If you think of Harry Truman only as the president who was sworn in after Franklin D. Roosevelt suddenly died, it might surprise you to find out that he was also a devoted writer of love letters. When Bess Truman died in 1982, more than 1,200 letters from her husband were discovered in her house. “Dear Bess,” they usually begin.
Composed over a period of nearly 50 years, the handwritten letters contain flashes of humor (“I am very glad you liked the book. I liked it so well myself I nearly kept it.”) as well details of everyday life (“I’ll leave for the farm in a few minutes because the room at home has wet paint on the floor.”).
Even while writing about momentous events, Truman had an affection for his wife that comes through clearly in his letters. On May 7, 1933, he wrote, “Tomorrow I’ll be forty nine and for all the good I’ve done the forty might as well be left off,” but continues, “I still believe that my sweetheart is the ideal woman.” He ends the letter, “I’m counting the days till I see you.”
From a momentous meeting with Stalin and Churchill near Berlin in July 1945, Truman wrote something about the Potsdam Conference that the world never would have guessed. “It made me terribly home sick when I talked with you yesterday morning. It seemed as if you were just around the corner, if 6,000 miles can be just around the corner. I spent the day after the call trying to think up reasons why I should bust up the Conference and go home.”
If you’d like to see some of President Truman’s love letters in person, you could travel to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri. A faster way to get a peek at a love letter would be to write one of your own. As the Truman letters show, love letters turn into treasured possessions. And who knows where your words might end up in the future?