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: 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.

Dear Bess: December 19, 1918


Welcome to the Dear Bess,, Dear Harry podcast for December 19, 2023, brought to you by Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service in Independence and Grandview, Missouri.

Today’s Dear Bess letter was written on this date in 1918 by Captain Harry S Truman, just over a month after the end of hostilities in World War I. Like the rest of the American soldiers, Captain Truman was waiting…anxiously waiting…orders to ship home. For Truman, home was Jackson County, Missouri, where his mother, brother, and sister lived, where his family’s farm was, and where his fiancée, Miss Bess Wallace, lived.

Note that in the second paragraph of the letter, Truman tells Miss Wallace he signed up for full separation from the Army. He did, and he did separate shortly after coming home. But then, in a reversal, Truman did rejoin the reserves. There were a few reasons for that, one of them long term…he continued with the reserves until early 1953, after President Harry Truman left the White House.

So, yes, President Harry S Truman was (then) Colonel Harry S Truman’s own commander in chief!

We dedicate this installment today to all in our Armed Forces, and their families, experiencing a separation at the holidays. Technology may make it more bearable in 2023, but that doesn’t make it easy. Here’s the letter.

Dec 19 1918

Still near Verdun

Camp La Baholle

Dear Bess:

This day is a banner day sure enough. Your letters of Nov 24 & 26 came and I am entirely cured of a case of grippe I was endeavoring to have. Those are two grand letters and I am so happy to get them. You are right about my not getting all your letters but I am certainly thankful for what I do get. Your mother is very flattering when she says I write a good letter. I write in order to get letters and if mine happen to appear interesting because they come from France I'm that much more pleased. I appreciate the compliment anyway. Some time back I wrote you a great long winded account of all my doings since leaving Coetquidon. Mr. Lee says he wants to get some of the facts to go into his history of 129th but I don't think they would hardly be worth putting in do you? My hair is not any whiter than it's always been except for a few grey hairs around the edge and they are not visible unless you look closely. I think I told the Nolands in one of my letters to them that my experience in moving up front that first night of the drive when it took me 12 hours to go a kilometer and a half was enough to give me a set of grey hairs. I don't think I have anymore than I've had for the last two years, but my hair is thicker so the helmet must have done it good. I sincerely wish I could have gone to Platte with you and also to the show. There's a good time coming though and I hope not so far away.

We have rumors of going to Hunland and rumors of going to Brest and rumors of staying where we are 'till peace is signed. I told you I'd signed up for "full & immediate" separation from the army. We call ourselves the F & Is and we kid the life out of those who signed up to stay in. But will all probably come home together. Major Gates, Maj. Miles, Sermon, Marks, McGee, the Colonel & myself are all F & Is. Salisbury, Allen, Patterson, Dancy signed up to stay in. The rest signed up for the reserve. I can't see what on earth any man with initiative and a mind of his own want to be in the army in peace times for. You've always got some old fossil above you whose slightest whim is law and who generally hasn't a grain of horse sense. For my part I want to be where I can cuss 'em all I please when I please and you can bet there are some in this man's army who are going to get cussed and more if they fool around me when I get out. I'd give my right arm to be on the military affairs committee of the House. It's not an impossibility is it? You've no idea how the attitude changed when there was no more chance of promotion. It's right laughable sometimes. I got a lot of new horses today which don't look much like going home. I'd about as soon be in Coblenz or Cologne as in this mud hole. If I can find it I am going to send you a copy of a poem called "Sunny France" it's a peach.

You've no idea how I appreciated the Christmas card from all the family. I wish I could send them each one but I can't. Remember me to all of them especially your mother and wish them each a Merry Christmas for me. And keep on writing.

Yours always Harry.

Harry S Truman

Capt Bty D 129 FA

American E F

A sweet letter from Captain Harry S Truman written just days after the end of hostilities of World War I. Truman is ready to come home.

