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 Wallace Truman and their times. We will share letters written between Harry Truman, Bess Wallace Truman, Margaret Truman, and others. And we'll share interesting tidbits from the Truman Administration. Items we share are from the park collection and from the collection of our friends at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum, whose friendship we cherish.

Thanks for listening!


Dear Bess: June 17, 1935


Welcome to the Dear Bess/ Dear Harry podcast for June 17, 2022, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

The letter we’d like to share with you today was written on this date in 1935. Senator Harry S Truman wrote this short letter to his wife, Mrs. Bess Wallace Truman, who was back home in Independence, Missouri. Even after Harry Truman sought elective office, he continued the correspondence he started with Bess Wallace Truman in 1910. This letter, a short one, communicates the loneliness that the relatively new Senator from Missouri was feeling in Washington, DC. At that time, Congress was only in session for about half a year. Mrs. Truman had taken their daughter Margaret home to Independence. Possibly compounding the situation for Senator Truman is the fact that many of his Senate colleagues avoided or ridiculed Truman because of Truman’s association with Tom Pendergast and his political machine back home in Jackson County, Missouri. But day by day, person by person, Truman was able to establish himself as his own man in the Senate, and would accomplish some great things while in that body.

Here's the letter.

June 17, 1935

Dear Bess:

Your card was a lifesaver this morning. I have never in my life spent such a lonesome night. I went "home" at nine-thirty after I'd talked to you and when I opened the apartment door I thought I heard Margaret say, "Hello Dad"-and I asked, well where is mother, as usual, and then I walked all around to make sure I wasn't dreaming, read the Congressional Record, put a sheet on your bed, and turned in. Every time I'd hear that young lady in the next apartment I would be sure my family were coming in. We'll never do it again.

Gates Wells and Mr. Pulliam from Henry Dillingham's office were in the hall when I came to the office at seven o'clock this morning. Saw Murray at 7:30. They are all three staying at the apartment with me tonight, so I won't hear any more ghosts. My mail is in fine shape, only a few unanswered letters and they had to wait for me.

Met with Interstate Commerce Committee a few minutes and told them I had to leave, came down here and locked the door so I could write. I sort of need a phone but I guess I can make out. I've gotten so I can hardly write. You see what lack of practice does. Kiss my baby, tell your mother and mine hello, and say I want to be remembered to all the family.

I miss you terribly,


In this brief letter, it is clear that Senator Harry S Truman, separated from his family while in Washington, DC, is missing them terribly. This letter drips sadness and loneliness. In a way, he was still courting Bess Wallace Truman, 16 years after their wedding, with these letters.

Dear Bess: June 8, 1918


Welcome to the Dear Bess/ Dear Harry podcast. Today is June 8, 2022, and this is brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

We’d like to share with you a most charming “Dear Bess” letter, written on this date in 1918. First Lieutenant Truman is writing to his fiancée, Miss Bess Wallace, back in Independence, Missouri. The rank is important. In regards to his World War I service, Harry Truman is often, correctly, written as Captain Truman. But when he first shipped to France, he was a First Lieutenant. You’ll hear how Truman was hearing rumors that a promotion was coming…it did, in fact, come shortly after this letter.

You’ll also hear a few references to censoring of the mail. That was and is nothing new. Mail going to and from a war zone is often censored, in the event that a piece of mail fell into the wrong hands. We wish we had the letters from Miss Wallace that Lieutenant Truman refers to…unfortunately they don’t survive.

Here's the letter.

France, June 8, 1918

Dear Bess: This is sure a banner day. I finished school today and got a letter from you, the first I've had in several weeks. It sure makes life worth while again to hear from you.

We leave tomorrow for the regiment. It will be the next thing to going home to see the bunch. I didn't get any special mention at the school. Some were mentioned as future instructors and some were marked as having done excellent work. There were some who were marked as failures. I got neither so I guess I got by. There's a rumor current that I'm to be promoted soon but I don't know for what or why.

I think I will be able to tell you where I am the next time I write because we are allowed to mention some towns and I think the one where we are going is one of them.

I got three letters from Mary, one from mamma, one from Morgan and one from you. Evidently there are a lot more of yours somewhere. This one was dated May 3. The cake hasn't arrived yet and I suspicion some cursed mail clerk of having eaten it up. It sure makes me feel good to know that you've heard from me and know that I'm safe and sound.

That cake would sure taste good any time whether I am hungry or not. We do not get cake or pie but we get plenty of roast beef or horse I don't know which and beans and soup “ potage du pain” the French call it dish water and bread I think it is but it tastes well. You know the French can flavor anything so it is good to eat. That is excepting Limburger cheese. I am hoping against hope that the cake arrives and so are the rest of the bunch.

No I didn't even know Col Elliott was divorced from his first wife let alone married again. I don't know whether he is with the regiment. In fact I am as ignorant of everything concerning the outside world as if I were in Arkansas. It looks like Arkansas too except for the grand buildings scattered over the country.

