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TRU Blog

Museum Highlight | July 9, 2019

Museum Highlight

10 Things to See Before the Truman Library Closes for a Year

The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum recently announced a significant renovation that will close the Library for a year. Though the closing date, July 22, is approaching, there are still opportunities for guests to step into Harry and Bess Truman’s world before the doors close.

The Truman Library is home to tens of thousands of artifacts associated with the Trumans. While each artifact has its own interesting story and should be seen during any visit, there are 10 currently on display that can’t be missed.

  1. Assassination Weapons

On November 1, 1950, two Puerto Rican Nationalists, Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo, used these two guns in an attempt to kill Truman to raise awareness of the Puerto Rican independence movement. The attack was unsuccessful, and Truman appeared unfazed, remarking that “A president must expect these things.”

  1. POW Flag

A highlight of the Presidential Years exhibit is the American flag sewn by Luther Bass, a prisoner of war in Japan during World War II. Bass taught himself to sew in order to survive and sewed the flag out of scraps of parachutes that were used to drop food and clothes to the men of Tokyo Prisoner of War Camp Number 8 in the days before they could be liberated.

  1. Miniature Silver Piano*

Truman’s legacy includes officially recognizing the state of Israel. He was greatly influenced by the Holocaust. In 1961, he received a letter from a Hungarian Holocaust survivor who eventually came to the United States. Along with the letter was a miniature silver piano, the only personal belonging the woman was able to keep from her life before the war. She sent it to him “as a memento of our gratitude.”

* Note that this artifact may be removed from exhibit earlier than July 22 to be sent for preservation.

  1. Truman’s Gift From the “One More Club”

Truman liked the reporters and photographers who covered the White House. He was even named the honorary president of the “One More Club,” which was Truman’s nickname for the White House News Photographers Association, who constantly asked Truman for “one more” photo. In 1947, they gathered on the south lawn of the White House and presented Truman with two cameras of his own that he immediately used to photograph the photographers and the White House grounds.

  1. The Banning Letter

President Truman kept a passionate letter from William Banning in his desk drawer. Included with the letter was the Purple Heart earned by Mr. Banning’s son who died in the Korean War. Mr. Banning wrote that his major regret was that “your daughter was not there to receive the same treatment as our son.” Years after his presidency, Truman said that his toughest decision as President was to enter the Korean War.

  1. The Unbreakable Champagne Bottle*

Bess Truman’s duties as First Lady included christening military planes. To do so, she would break a bottle of champagne on the nose of the plane. However, there was an instance where the bottle was not pre-scored and therefore refused to shatter. She tried repeatedly to get the stubborn bottle to break to no avail. Her attempts only tore the bottle’s anti-shatter tape and crocheted cover. The bottle itself is on display in the current exhibit along with a video of the comical scene.

* Note that this artifact may be removed from exhibit earlier than July 22 to be sent for preservation.

  1. Truman Early Risers Walking Society Hat and Pedometer

Truman was infamous for his early morning walks. The reporters, photographers and Secret Service Agents who followed him called themselves the Truman Early Risers Walking Society. They presented him with a red leather cap and pedometer, of which Truman would later write, “The very next morning after I received it I rung up two and one-half miles on it.”

  1. Truman’s Mystery Corn

One of the most mysterious artifacts at the Truman Library lives in the replica of Truman’s White House Oval Office. The replica was designed based on photos of the real Oval Office taken on August 28, 1950. An ear of corn was in the photos on top of the television, but its significance and origin are unknown. The most common assumption is that it’s something Truman got while campaigning in a Midwestern state, perhaps Iowa or Nebraska.


  1. Fat Man Safety Plug

Before an atomic bomb called Fat Man could be dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945, a weaponeer had to pull out the bomb’s safety plug to fully arm it. That safety plug was donated to the Truman Library in 1988 by an electronics technician who was aboard the plane that dropped the bomb.

  1. Dewey Defeats Truman

One of the most well-known images of Truman’s is of the president holding a copy of the now infamous Chicago Daily Tribune issue declaring New York Governor Thomas Dewey’s victory over Truman in the 1948 presidential election. A copy of the paper now hangs in the Presidential Years exhibit.

The Truman Library will be closing for a massive renovation after July 22.The museum’s permanent exhibits will be entirely redesigned, and while some artifacts highlighted here will remain on display, some will return to the Truman Library’s vast collections for preservation.

Learn more about the exciting future of the Truman Library here, then plan your visit to view the current exhibits before they are closed on July 22.

Denton Williams is a Public Programs / Public Relations intern at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum and the Truman Library Institute. He is receiving a Bachelor’s in Public Relations from Webster University.

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