Dear Bess: December 1, 2023 (postmark)


Welcome to the Dear Bess/ Dear Harry podcast for December 1, 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 a letter postmarked on this date in 1917, written by First Lieutenant Harry S Truman in Lawton, Oklahoma, writing to his fiancée, Miss Bess Wallace, who was back home in Independence, Missouri.

You can tell that Lieutenant Truman was thrilled to get the fudge Miss Wallace sent but would rather have seen the sender! When Truman refers to “Lizzie,” he is referring to his car, a Kansas City-built Stafford touring car he had bought a few years earlier. He certainly got his monies’ worth out of that car. He sold it shortly before he shipped out to France, and we wonder whatever happened to it.

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

Postmarked December 1, 1917, Lawton, Oklahoma.

Dear Bess:

Your box of good fudge was handed into my tent Thanksgiving morning by Mrs. Dunn and Mrs. Kelly. It was sure fine and I am most awful glad to get it. I was very much disappointed because I didn't see the sender, because I thought perhaps you might surprise me by coming down. I expected to see you really and it was some disappointment when I didn't. The candy was fine. Mr. Lee got a box of cookies and some candy, too. We could have had a feast all our own if we'd wanted to.

Kelly is the happiest man in camp I guess except Rice Pendleton and C. Bundschu. I asked Mr. Bundschu when he was going back to heaven today and he said he wasn't going he was going to stay here as the thought this was nearer heaven than Independence. Some people have queer judgment in some things. I'd sure like to have a chance to go to Independence and Grandview. I don't think mamma got my letter asking her to come down because I had one from Mary telling me they couldn't come and she never said anything about my letter.

Lizzie has a cog wheel or something cross ways in her interior workings and refuses to budge. So I can't haul Mrs. Dunn around much as I would like to. Anyway her son has a car so she will get all they riding that is necessary. Mize and Flynn and one or two others took Capt. Sermon's car out Thanksgiving day and pinched for speeding on the horseshoe. The horseshoe is a fine rock road running around the camp. Only military cars can ride on it and they can't go over 15 miles an hour.

Sass Dickinson is back. He didn't get a commission at Ft. Sheridan. I can't understand it either because I know a couple of bums who did get commissions and who don't know enough to come in when it rains.

I went to church last Sunday with Lee down to the 128th Artillery and it was Episcopal. I intended telling about it sooner but Lee insisted that I only went because I wanted to write you about it and so I didn't do it. F Bty has been out to the trenches again today and I went along. The canteen is going to be invoiced, inspected and audited tomorrow. Some job.

I have been trying to think if I've failed to answer any questions I should have or have not told you all I know but I think I've done both except that I took Roger Sermon's wife horseback riding last Sunday. He wasn't along either. Hines and his wife and Capt Pete and his were though so I guess it was perfectly proper. I had an invitation a dance last night at our hospital but I didn't go because all the partners were married women and their husbands were all present. Anyhow Lee and I have so much to do that we can't be bothered with a dance. I told Mary S. B. that you wouldn't let me dance until the war is over and I shouldn't be surprised if you hear it so I'd better tell you now. I am looking for a long fat letter tomorrow and next day and I do hope it won't be in vain. If you only know how well I like to get them. Wish I could see you Sunday.

Yours always,


In this letter, First Lieutenant Harry Truman writes from World War I training camp, wishing he could see his fiancee, and is missing home.

Dear Bess: circa November, 1913


Welcome to the Dear Bess/ Dear Harry podcast for November 15, 2023, a service of Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

Today we would like to share with you a gem of a Dear Bess letter, but here’s the thing. Harry S Truman, living on his family’s farm in Grandview, Missouri, didn’t date it, and the postmark on the envelope isn’t legible. But based on clues, we believe that it’s from November, 1913.

And it’s full of wonderful stuff.

When we talk about Harry Truman and his years on the Farm, we remind our visitors that while on the Farm Truman became well involved in the community. He begins this letter by sharing with Bess Wallace some tidbits about the Masons and its sister group, the Order of the Eastern Star. Truman was heavily involved…indeed the Masons were central to Truman’s life by this time.