Your rumor by way of Morgan from Pete Allen makes me believe that the one that has been current here may be true. I hope so anyway. That is concerning my promotion.

No your letters are not censored at least not so far but you never can tell when they are going to be. You know they work the censor business on the probability plan as figured in differential calculus or somewhere up in that neighborhood. They simply grab a certain number of the officers letters from a pile and judge the pile by the way that number turns out. All enlisted men's mail is read. I read some of it myself.

Bill Bostian just missed seeing me by a nose the other day. He was in a big town over near here just a few hours before I was. I saw in the New York Herald (Paris edition) where he was also in Paris the other day too. I expect he will probably come down to our new camping place and then I'll get to see him.

I hope you read those Hatchets every carefully because they contained some information I was unable to write. Mary said she saw after a time what it contained. Yes that Lodge of Instruction sounded very familiar.

George Arrowsmith got three letters from Independence today and I had to almost whip him to hold him on the ground.

He's also looking forward to the receipt of my cake.

Be sure and keep on writing because letters from you sure help make the hard work bearable and we've got to work like the dickens to whip Heiny and that's what we're here for to out guess out run and out shoot him. So keep writing.

Yours always,

Harry Harry S. Truman 1st Lt 129 FA American EF.

A letter from 1st Lieutenant Harry Truman to Bess Wallace, written from France, in the midst of World War I. Lieutenant Truman refers to a rumor of a promotion. Will he get it? Will he get the cake that Miss Wallace sent him?

Dear Bess: June 2, 1913


Welcome to the Dear Bess/ Dear Harry podcast for June 2, 2022, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

We have an interesting letter for you today, written on this date in 1913. It has us smiling, not because it’s a humorous letter…but, rather, because of how relevant it is to us today!

This year, the park started offering regular tours of the Truman Farm Home for the first time in almost a decade. But we also discovered that in the kitchen and dining room of the Farm Home, there has been rapid deterioration of the paint and surface. Normally it would be a simple fix, but there is lead paint involved, so extra caution has to be taken for the safety of all. So, tours presently don’t go into the kitchen and dining room. That’s the way it goes with historic homes…like our own homes, there’s always something that needs fixed. So we’re working on fixing the lead paint problems…just like how in 1913, the Trumans were fixing something. Fear not, we still offer tours of the Farm Home on Fridays and Saturdays…you can see a schedule on our website. Just click on the calendar of events. By the way, you’ll hear a reference to Bess Wallace’s brother, George Wallace, and his future wife, May.

Here's the letter, postmarked June 2, 1913.

Dear Bess:

I have been rejoicing this morning because I found the plasterer gone. He wants to do some painting now. I am going to try and find someone else before he gets back. Dreamland behaved very nicely last night. There were only about a dozen couples to get on. The dancers sure looked fine from the car.

George just now called and said he had a piece of machinery for you as per direction from me. I am sorry I couldn't deliver it but there's no use keeping you from using it just to get to deliver it myself. George said the handle is a little bit larger than Miss May's but that he'd fix it. I hope it will be all right. I am no expert on such matters but I think George is and he said it is just right.

My thought factory absolutely refuses to grind this morning and if I remember correctly I promised you a good letter the last time I wrote. You sure are going to get disappointed but please let George's package have some weight in this case. It was all I could do last night to keep from telling you that perhaps you'd not have to go to Platte to win a prize tennis bat.

I hope you can have a fine game and that it won't rain until Wednesday. I suppose you are getting ready to entertain the Texans this evening. Be sure and search them for hardware before you start any arguments. Texans are generally quick on the trigger and have been ever since Sam Houston and even unto Captain Bill MacDonald.

I'm going to get even with you for not sending me but one sheet. Papa's going to the office and if I quit now you'll get this Tuesday. Here's hoping I get two for one. I'm hoping to see you Sunday if not before.



Some things never change! On this date in 1913, Harry Truman, writing from their family farm home, alludes to some repair work being done in that home. Today, in 2022, we are doing the same thing! We are repairing some paint and surfaces, including lead paint abatement. That's how it is with old homes! (Even new ones, right?)

A digital copy is here:

Dear Bess: May 23, 1911


Welcome to the Dear Bess/ Dear Harry podcast for May 23, 2022, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

We would like to share a fascinating letter with you today, written by Harry S Truman to Bess Wallace on this date in 1911. If the December 31, 1910, letter is indeed the first “Dear Bess” letter, then this letter is from the first six months of the courtship. Truman’s cousin Ethel Noland makes a brief appearance, as do Truman’s sister, Mary Jane, and his brother, John Vivian. Family dynamics and a discussion about literature make this letter a treasure. At the time this was written, Harry Truman was still dealing with a broken leg, which was problematic for a farmer. Who would do his work? Less productivity can result in less income.

