The Harry Truman Presidential Library is worth a visit to Independence, Missouri, about a half hour outside of Kansas City.. Independence is a quaint town, where the visitor goes back in time by just being there. The library and museum itself are on sprawling grounds. The interior is sleek and modern, and conveys much about Truman’s presidency. As with many of the presidential libraries and museums, there is a replica of the Oval Office, as well as samples of the china used during his two terms. However, three items stood out, which made the library and museum exceptional.
The first item located right by the replica of the Oval Office, was his sign, “The buck stops here,” which famously helped define the mood of his presidency as it sat on his desk. On the back read the words, “I’m from Missouri.” These catch phrases became commonplace long after his presidency was over, so seeing the original was a lighthearted aspect of his presidential legacy and showed how his influence transcended popular culture and remained for decades to come.
Of a more serious nature, were artifacts from World War Two. There were many, but one of the stand outs was an original copy of Adolph Hitler’s book, “Mein Kompf,” his autobiography. There are only 40 original copies in the world and Harry Truman was given one of them after the war. The book was striking in its appearance, due to its unusual size. Its white enormous binding, yellowed with age, is so huge, it spoke volumes abut he dictator: the powerful size of Hitler’s Third Reich; his uncompromising sense of self; and his extraordinary and unrealistic sense of power amid the threat of the world domination he posed.
Not to be outdone however, was the section on Truman’s decision to drop the Atomic bomb on Japan. That section of the museum was riveting, as it could have been assembled yesterday with the quotes by his advisers and scientists on the pros and cons of dropping an atomic war head. In a small corner of the museum almost in a section easy to miss, is a manila envelope. That envelope rather casually contained handwritten orders in light blue ink to do “it” after August second. The “it,” was his decision to drop the Atomic bomb. It was casually written, and handed to a secretary, yet it changed the course of the war and the world forever.
After seeing the library, which takes a few hours to complete, a visit to the center of town itself is a must. The quaint 1940’s appeal is striking, as is Truman’s statue outside the court house. One store in town is even called “Wild About Harry,” which evokes the mood the country was in during his presidency, and includes a hat and cane on the sign. His childhood home is near the museum, and tickets for the home tour can be purchased in town in the Visitor’s Center.
Information on hours and admission prices for the Truman Library can be found here.