But the remainder of the letter is pure love poetry. It’s a pleasure to read to you!

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

Circa November, 1913

Dear Bess:-

I've been at the installation of an Eastern Star chapter. The woman who did the job is Julia V. Freyman of Kansas City. She's a Past Most Worthy Grand Matron of Missouri and the nicest old lady. (Say the old in a low voice).

She had on a lace dress and two of the biggest diamond earrings with the most beautiful diamond ring. I never saw one like it. If old Dr. Freyman gave it to her for an engagement he surely had an eye for beauty. It's evidently a joy forever to Julia for she wears it continually - along with several others. Besides all this array of re-gular adornment on her left breast she wore the jewel of a P.M.W.G.M. (There are so many letters I forgot one myself). It is a five-pointed star of solid gold suspended from a bar with a Masonic pin set with diamonds attached by a tiny chain. All this array is what you see at first, but when you get acquainted with her you forget that she has a loose screw for gew-gaws and like her immensely. Not a single woman there had a mean thing to say of her. They all said, "Just isn't Mrs. Freyman lovely!" That speaks for itself. What I started to say is that Sheffield Lodge has informed our aggregation that they are going to come out on Friday to show us how to put on a Third Degree. On Wednesday evening the W. M. has asked me to conduct a Lodge of Instruction, on Thursday evening as president of the Commercial Club I had to call a town meeting to get ready for the Township Fair, and on Saturday I have to call a meeting of the Woodmen to get them to donate their half to the farmers for their exhibition Tuesday. Ain't that an awful array for one pigheaded farmer to have in a November week? Especially when he'd rather be some twenty miles away on every single night. I'm hoping for a flood or snow or some other disaster to take place for I'm dying to come to Independence. I know your last letter word for word and then I read it some forty times a day. Oh please send me another like it. I wear it in my left breast pocket. I'm going to put it in a safety vault to keep from wearing it out. You really didn't know I had so much softness and sentimentality in me, did you? I'm full of it. But I'd die if I had to talk it. I can tell you on paper how much I love you and what one grand woman I think you, but to tell it to you I can't. I'm always afraid I'd do it so clumsily you'd laugh. Then I'd die really. When a person's airing his most sacred thoughts he's very easily distressed. No one ever knew I ever had any but you. You are the one girl I'd ever want to tell them to. I could die happy doing something for you. (Just imagine a guy with spectacles and a girl mouth doing the Sir Lancelot.) Since I can't rescue you from any monster or carry you from a burning building or save you from a sinking ship, simply because I'd be afraid of the monsters, couldn't carry you, and can't swim, I'll have to go to work and make money enough to pay my debts and then get you to take me for what I am: just a common everyday man whose instincts are to be ornery, who's anxious to be right. You'll not have any trouble getting along with me for I'm awful good- natured, and I'm sure we'd live happy ever after sure enough. I'm writing this at 1 A.M. just because I can't help it and if you get tired of it, as Agnes' beau said, put it in the kitchen stove.

This is all the stationary I have upstairs and Papa's sleeping where I keep the other and I can't get to it. If you don't like mushy letters, just tell me so. I never had any desire to write them before or to preach my own good points so strongly. Do you suppose your mother'll care for me well enough to have me in her family? I'm freezing and must quit because my paper's run out.

Most sincerely


One of the greatest of all the Dear Bess letters. We just wish we could better date when Harry Truman penned this letter to Miss Bess Wallace.

Dear Bess: November 11, 1913


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

We’d like to share with you a Dear Bess letter from this date in 1913, the continuation of a series of letters from this week in 1913 we’ve been sharing with you. Once again Harry Truman, farmer, makes reference to their engagement and a reference to his humorous fantasy of being governor of Montana and Miss Wallace being Mrs. Governor. Truman even suggests he could be Chief Executive of the United States. Imagine that! Harry Truman is both earnest and self deprecating at the same time, and it’s most charming.