Note at the end of the letter Truman makes reference to a telephone. The Truman farm home has no electricity in 1911, but there was a telephone, with a party line. While these letters were a primary communication tool, we know that Bess Wallace and Harry Truman spoke by phone too. If only we knew more about what they spoke about.

Here’s the letter.

Grandview, Mo. May 23, 1911

Dear Bessie: I guess there is nothing for me to do but wait until I am able and then remove Ethel's wig. I sure thought I was consigning your book and Life to a safe messenger when I gave them to her. Vivian hasn't said a word about them to me. I shall corner him tonight. I have an idea a certain lady friend of his could tell me where they are if he doesn't. I shall try and make reparation for the book anyway if it doesn't eventually reach you.

I have enjoyed Nicanar immensely. I suppose it depicts Norman life realistically but I like for them to be more cheerful about it. I am going to read the book again. I found out the name of a Roman Emperor that history never says anything about in it. He really existed too. You see I haven't anything to do but run down historic rumors, and every book I read since I have been laid up that mentions anyone at all in history I never heard of causes me to look him up. I always forget him five minutes afterwards but I have the satisfaction of knowing [who] he was anyway.

I really wish Rex Beach would do something with that Ne'er-Do-Well and be done with it. It makes you feel like the end of the year instead of the middle the way he draws it out. I've an idea the poor boy'll lose his job now and his girl and then have a love feast with her old man, come back and get the girl and the Pennsylvania Railroad and live happily until alimony time. What do you think?

Mary's (mine also) cousin in Texas sent her two horned toads in a box by mail the other day. She thought it was a box of pills. It was all wrapped up and very small. You ought to have heard her squawk when she opened the box. You know they have tails and horns on their heads (their tails are not on their heads) and are furious looking little brutes, but are harmless. They feast on flies, ants, etc. I don't see how these two lived for the box was air-tight.

Mary and Vivian went to the Ruskin High School Commencement Thursday night. Said it was fine.

I guess they are all fine the first few times but when very many pass they get old don't you think? They sure must be getting nifty in Independence if the ushers wanted to wear claw hammer coats. That's spreading things thick. The Kansas City Post has offered ten dollars for the prettiest graduation dress not to cost over five dollars. Do you suppose one can be made for that?

That rain was the finest thing this year. If it hadn't come we would have gone to the wall sure enough. Now we expect to raise something anyway. I hate rainy days generally but these last ones sure looked good to me.

I have an illustration of what happens to people who set grocery store eggs. I am enclosing it. Did any of yours come out that way? Literature, etc., do not go very well with poultry, do they? One good gang of poultry does more for the country though than all the art Charles Yerkes could buy. You know I think a man artist or pianist is the last thing on earth. They do no good for themselves or anyone else. I never did see one who paid his debts if there was any way to avoid it. That shows his artistic temperament, that, a lot of long hair and a kangaroo walk. Sometimes they go dingy or get two or three divorces. That also is a temperamental sign. Some French artist says that geniuses are insane anyway. I guess he is right in some cases anyway. It is all right to be an artist or pianist if you are a real genius like Lhevinne or Hofmann or Turner or Whistler, but the ordinary run of everyday artists and pianists who imitate these men won't do.

I really thought once I'd be an ivory tickler but I am glad my money ran out before I got too far. Who knows, maybe I"ll be a Cincinnatus and be elected constable someday.

If you had called up the other day I'd have made it to the phone some way. I can get around the house to some extent. Soon as ever I can persuade the M.D. to take the cast off I'll do fine. I hope you'll consider this worthy an answer. I'd like to see [illegible] Smith. I bet it's fine. This is the end of my stationery.

Sincerely, Harry

In this letter from May, 1911, Harry Truman and Bess Wallace were still in the early months of their courtship. Many family members make an appearance. Harry Truman was recovering from a broken leg, so these letters to Miss Wallace were another source of therapy for him. It's interesting to read his insights on piano players.

A copy of the original can be seen here:

Dear Bess: May 19, 1913 (postmarked)


Welcome to the Dear Bess/ Dear Harry podcast for May 19, 1922, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

A sweet and fun letter for you today, postmarked on this date in 1913. The Truman’s home on the family farm in Grandview could be a busy place. Not only were Harry Truman, his sister and his parents living there, there were farm hands coming and going. This sometimes led to privacy challenges to the residents, as you hear early in the letter. Uncle Harrison Truman, for whom his soon-to-be-famous nephew was named, makes an appearance, and those appearances are always welcome.

But, as always, Harry Truman is trying to impress and show his affection for Miss Bess Wallace in Independence. It was his most important campaign.

Here’s the letter.

Grandview, ( postmarked May 19, 1913 ) Dear Bess:

How do you appreciate my ability as a weather prophet? We had a small rain out here this morning. I hope you had none and that we'll have more.

