Prologue Magazine

Exclusive Prologue Article
Reveals Bess Truman Letters to Harry

For the first time, letters written by Bess Truman to her sweetheart, Harry S. Truman, are revealed by their oldest grandson, Clifton Truman Daniel, in an article in Prologue magazine, the quarterly magazine of the National Archives.

Until now, however, there has been no public record of what Bess was writing to Harry because, Daniel reveals, his grandmother was a very private person and felt that "her business was her own damn business and nobody else's."

Harry Truman was a legendary letter-writer, and wrote more than 5,000 of them during his lifetime. They have been mined by historians for years as they chronicled Truman's life and his Presidency (1945–1953). Some 1,300 of the letters are to his wife, Bess, written between 1910 and 1959.

True to her privacy credo, she burned most of the approximately 1,300 letters she wrote to Harry, except for a few that were found several years ago scattered throughout the Truman home. They are now part of the holdings of the Truman Library in Independence, MO.

In his exclusive Prologue article, Daniel paints a picture of his grandmother that is quite different from the stern, serious-looking "no comment" First Lady that most Americans remember and read about in history books. Passages from the personal letters she and her husband exchanged over many years reveal a much more intimate, softer side to the former First Lady.

For example, Daniel quotes a letter Bess wrote to Harry in 1923 while he was at Missouri National Guard training camp:

"There was a big black bug on my bed when I turned the sheet down and I had to kill it myself," she wrote to Harry in 1923 while he was at Missouri National Guard training camp. "But that wasn't the first time I had wished for you."

In 1925, with a small child (Margaret, Clifton's mother) to look after, Bess wanted to get her hair cut short, as many women in that era had done. But Harry was reluctant for her to lose the golden locks that she had when he was smitten with her at the age of six.

"When may I do it?" she wrote to Harry while he was at training camp. "I never wanted to do anything as badly in my life. Come on, be a sport. Ask all the married men in camp about their wives's heads and I'll bet anything I have there isn't one under sixty who has long hair."

Harry eventually gave in.

The article, "Dear Harry . . . Love, Bess," is available for purchase on Scribd.com, as is the entire Fall issue. The Fall Prologue can also be purchased at The Archives Shop in the National Archives Building in Washington and at several Presidential library shops (Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Nixon, and Reagan) and at the Kansas City Star Store in downtown Kansas City.

Prologue is also available at these Washington-area locations: Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW; One Stop News, 2000 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; and News World, 1001 Connecticut Ave. NW.

Articles published in Prologue do not necessarily represent the views of NARA or of any other agency of the United States Government.

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