Truman makes reference to his Aunt Susan. He is referring to Susan Young Bartleson, his mother’s sister. After Truman’s grandmother, Mrs. Harriet Louisa Gregg Young, died in 1909, there was a dispute about the will, because Grandmother Young left almost everything including the family farm to Harry Truman’s parents and to Harry Truman himself. It led to some pretty nasty litigation, and, as Truman hinted, Mrs. Bartleson was set to testify about the time of this letter. Eventually there was a settlement, but divisions in the family remained. This lawsuit did much to hurt the Truman family finances. As always, thanks for listening. Here’s the letter, postmarked November 11, 1913.

Dear Bess:-

I missed the car all right. Also the Southern. I didn't care much because it wasn't necessary for me to get up until 8:30 to catch the Frisco. Papa was in a horrible stew. He was sure I'd been knocked on the head or fallen in the creek. When I told him I'd missed the car he had another fit. It's awful when a person gets to be such a prevaricator that people won't believe the truth when its told to them.

I have been cleaning seed to show at Grandview tomorrow. We have about 50 bu of clover seed to sell I cleaned a peck so beautifully that it's simply a perfect sample. If anybody buys seed from us on the strength of that peck, he'll be sorely disappointed when he gets his seed. I wouldn't spend so much time cleaning it for sale. It would be just as good only there'd be some dirt and trash left in it. We have a peck of wheat, the same amount of oats, and timothy seed to show along with the clover. They are all extra fine because I spent some three hours cleaning them. I suppose there'll be a big crowd at the show. I expect to have a very busy day. You'd think I was running for office if you'd see me chasing around shaking hands with people and displaying a classic cat grin. I will simply be acting as one of the township committee to show people around.

I suppose you had a fine game of tennis today. The weather has been ideal if it'll only keep up. Mary has gone riding on Ben. We are going to lend a couple of horses to girls in Grandview and then have a riding contest. If you'd have come to our fair you might have won the five dollars for the best lady rider. You could have ridden Ben. I am hoping to be one of the judges in that contest so I can tie the ribbon on a plug and then laugh at Daddy because his fine hoss got beaten. He'd never get over it and Uncle Harrison would simply go straight up. I fear I'd have to leave home if I did the trick. I saw an overcoat downtown this morning just like I want but I won't get it. Why? Because it was $75. I can use three at that price and still have money left.

You were most awful nice about the other girl but don't suppose there'll ever be one. If a fellow can pick his idol at ten and still be loyal to it at thirty, there's not much danger of his finding another. One or two of one or two of my aunties and my aunties and good matron good matron friendship have sought to arrange things for me several times but could never understand why they never had any luck. Maybe they will before long. How does it feel being engaged to a clodhopper who has ambitions to be Governor of Mont. and Chief Executive of U.S. He'll do well if he gets to be a retired farmer. That was sure a good dream though, and I have them in the daytime, even night, along the same line. It looks like an uphill business sometimes though. But I intend to keep peggin' away and I suppose I'll arrive at something. You'll never be sorry if you take me for better or for worse because I'll always try to make it better.

I am hoping to see you Wednesday evening. I suppose Mamma and I will have to be present at Aunt Susan's grilling. If she'll only stick to the truth I won't mind, but if she does like the rest I sure will hate to be present. One hates to see a white-haired old lady, one he likes and respects, tearing up the truth just for a few dollars. It has a tendency to make a pessimist out of a person. I like money as well as anyone but I think I'd do without it if I had to cast aspersions on my mother's character to get it. I suppose you are tired of hearing me harp on our old suit but it means so much to us if we lose that I can't help it. You owe me a letter anyway and I hope it'll come early. You'd better send it if you don't want me to have another spasm in the middle of the week like I did last time.

Most sincerely


A remarkable letter from November 11, the middle of the letter, the farmer from western Missouri proposes that perhaps someday he could be Chief Executive of the United States. He may have been joking...but as fate would have it, that was his fate, 32 years later, he was Chief Executive of the United States, and Bess Wallace Truman was his First Lady.