I started this letter before breakfast and had to quit because there were so many congregated around the desk to see what I was about. We have the freshest hired man that ever hopped a clod. He has to know where every letter comes from and to whom every one goes. I informed him that I was writing a business letter and it was none of his affair where it went. He immediately got the Sunday Post and said he would peruse the personal column and see if he couldn't find a reason for a business correspondence. He found one which said a rich widow desired to hear from a bachelor of some means, object matrimony. I suppose he is going to investigate. I told him he was no bachelor; he's only twenty-one – a perfect infant. He thinks he's older than I am. I told him I was forty-two my last birthday. He had to go to work with a post auger this morning.

I am sorry the picnic note didn't arrive, but I shall look forward to another one later. Uncle Harry pulled out this morning. He's going to Monegaw Springs in the morning. He says they have the finest set of hillbillies in America down there. They give a formal dance every Wednesday evening during the summer. Full dress consists of a hickory shirt and blue overalls for the men, and red calico dresses for the ladies. They must have a good time. He said he showed them how to dance the pigeon wing and crawfish wire, evidently two very complicated steps if names count for anything. I have an idea that he would make a better instructor in poker and seven-up than in dancing. He's too pigeon-toed to dance. It is all he can do to walk without getting tangled up.

I am going to Harrisonville today and Wednesday night too if nothing happens here at home and it will keep on raining. It looks very much like we were going to have a trash mover. I suppose you and the Southern girls will have another party if it rains. You ought to have played tennis yesterday afternoon. It was an ideal day for it. You couldn't possibly have gotten too warm at it. Mamma has a broom just raising sand in here. I never saw anyone but Aunt Sallie who takes any more pleasure in creating a disturbance with a broom than Mamma. The coldest day in winter she'll raise all the windows, get a broom and a dust rag, and just be perfectly blissful while the rest of us freeze. Whenever the dog and cat see her coming with a broom they at once begin hunting means of exit. They know by sore experience that Mamma's broom is a poor implement to get in front of. When eating time comes though they forget the broom as well as the rest of us do.

Please now you owe me a letter if you'll let the stationery count for one. Do you approve of Electric Park? If you do we'll go out when the weather gets warm enough. Mary saved me a dish of strawberries. I can't imagine what she wants, a new dress or hat I bet. See you Sunday if not sooner?

Most sincerely, Harry

A fun letter today. Some interesting insights into the crowded house on the Truman farm. Uncle Harrison Truman makes a fun appearance, as does Mamma (Mrs. Martha Ellen) and Mary Jane Truman.

You can see a digital of the original here:

Dear Bess: May 12 1912


Welcome to the Dear Bess/ Dear Harry podcast for May 12, 2022, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

An interesting letter for you today, written exactly 110 years ago. In this letter to Bess Wallace, Harry Truman describes some hijinks with family and friends. But the most intriguing part of the letter is found in the second half, when Truman describes an ongoing court case his family is embroiled in.

When Harry Truman’s maternal grandmother, Mrs. Harriet Louisa Gregg Young, died, she left the bulk of her estate to the Truman family, meaning John Anderson, Martha and Harry Truman. This caused a rift in the family that took a while to settle out of court. This came at great expense to the Trumans, in terms of money and hard feelings in the family. One ripple effect lasted for decades. To pay the expenses of the suit, Martha Truman had to take out repeated mortgages on the family farm. Eventually the mortgages became too large to overcome, and in 1940, while Harry Truman was running for reelection for the United States Senate, the Truman Family lost the Farm Home. It took the family over five years to get it back. By then, her son had ascended from being Vice President to President of the United States. But “Mamma” Truman never lived in the Farm Home ever again.

Here's the letter.

Grandview, Mo. May 12, 1912

Dear Bess:

I got your letter this morning and was very glad. As I have to go to the burg after Mary this evening to bring her from church, I will try to write you one and mail it as I go up. The reason you got the other one in such good time is I gave it to Uncle Harrison and he mailed it in town. I gave it to him so those ornery girls couldn't see it. They led me a dog's life while they were here. I guess I about kept even though. I caused Aileen to take a header in the yard and get her shine spoiled and her dress muddy. Grace upset a glass of milk at the table while trying to put butter on my face, which I had smeared on her arm. We told her she'd have to stay over Monday and do a day's washing, but her beau was coming Friday so she had to go home that evening. Aileen said she was going to send her dress to the cleaner's and the bill to me and that I could set ‘em up to a shine the very first time she caught me downtown.

