Harry S. Truman Boyhood Home
This historic house is where future President Harry S. Truman spent part of his childhood. It was built around 1886 and the Truman family moved here in 1896. It is a contributing property of the Harry S. Truman National Historic District, which is a National Historic Landmark. The home appears to be a private residence today but can be easily seen from the street. A historical marker is located in front of the house.
Backstory and Context
Harry Truman was born in 1884 in the small town of Lamar, Missouri. The first of three children, Harry was born into an impoverished household that relied on his grandparents for support during the first few years of his life. Harry was a moderately happy child when he was still little but lacked the ability to make friends and be social. As a young child, Harry was very introverted and showed no real promise of the impressive public life he would lead. Harry’s world changed, however, when his mother took him to buy glasses, which greatly improved his quality of life.
Unfortunately, Harry’s glasses prompted his peers to make fun of him. In his own words, Truman later described himself as a “sissy” during this period of his life as he would habitually turn and run from an altercation. Truman’s younger brother, Vivian, claimed in his later life that Harry was less of a “sissy” and more “serious” than anything. Vivian Truman also went on to say that their friends respected Harry because he would straighten out any situation and was very knowledgeable for their age. Still, Truman was introverted and had a hard time interacting with others until the Truman family moved.
By 1895, Harry Truman’s father, John, was making his way in the world and could afford to move his family a few blocks down the road to Waldo Street. This was a very good neighborhood in comparison to the one that the family left behind and Harry was very enthusiastic about their new living conditions. Now at the age of eleven, Harry began to come out of his shell. The new neighborhood was home to a plethora of children who were Harry’s age as opposed to his younger brothers. Harry made countless friends and turned his house into the unofficial hub for all the adolescent children. In his own words, Harry now had a “gang.” Truman believed that the new house was an opportunity for him to learn to be social and his parents encouraged any activities and event he planned at their house. Harry became a likable, determined, social butterfly during this period and got over his phobia of talking to others.
It was also during this period that Harry’s relationship grew with his future wife, Bessie Wallace. The two met in fourth grade and were always seated near each other but now they lived within two blocks of one another. They became closer and closer until Harry moved again when he was seventeen to live on his grandmother’s farm. In the decades that followed the Truman family’s departure from Waldo Street, the house would continuously be reacquired by different owners and expanded and altered from the original foundation.
Franklin-Weekley, Rachel (Evans Hatch & Associates). "Harry S. Truman Historic District." National Park Service - National Historic Landmark Nomination Form, p. 205-206. https://dnr.mo.gov/shpo/nps-nr/71001066.pdf."Harry S. Truman Library." Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum. Accessed February 19, 2017. https://www.trumanlibrary.org/places/in25.htm.
McCullough, David. Truman. New York, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.
"Presidential Libraries Act of 1955." National Archives. Last Updated August 15, 2016. Accessed February 19, 2017. https://www.archives.gov/presidential-libraries/laws/1955-act.html.