husband from when they were courting, between, likely, 1910 and 1919. Many years later, when Mrs. Margaret Truman Daniel published her wonderful Bess W. Truman, she quoted some letters that gave readers hints that she, indeed, had at least some letters that her mother wrote to her father. The earliest known letter from Bess Wallace to Harry Truman is from early 1919. We thank Margaret Truman and her sons for sharing these letters with us, and with history.

This letter is postmarked July 17, 1923, and includes persons important to the Trumans’ story. Truman himself was at Fort Leavenworth training. (Major Harry Truman was in his fourth year serving in the Army Reserves.) Mrs. Truman makes reference to Ted Marks, a friend of the family, who served as Harry Truman’s best man at their wedding June 28, 1919. She also makes reference to Eddie Jacobson, who Truman had befriended while training to serve in the Great War, and had opened a haberdashery in Kansas City. Mr. Jacobson played an instrumental role in the Truman administration’s decision in recognizing Israel in 1948. All these relationships were so important, you see.

Here's the letter.

Tuesday - noon Dear Old Sweetness: My! But I was glad to get that letter this morning. And it sure was a nice one - about the nicest I ever had. I'm glad you are so beautifully settled and are getting such excellent food. That was some breakfast! You'll have to be pretty strenuous to keep that front down. You certainly had a grand dinner at Tonganoxie. I wished all evening I had gone on with you. You weren't a bit "home sicker" than I was, I can tell you that. Thank goodness two nights are gone. Eddie called up this a.m. He was at Ted's and they wanted to go up to see you, and he wanted to know what you said about coming up and I told him to go on any day after six, so you may see them on Friday. I'd give my head to go -maybe he will ask me yet. The Swifts got off to Colorado early yesterday morning. He started that old car right on the dot of five o'clock - and I lay there in bed and watched them get ready. I wouldn't have missed seeing Mrs. Swift in knickers for a hundred dollars. Called Dr. Berry this morning - (the pictures came yesterday.) He said there were two he believed should come out - one back one and one front - (just on the side). He couldn't tell just how bad they were but that they might be secreting poison. I'm going up tomorrow and maybe have the big one and wisdom one out. There's no use putting it off. My temp. hasn't run over 99 for the last four or five days. Ho! Natalie and I spent all of yesterday morning in K.C. The sweater sale made a hit. We only bought three - one for her, one for Miss Rose and one for Mother. How did the map-reading class come out? Well, it's awfully darned lonesome but I know you are going to get lots of good out of the trip - and I'm glad too that you are taking it by yourself for I am sure you needed to get away from everything and everybody. Believe me I'll be up there if I can get there for you don't want to see me any worse than I want to you. I'm going to town to mail this so you will get it tomorrow.

Loads of love, Devotedly, Bess

A wonderful rarity for you today, a Dear Harry letter. Not many letters from Bess Wallace Truman survive, so it's a blessing to be able to share them with you when we can. She wrote this letter to her husband 100 years ago today.

Dear Bess: July 14, 1913


Welcome to the Dear Bess/ Dear Harry podcast for July 14, 2023, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

Today’s Dear Bess letter was written on this date in 1913…110 years ago! Lots of sweetness in this letter…we thought you’d like to hear it.

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

Grandview July 14, 1913

Dear Bess:

I came very nearly being in your burg again today. A delegation of roadseekers went to see the court this morning. They wanted Papa but he was nowhere to be found until the very last minute. I had my glad rags on but got left at the post. We are supposed to be helping two different men to thresh this morning. I sent one of them an empty wagon minus the team and the other two teams and wagons. Not playing any favorites but the man with two teams asked first. It's a nuisance to have so many neighbors to help. It's mighty fine when the help comes the other way. We usually have about three days threshing at home and then thresh for thirty days at the neighbors to pay them back. It's a grand system if you like to work.

My head feels like a barrel this A.M. I had it doped out to stay in bed till 10:00 A.M., but my dope wasn't worth a cent. Six is as long as I was allowed to stay in peace. Had to go to the phone and then I just stayed up. I sure do pity a boozer on the morning after. I suppose in addition to the barrel for a head, he'd probably have a taste in his mouth like a burnt boot. At least I've heard them remark that it resembled that article. I can think of no more disagreeable taste, especially if the boot happened to be rubber and tastes as it smells when cooked. I know one fellow who used to drink ink and coal oil to allay the burning thirst of the next day.

I suppose you are exercising a tennis racket today, that is if you saved Luke's scalp. It would be rather windy for a game out here. I guess the breeze must be blowing about forty miles an hour. It's hot, too. We are hoping for rain. I guess we'll get some in a short time – the flies are working overtime.