They played their stunt Thursday evening. Two Grandview girls came down to call and find out who was here. When they came in Grace and I happened to be at the piano trying to sing the words to "I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls" in the front of the libretto and play the music in the back. We found it couldn't be done and were being roasted by Mary and Aileen for creating a disturbance when these girls came. Mary didn't introduce Grace as Miss Waggoner from Independence, but the frying pan she gave me was hanging up in the parlor-and Mamma made an unintentional break by saying it was too small for Grace and me to fry eggs in. She said she meant it because Grace gave me the pan. Those hens took it the other way and I blushed like a school girl at a play party. Aileen had been reading a story in Ladies Home Journal called the "Twenty-four of June" and she and Mary kept up a conversation on the subject until those girls had it all figured out that Grace's amethyst (How do you spell it?) ring was a present from me-and the next twenty-fourth of June, the day. I was so mad I could have busted open. I had to take them home. When they went to leave, one of them said she guessed these girls must be the cousins I went to see in Independence. The girls never said anything only just yelled and laughed, which was all the evidence they wanted. My strong denial only made them surer. I told them going home that Grace's father was a paint manufacturer in K.C. and she was only a friend of Mary's but they only asked if amethysts were her birthstone. I could only say yes because Grace's birthday is in February too. They think they're awful smart. Let them have their good time. I'll get even with the whole bunch, Grandviewites and all. You needn't be afraid of meeting them because if you do they'll only get more thoroughly balled up. They seem to take more interest in attending to my business than in anybody's around here.

I saw Earl Defon Wallingford up town this morning. She said to tell "Bessie hello when you see her." I guess my dear cousins weren't so mum as they pretended they were.

I am very glad George could decipher that note. It wasn't loaded with dynamite. I guess I must have unintentionally handed him a hunch and he did not want you to see it. I told him I could think of bushels of hot air but I supposed he knew it all anyway (the hot air). That I guess is the reason he won't let you see it. You mustn't tell I told you.

My Uncle accomplished his errand and if there's not a slip between now and Tuesday we will probably be able to bring up our case and dispose of it. I hope so because when you pay a lawyer $100 a month and court costs and trip costs it certainly bends your finances badly when they are limited anyway. Mary Colgan called Mary up and told her not to let me make a date for Saturday May 18 as she is going to have a party. She called on last Monday. I told Mary to tell her to have her party on some other day-I couldn't possibly come because I was going to another one. She nearly bit the phone in two. I don't care. I'd rather see Manon (that's the worst one I can think of) with you than go to two of her parties, and I know that Margaret has Manon as badly beaten as Mark has Geo. Eliot. Well, you see I told you about the stunt. Of course it is my point of view, but Mary's or Aileen's couldn't be much different I don't think. You know people see what they want to see.

I guess you are glad that Frank didn't take that grounded boat. I hope he arrives safely. I'd like to see what a card mailed on the high seas looks like.

Please send me a letter and I wish tomorrow were the eighteenth. I'll get done planting corn on Thursday at noon if it doesn't rain, and will be my own boss Saturday at noon so pray for clear weather this time.

Sincerely, Harry

A fun letter. There had been some hijinks in the Truman Farm Home in Grandview, and Harry Truman describes them beautifully in this letter to Bess Wallace.

Truman also makes reference to the litigation that was still ongoing between his family and the other children of his grandmother, Harriet Louisa Young. This process played out over the next decade.

Dear Bess: May 5, 1914 (postmarked)


Welcome to the Dear Bess, Dear Harry podcast for May 5, 2022, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

An intriguing letter for you today, postmarked on this date in 1914, likely written the day before. In this letter, Harry S Truman, farmer, describes some life and work on the family farm. He also talks about an opportunity to invest in some land speculation. Truman was keen on improving his situation, if only to show himself worthy to Miss Bess Wallace and, likely, her mother. Most guys do that…we want to make sure that we are worthy. He was determined to win Miss Wallace’s heart.

Here's the letter.

Postmarked May 5, 1914

Grandview Dear Bess: I am going to get your letter off on time even if I am a sleepyhead this evening. I have to go to the city in the morning after the hired man's daughter and I know very well I won't get a chance to do another thing. I almost did a day's work today! Put away all the meat. We have ten hams and three shoulders and some bacon. Here's hoping it lasts till hogs are ripe again, because gasoline is spot cash.

I got home before the rain and only thirty minutes after Mary did. It was just ten minutes after twelve when I came into the front gate. It rained like the mischief at about 12:45. If I'd had to take the K.C.S. I'd have gotten soaked. It will be an awful comedown if that old machine ever refuses to go. I don't know how I could manage to walk from Grandview. The tires are standing up fine. (I have my hand on wood.)

