Harry S. Truman

Ben Sims
US History
Mrs. Murphy
11 February 1999

Sims 1

Short and rather bird-like behind thick glasses, Harry S. Truman was not intimidating in looks. He spoke in a Midwestern farmerís tone. But he was a shrewd politician, and established a reputation for speaking the truth.
Truman was born on May 8, 1884 in Lamar, Missouri. He was the oldest of three children of John Anderson Truman and Martha Ellen (Young) Truman(Steins 41). His birthplace is just south of the area into which his grandparents had moved from Kentucky four decades earlier(aol 2). The letter "S" in his name was not an abbreviation. It showed the familyís reluctance to choose between his grandfathers, Anderson Shippe Truman and Solomon Young. In 1887 Truman as an infant was moved to a 600 acre farm owned by his motherís family (Hargrove 19). Harry often recalled how his granddad drove him to the Grandview Fair as a child. Harry also played in the cornfield and mud holes with his Shetland pony and his brother, Vivian (Hargrove 19).
Shortly after Harryís sister, Mary Jane, was born the family moved to the little town of Independence, Missouri. There, Harryís thick glasses prevented from joining in many boyhood activities (aol 2). One of the friends that Harry met was a little, curly headed girl named Elizabeth "Bess" Wallace at the age of four years. Eventually they would marry (Hargrove 20). Harry started public school in 1892. Because of his poor eyesight his mother encouraged him to turn to piano and books (Steins 42). Harry began to read small sentences in the newspaper at the early age of five. This helped him stay away from the rough and tumble games that would break his glasses. He once said, "I was so cautioned about my glasses that I was afraid to join the boyish activities that I dearly so wanted to be a part of," (Hargrove 22). Despite some diphtheria in the second grade, Harry was an excellent student. He skipped the third grade entirely. Ironically, Harry had his first job while in the first grade at a drug store owned by William Clinton (Hargrove 22).
Harry finished high school in 1901. He graduated with honors but was turned down an appointment to West Point due to poor eyesight (Steins 42). He took a job as a mailroom clerk at the Kansas City Star . Several years of work for a railroad and two banks added more to Trumanís experience than to his finances (aol 3). Then, at the age of 22, he returned to the rural work into which he had been born. He spent the next eleven years as a farmer helping his father manage the Young farm in Grandview (aol 3). Working on a farm in the golden age of American agriculture he experienced a personal change, becoming less withdrawn and much more confident in his relations with other people. He began to actively participate in Democratic Party politics that later helped him as a politician.
In 1917 the world was at war. After the sinking of the Lusitania, the U.S. was enveloped by war and also Harry heard his calling. Truman enrolled in Battery D, 129th Field Artillery, 35th Division, of the United States Army (Hargrove 25). He discovered that he had talents as a leader and gained the affection of a group of men who voted for him later. After the war, he joined Veterans organizations and the Army Reserve, rising to the rank of Colonel. After returning home in 1919, Truman married his childhood friend, Bess, and established a haberdashery in Kansas City. The marriage succeeded, but the store didnít. Founded during the post war boom, it collapsed in the post war Depression. Left with heavy debts Truman was forced to think once again about his career (aol 3).
Through an old army friend, Truman was appointed highway overseer of Jackson County, Missouri. While Truman avoided the corrupt side of the organization and handled his own offices honestly and efficiently, he remained loyal to the dirty Pendergast that got him elected. In 1926, Truman wanted a higher position. He became county judge of Jackson County. In the era where bad politics was popular politics Truman soon became known and applauded for being an honest guy (Steins 43, 44).