With President’s Day fast approaching, why not resolve to learn about former president Harry S. Truman and his many ties to Independence? You might be surprised to discover Truman and his family had more connections throughout this fascinating city than you might imagine.
The obvious first choice on your journey of exploration should be the Harry S Truman Home National Historic Site, at 219 N. Delaware. Begin in the Visitors Center at 223 N. Main, where you’ll buy tour tickets, watch a brief orientation film and have a chance to browse through books and souvenirs in the gift shop.
If you’ve never visited the Queen Anne two-story Victorian house, you’ll be fascinated by the stories of the family told by National Park Service rangers. Take a few minutes before or after your tour to step inside the recently opened Noland House, just across the street, which belonged to Harry’s cousins. Exhibits and interactive kiosks there add even more color to the Truman story.
Walk or drive along the Truman walking trail (brochures at the Visitor Center and online at VisitIndependence.com) up Delaware to the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum at 500 W. U. S. 24 Highway. Don’t scrimp on time here. You’ll need several hours to see and hear all the films, videos, oval office, exhibits, audio sound sticks, experience the “Decision” theaters and let your kids investigate the activities on the lower level.
The “Talkin’ Truman” presentation, Saturday, Feb. 9, is “Young Bess in Hats.” The program begins at 11 a.m.; it is included with paid admission. In partnership with the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Truman Library celebrates the birthday of Bess Truman every year with a special program and reception. This year, the celebration is set for Wednesday, Feb. 13. The program, featuring Mark Updegrove, director of the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, begins at 2 p.m.; the reception follows immediately. Both are included with regular museum admission.
You can meet and talk with “President Truman,” channeled by a historic reenactor, on President’s Day, Monday, Feb. 18, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the main lobby. Volunteers serve homemade cookies made from recipes collected from the wives of former presidents.
As a dedicated fan of history, Truman was involved with initial preservation efforts for the 1859 Jail and Marshal’s Home, at 217 N. Main. When he learned the two-story brick building was to be destroyed, he made the first phone call to solicit donations, to J. C. Hall, founder of Hallmark Cards. Although the jail is closed for tours through March, you can visit anytime from April 1 through the end of October, and return for holiday tours in December.
President Truman appreciated the story of the westward trails. He was instrumental in the “Madonna of the Trails” project, which erected 12 larger-than-life statues of pioneer women along Highway 40. You can see a wonderful pioneer woman statue at the National Frontier Trails Museum and learn about the people who made their way west along the Santa Fe, California and Oregon trails.
In honor of President’s Day, the National Frontier Trails Museum is offering a lecture, “John Tyler, the Accidental President.” Take your lunch and learn about the first vice president to ascend to the presidency upon the death of the incumbent. Tyler was qualified to serve as the 10th president of the United States but experienced many political difficulties during his administration. The lecture begins at noon and is included with museum admission (adults $6; seniors 62 and older $5; ages 6-17 $3.) Call 816-325-7575 or visit FrontierTrailsMuseum.org.
Have you ever seen the incredible handmade Truman marionette on display at the Puppetry Arts Institute? Every detail is perfect, down to human hair placed on his head. If you visit on Feb. 16 or 18, you can watch a “Pinocchio” performance, featuring the puppeteers of the Puppetry Arts Institute. Shows are offered at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and cost $5, which includes museum admission. If you can’t make the shows, be sure to walk around the museum and see the “Pinocchio Time” exhibit, which continues through July.
If you’d like to finish your Truman outing with an authentic sweet treat, stop by Clinton’s Soda Fountain on the Square for a phosphate or hand-dipped sundae. You can even sample Truman’s favorite combo – butterscotch topping over chocolate ice cream. With a tip of the hat to Harry’s time spent operating a haberdashery in downtown Kansas City, you can stop in next door to shop for men’s furnishings at “Wild About Harry.”
For the full calendar of tourism events in February, visit VisitIndependence.com.
Written by Janeen Aggen, media relations representative for Independence Tourism; photos courtesy Independence Tourism.