Almost I went to Montana tomorrow. Mr. Hall is going and was very anxious for me to go. But on account of our picnic Saturday and for reasons of expense I have decided not to go until two weeks from today. My claim doesn't come up until June 3, and I don't want to pay over two weeks' board if it can be helped. I haven't much hope of getting a good claim. I've heard a lot of adverse criticism on Ft. Peck in the last month. I'm not going to be bluffed out by conversation though. I'll have to be shown. I think every real estate man in Montana has written me a letter to offer his services in locating me—for fifty dollars. They are very liberal and they all know every foot of the reservation. You know it is only fifty miles by a hundred, and there are only 1,200,000 acres to be homesteaded. So, you see, these men are exceptionally bright and capable and their services ought to be cheap at the price. Think of holding a platte of Jackson County in your head. Ft. Peck is some six times as big. I doubt very much whether it can be done. Anyway I'm not going to part with my fifty dollars until I'm absolutely certain it's a safe proposition. I've an idea that a person will have as good luck just to shut his eyes and put his finger down on the map. One of our hired men (the other one) is off on a toot. He's been gone since Saturday. He's drawn all that's coming to him too. Also it's all he'll ever draw I guess. No boozers for mine. Our hand of help is almost equal to Luke. First one and then the other has a tantrum. No man that's any good would be a farmhand, though, so it's not to be expected that good ones can be found. One good thing, they are plentiful and are not hard to break in.

The paper said this morning that the land was at $10,000,000.00. So there must be about fifteen poor men in it or a hundred and five I don't know which. They're out to land the Shrine Convention for Frisco in 1915. They're welcome to it as far as I'm concerned. I know that if I had $57,000.00 I wouldn't spend it to get a Shrine Convention.

Papa is very much put out at the defection of this second hired man. He was so very pleased with him that he'd take his advice in preference to mine. I've had a good time rubbing him the wrong way all day. I've told him two or three times to wait till Charlie comes and ask his advice. He finally got so mad that I fear Charlie would have gotten his head smashed if he'd shown up at all.

Our picnic is not injured by the rain. If there is not any more after today the roads will still be fine. Anyway if we can't do anything else we'll go as far as we can and have a picnic any way. Uncle Harrison says it's bound to rain two more days this week because it rained on Monday. Lets hope it sprinkles on Tuesday and Wednesday and satisfies the supersition [sic] anyway. You know it might be so perverse as to wait until Friday night to satisfy it and then put in two days hand running.

I shall look for a letter early this week as there's not much chance of my getting in. I'll have to work! (Maybe!) Please send the letter anyway.

Sincerely, Harry

This is a nifty letter from May 4/5, 1914. Harry Truman, farmer, describes more work on the family farm in Grandview, talks about the trouble with hired hands, and describes an opportunity he has to make some money. He is trying to make himself worthy in the eyes of Miss Wallace and her family.

You can see a copy here:

Dear Bess: April 29, 1912


Welcome to the Dear Bess, Dear Harry podcast for April 29, 2022, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

A charming letter for you today, written by Harry S Truman, farmer, on this date in 1912.

Harry Truman certainly loved writing letters, particularly to that beautiful blonde, blue-eyed young lady in Independence he had met in 1890. In these letters to her, he opens his heart in a most wonderful way. Truman writes about his family, some business affairs on and near the farm in Grandview, and discusses some literature he and Miss Bess Wallace were reading. The story of the axle grease is absolutely charming. How blessed we are to have these letters!

Here's the letter, written 110 years ago today.

Grandview, Mo. April 29, 1912

Dear Bess:

Your letter came yesterday but I was so all fired lazy I didn't answer it. Do you know those ornery cousins of mine came out Saturday morning and went back Saturday evening, after I'd already made arrangements with the hired man so I couldn't leave Sunday. Wasn't that the height of pure cussedness? I guess they had a good excuse though. Aunt Ella was sick. We had a barbecue and land auction at Grandview Saturday and I had to stay home and work. Doesn't that sound unusual? So I didn't get to see the girls at all. I was just about to finish sowing clover seed and as all indications pointed to rain I couldn't stop. I finished at five-o'clock-115 acres, which means that I probably rode 120 miles on the drill. If you'd only prayed a little harder Thursday, I'd have got off but as it was it only stopped me an hour. Now I'm done and will have to go to plowing. It takes a deluge to stop a plow so I guess I'll have to wait until Sunday. This time Mr. hired man stays if all the relations in the county choose to come. There were about a thousand people at Grandview Saturday. Everybody and his brother was present. If he didn't happen to have a brother, he brought his mother-in-law. That what mine did. (My brother.) Mr. Davidson's feed was the most scrumptious affair you ever saw. He had roast cow and several roast hogs with salad and pie and all the trimmings for the whole bunch. He paid $10,000 for ten acres and got $16,500 for it. Probably made $3,000 clear in a month. Wish I could coin money at that rate. You know he made $3,000 on Jost's election.

This letter is a sort of "continued in our next." I started it at noon, then went and plowed a half day, and now I hope to finish it if Mary doesn't announce supper too quickly. I raked all the hide off the end of my left thumb this afternoon while trying to punch a hole in a strap. It wasn't my Sunday knife, so you needn't be afraid to use the one I carry on holidays. You have no idea how very inconvenient it is to try to wash your face with one hand, especially if that one is the wrong one. I did mine as Tom Sawyer did his-gave it a lick and promised it a better one Sunday maybe. Won't I be pretty by then? I'll come down and let you see how I look if you will be at home. I'll stop at a barber shop on the way though and except for an immense amount of sunburn I'll be as usual. I got axle grease all over my nose this morning. That was before I scratched my thumb and also before dinner so I got it washed off. You've no notion how big my nose is until you see it blacked. I was greasing a plow and got a gob of grease on my glove and for some unknown reason immediately smeared it on the side of my nose. I guess I was trying brush off a freckle. I 'm trying to erase it from the side I did a good job and plastered the whole thing. You'd think that would take a whole bucket of grease but just the little bit I had on my glove was entirely sufficient.