Dear Bess: November 3, 1913


Welcome to the Dear Bess/ Dear Harry podcast for November 3, 2023, brought to you by the staff of Harry S Truman National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service.

Today, we’d like to share with you one of the greatest of all the Dear Bess letters, written on this date in 1913. It is a sequel to the one we shared earlier this week.

In this letter, Harry S Truman, harmer, begins by making reference to a letter that his great love, Miss Bess Wallace, wrote him. How much we wish we had that letter. But as we have shared many times in this podcast series, in the mid 1950s, Bess Wallace Truman destroyed her letters to Harry Truman pre-1919.

But in the midst of this letter Truman is pretty brave in telling Miss Wallace that they should get engaged. Perhaps the most fascinating line in the letter is “Bess, why am I an enigma?”

We wish we had Miss Wallace’s answer to that, if in fact she responded to that.

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

Dear Bess-

Your letter has made a confirmed optimist out of me sure enough. I know now that everything is good and grand and this footstool is a fine place to be. I have been all up in the air, clear above earth ever since it came. I guess you thought I didn't have much sense Sunday but I just couldn't say anything only just sit and look. It doesn't seem real that you should care for me. I have always hoped you would but someway feared very much you wouldn't. You know I've always thought that the best man in the world is hardly good enough for any woman. But when it comes to the best girl in all the universe caring for an ordinary gink like me--well you'll have to let me get used to it. Do you want to be a farmer? or shall I do some other business. When mamma wins her suit and we get all the buyers and things out of the way I will then have a chance for myself. We intend to raise a 400 acre wheat crop which if it hits will put us out of the woods. If we lose, which I don't think about, it will mean starting all over for me. You may be sure I'm not going to wait til I'm Montana's chief executive to ask you to be Mrs. Gov. but I sure want to have some decent place to ask you to. I'm hoping it won't be long. I wish It was tomorrow. Let's get engaged any- way to see how it feels. No one need know it but you and me until we get ready to tell it anyway. If you see a man you think more of in the meantime engagements are easy enough broken. I've al- ways said I'd have you or no one and that's what I mean to do. (This darned pen has it in for me.) Luella and the kids are here today. They are sure a fine pair. I haven't told Luella my Sedalia and Regalia story yet. I have the most awful job a- head of me you ever heard of. It is necessary for me to pay a visit to six country schools and and make a speech at each one about the Washington [illegible] Fair. It is going to be at Grandview and I am on the committee to get exhibits. The schools have to be notified because the school that has the best exhibit of school work gets $10.00. Also the Com'l Clerk of which I am also the re- presentative is offering a prize for the school with the biggest attendance. Don't you feel sorry for me? you know I've got a timid disposition anyway and school kids especially country ones haven't very much sympathy for a person. It has to be did though. Washington T[illegible] is trying to beat prairie which contains Lee's Summit. I hope we can. Mr. Shewbury is the man who is having the fair for the benefit of the farmers. I am going to borrow a car and see if I can't win $10.00. Mr. Makin is pasturing the finest Hereford cow I ever saw, here. There is $10.00 offered for the best cow. If I enter her and win there'll be $10.00 toward a show or diamond ring. Twenty five premiums like that might get a real pretty one. I'm going to get you one as soon as the change is forthcoming. Bess why am I an enigma? I try to be just what I am and tell the truth about as much as the average person. If there's any - thing you don't understand I'll try and explain or remedy it. I feel very much stuck up at being called one especially by you for I always labored under the impression that it took smart people to be one. This letter seems to me to be more erratic and incoherent than the last but you shouldn't blame me very much be- cause I'm all puffed up and hi- larious and happy and any thing else that happens to a fellow when he finds his lady love thinks more of him than the rest of the beasts. Send me a letter quick. If I can raise business reasons enough to please papa I hope to see you before Sunday.

Most sincerely Harry

One of the great Dear Bess letters.

Harry S Truman, farmer, bravely makes another proposal to Miss Bess Wallace.

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