More than 24,000 pages detail the lives of Bess Wallace Truman and President Truman.
"Bess Truman's papers released to public"
boston.com/news/nation, February 14, 2009
INDEPENDENCE, Mo. - Family papers detailing the private life of former first lady Bess Wallace Truman were released yesterday, with no apparent bombshells about the wife of President Truman in the more than 24,000 pages.
The Truman Presidential Library and Museum opened the family papers to mark the 124th anniversary of Bess Wallace Truman's birth. The library obtained the papers after the death of the Trumans' daughter, Margaret Truman Daniel, in January 2008.
About 1,600 of the papers once belonged to Bess Wallace Truman's mother, Madge Gates Wallace. They apparently do not mention the 1903 suicide of Bess Wallace Truman's father, David Wallace.
The papers include ledgers detailing Harry Truman's personal finances while he was in office from 1945 to 1953. The ledgers include notations involving occasional personal payments made by the president to his younger sister, Mary Jane Truman - payments that became a financial embarrassment for the 33d president.
The notations, probably made by presidential secretary Rose Conway, are of interest because the president was criticized for putting his wife and sister on the Senate payroll. The personal payments to Mary Jane Truman hint at an interesting Truman family dynamic, said Amy Williams, the Truman library's deputy director.
"It was Mary Jane Truman who helped run the family farm in Grandview after Harry Truman went off to war," Williams said. "He was helping her out."
Experts on Harry Truman have said that one reason he did not want to become President Franklin Roosevelt's vice president in 1944 was because he feared a media scandal over the payments to his wife. When the payments became public, Harry Truman defended his wife's salary as payment for her time and expertise around his Senate office.
Bess Wallace Truman also was reluctant for her husband to become vice president because she feared the press would delve into her father's suicide. But the suicide did not become public.
"I would be surprised if there was anything in there about the suicide," Williams said. "One just didn't discuss that kind of thing back then."
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