This stationary is a box Mary bought me Saturday so you see I don't have to use a tablet. Though I have one I use on my cousins and my aunts. I hope you and Mary had a good time on the chaperon job. I suppose the reason they take you two is because they don't need any, isn't it?

"The Jingo" is a story with a brazen moral I guess, and like The Squirrel Cage, won't be fit to read in a few numbers. Did you read the article on Getting up Pinafore in Everybody's? It's a killer. Please send me a letter for this, and may I come Sunday and also May 19 to hear the Bishop and a few other times if I get a chance?

Sincerely, Harry

A charming letter written 110 years ago today! Harry S Truman, farmer, writes about his family, some business, and about some literature he is sharing with Miss Bess Wallace in Independence.

A digital copy can be found here:

Dear Bess: April 26, 1933


Welcome to the Dear Bess/ Dear Harry podcast for April 26, 2022, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

We’d like to share a very interesting “Dear Bess” letter with you today, written 89 years ago today, April 26, 1933. At the time, Harry Truman was serving as Presiding Judge of Jackson County, Missouri. Now Truman didn’t serve as a judge as we would typically think of a judge. Rather, in essence, Truman was presiding county commissioner. And in this letter, as presiding judge, it is clear that the effects of the Great Depression were hitting county hard. So hard that the county had to lay off hundreds of employees to cut costs. That is not pleasant under any circumstance, but it was difficult for Judge Truman, for he knew many of these employees personally. In 1934, Truman made his first run for United States Senator. How many of those laid off employees voted for Judge Truman for Senator? We will never know. Could you? Would you?

He also makes reference to “George.” He is referring to his brother in law George Wallace, the brother of Bess Wallace Truman. George Wallace and his lovely wife May lived in a charming bungalow home behind 219 North Delaware Street. Today, that bungalow is part of this National Park unit, and contains offices and workspace for the Park Ranger staff, and is maintained as part of the managed cultural landscape.

Here's the letter.

Independence, Mo. Thursday, April 26, 1933

Dear Bess:

I got a letter yesterday from you and it made the day livable and much brighter. It was necessary to make arrangements to discharge some two hundred people from the payroll and it was some job. If you don't think I had a headache when it was over you are mistaken. Then I expect to get the panning of my lifetime for not doing more of it.

I am glad you went to see the destroyer. It was a boat like that I rode on from Duluth to Chicago with the Naval Reserve. They are not as nice to ride on as the George Washington. It is a wonder Margaret would go where all those big guns are.

George went to work Monday and seems to like his job fine. He is looking fine. They were up for dinner last night. The old town clock is going full tilt now and keeping proper time.

I am hoping to get down there sooner than I expected although they have slated me for a talk on the radio for May 20th. The weather up here is still cold. I have my overcoat this morning. Tell Margaret I am sending her another funny paper from Mr. Cleveland. Fred sent her one Sunday I think. Please write as often as you can. Tell Kickie hello and kiss my baby.


In this letter from 1933, Judge (Commissioner) Truman writes about an anguishing task he had to do...lay off over two hundred employees from the Jackson County, Missouri, government payroll. He had to do this as the effects of the Great Depression was hitting the region hard.

Dear Bess: Undated, Likely April, 1914


Welcome to the Dear Bess/ Dear Harry podcast for April 19, 2022, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

On this National Park Week, we thank all who allow us to take care of these special places and stories, and encourage all to visit their National Parks! There are over 400 units, in every state…there’s something for everyone. Find your park!

Have you ever felt frustrated by your automobile? Tires? The Engine? Well, this “Dear Bess” letter is for you. Unfortunately, Harry Truman did not put a date on the letter, but the postmark, plus context, makes us believe this was written in April of 1914.

Here’s the letter.


Dear Bess:

I am two days late on the letter but I guess you have some slight idea as to the reason. I have been endeavoring to learn to push an auto. My head is rather thick I suppose. Anyway I'm not an expert chauffeur as yet. It is to be hoped that there will be some improvement by Sunday. Have had a puncture already, killed the engine times without number, and got the batteries all worn out by running on them. It is as old man Fred remarked, when you have an auto there is nothing else to cuss about. Your mind is entirely occupied cussing the auto. I managed to get up Dodson hill on high and then killed the engine, getting up about a 2 per cent grade. There is only one thing I can brag about and that is that I can stay in the road. Got by some thousands of telegraph poles without disaster and then ran over a horseshoe full of nails. You can imagine the result of that.