This stationery you are complimenting so highly is a Christmas present from Mary Colgan. I have had it in a box in the desk and just ran across it the other day. I wasn't especially fond of it but would have used it sooner if I'd known it was here. I gave her a grand lecture on where to buy stationery about two days before Christmas in an accidental conversation on the subject, telling her how much nicer the Jaccard brand is than any other in town. I suppose she had this already on hand and decided I should take it anyway. I did Ethel the same way once and she had bought me some at Peck's and had it monogrammed. I felt like thirty cents when it came. I usually show my knowledge of things where it will do me the least good and make me feel like a fool afterwards. We used to have a Dane working for us who said his mother told him to see, hear, and say nawthing. It's a most excellent theory but mighty hard to practice. I sometimes feel as if I'd surely explode if I didn't get some bright remark off my chest. Nine times in ten I'd feel better afterwards to have been silent.

I hope we can arrange to go fishing with Agnes and Earl some nice day soon. Also I think we have a date to ride over to Excelsior Springs some evening when the weather's fine. I have not forgotten it. Also there is one important date you haven't filled yet. It is with a photographer. I am still hoping for the picture to go in my silver frame. I am hoping to see you some evening this week if we don't thresh too strenuously. You owe me a tablecloth-sized letter anyway.

Most sincerely, Harry

110 years ago today...a charming letter!

Dear Bess: July 12, 1911


Welcome to the Dear Bess, Dear Harry podcast and videocast for July 12, 2023, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

Today we would like to share with you what is perhaps the greatest of the Dear Bess letters, written on this date in 1911. For a little context…a few days earlier, Harry Truman, in a letter to Miss Bess Wallace, had essentially proposed marriage, asking her if she would consider wearing a solitaire diamond on her left hand. To Truman’s worry, he only received silence from Miss Wallace in Independence. Truman was worried that he had hurt or lost Miss Wallace. It had been, after all, just a few months since Harry Truman and Bess Wallace had begun courting.

Miss Wallace turned him down. We don’t know if it was by letter or by phone. None of Miss Wallace’s letters from this period to Harry Truman survive. But this response to Miss Wallace is a true gem. We thought you’d like to hear it.

Grandview, Mo.

July 12, 1911

Dear Bessie:

You know that you turned me down so easy that I am almost happy anyway. I never was fool enough to think that a girl like you could ever care for a fellow like me but I couldn't help telling you how I felt. I have always wanted you to have some fine, rich, good-looking man, but I knew that if ever I got the chance I'd tell you how I felt even if I didn't even get to say another word to you. What makes me feel real good is that you were good enough to answer me seriously and not make fun of me anyway. You know when a fellow tells a girl all his heart and she makes a joke of it I suppose it would be the awfulest feeling in the world. You see I never had any desire to say such things to anyone else. All my girl friends think I am a cheerful idiot and a confirmed old bach. They really don't know the reason nor ever will. I have been so afraid you were not even going to let me be your good friend. To be even in that class is something. You may think I'll get over it as all boys do. I guess I am something of a freak myself. I really never had any desire to make love to a girl just for the fun of it, and you have always been the reason. I have never met a girl in my life that you were not the first to be compared with her, to see wherein she was lacking and she always was.

Please don't think I am talking nonsense or bosh, for if ever I told the truth I am telling it now and I'll never tell such things to anyone else or bother you with them again. I have always been more idealist than practical anyway, so I really never expected any reward for loving you. I shall always hope though.

As I said before I am more than glad to be your good friend for that is more than I expected. So when I come down there Saturday (which I'll do if I don't hear from you) I'll not put on any hangdog airs but will try to be the same old Harry.

You need not be afraid of bumping the proprieties with me. You couldn't. So send your package along. My new book has come and it is a dandy. A Hindu myth and really fine I think. I sent you Mollie Make Believe by Nellie this time. I hope you got it.

I was at the stockyards yesterday and a fellow offered to buy a bank down here in the south part of the county if I'd run it. I don't know if I could be a banker or not. You know a man has to be real stingy and save every one-cent stamp he can. Then sometimes he has to take advantage of adverse conditions and sell a good man out. That is one reason I like being a farmer. Even if you do have to work like a coon you know that you are not grinding the life out of someone else to live yourself. Still if this man makes the call loud enough, as the preacher said, I may take it. I can stay at home and help run the farm anyway.

Don't you know of some way to make it rain? We need it so badly that if it does not come it will be a real calamity. They say it rains on the just and the unjust alike but it is certainly passing some of us this year. Twenty miles south they have had plenty.

I hope you will continue your good letters as I really enjoy them and will try to answer them to the best of my ability, and although I may sometimes remind you of how I feel toward you I'll try and not bore you to death with it.

Very sincerely, Harry

One of the, if not the greatest of the "Dear Bess" letters, written by Harry S Truman to Bess Wallace, after Miss Wallace turned down his proposal of marriage. Once again, Truman pours his heart out to Miss Wallace.

of 13