Have you recovered from the big dose of music? I made the K.C.S. limited all right. It was exactly on time and I only waited about three minutes. Mary arrived the next morning and all she could do was talk music and auto. She has an insane desire to drive. She'll soon get it gratified for it's not much pleasure to me to drive. It's an awful amount of bother.

It is as I told you it would be when the car came home. It is raining like Sam Hill this morning and Papa wanted me to drive him to Independence! Ain't it awful what the weather can spoil sometimes. He seems to be fairly well pleased with the purchase. So does Uncle Harry, but neither of them are very anxious to let loose of any money. Papa is starting to the big town up the hill and I have to quit in order to get this mailed. I hope to arrive in Independence Sunday afternoon if nothing busts. Please don't expect the arrival too early but I'll get there some time if I have to take the train! Send me a letter this week since I'm behind almost two. Did you get the special Mary mailed?

Sincerely, Harry

A fun letter, likely from April 1914. Harry S Truman had recently bought a second-hand automobile, made by the Stafford company in Kansas City. It was a splendid touring car, but was always a maintenance headache for Truman. But as the car helped Harry Truman get to Independence to see Miss Wallace, it was worth it!

Dear Bess: April 14, 1918


Welcome to the Dear Bess/ Dear Harry podcast for April 14, 2022, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

A most important letter for you today, a letter written by First Lieutenant Harry S Truman, recently arrived in France, writing home to Miss Bess Wallace in Independence, Missouri. Lieutenant Truman shares his first impressions of France, shares a little about the voyage, and makes reference to the world of censoring letters, common practice in wartime. This letter is a splendid example of how Truman used his letters to Miss Wallace as a canvas, on which he painted wonderful illustrations with words.

Here's the letter.

Somewhere in France April 14, 1918

Dear Bess:

I landed today and have been trying to find a cable office that hasn't a U.S. censor in it. They won't let us cable for things like informing our people we landed safely because the wires are so crowded they can't send them. I guess you've got my cable I left in New York by this time anyway. My cussed pen went dry right up there and I had to get up and fill it. I am in a French hotel room about as big as your grandmother's room and the front hall combined and the floor's as cold as the top of a lake when it's frozen and the grip with the ink had to be as far from the bed as it could be. The electric switch turns off the light in the center of the room, and another turns lights on over the head of the bed. You can't light both at once—when one's on the other goes off automatically and as the bed is the warmest I am writing this in bed. We go to work tomorrow and I have been seeing this town, which is quite wonderful to me. It isn't Paris, but if Paris is as much livelier as it is bigger, Paris is some town. Wine and beer are sold here and most of the 35th Division have been in Oklahoma so long that they are trying to drink all there is here. They can't as the supply seems to be inexhaustible. Prices are marked strictly on the American plan in French money and they skin us alive. Our dinners cost as 10 francs apiece, about $1.80, so you see things are not so cheap. One fellow bought him a Sam Brown belt for 40 franks (I don't know why I spelled that with a k) and gave the man a ten-dollar bill. He got 60 francs in change and the belt so he made a belt and 3 francs by the deal and didn't know it until someone told him that ten dollars was 57 francs.

This is a beautiful place. I wish I could tell you where it is. (Call Boxley up.) The room I have at the Hotel des Voyageurs is furnished in mahogany with double lace curtains at its windows. It has a picture of Henry IV and his children on one side and Henry VIII of England at some state function on the other. There is a fire place (no fire) with a white marble mantelpiece, which has a Dutch clock under a glass case. (The clock doesn't run, probably on account of its age.) It is a beautiful gold affair with a couple of seventeenth-century pikemen on top of it. It is flanked by two exquisitely beautiful lamps and there is a large mirror over the whole thing about four feet square. The chairs are upholstered in red plush. It looks more like some count's bedroom than a hotel room.

I went to a picture show and saw Pearl White in one of the sections of a spasm that has been running a year or so over in U.S.A. The name and explanations were in French and I've forgotten its name but it was good old mellerdramer and I had not seen this episode. There was a comedy and another complete film that was good and a dancer named Miss Theer. We got tired and left before the show was over or I guess we could have been there yet. It began at two-thirty and we left at five-thirty, all for 1 franc 45 centimes—about 35 cents.

We had a most pleasant voyage and I found a well-formed rumor that we were sunk when we got to port. The navy has the army beaten forty ways for wild stories.

I've got to quit because it's 10:00 P.M. and lights go out at nine o'clock and I'm liable to get arrested.

Write me as below.

Yours always, Harry S. Truman, 1st Lt. 129th F.A. Det. 35th Division, A.E.F.

Today we feature an important letter from First Lieutenant Harry S Truman to Bess Wallace...a letter written shortly after Lieutenant Truman arrived in France.

A digital copy of the letter can be seen here:

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