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Harry S. Truman

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Truman sends condolences to a Kansas City widow on her husband’s death:

“There was not a Democrat in Kansas City whom I thought more of.”

Harry S. Truman, 1884–1972.  33rd President of the United States, 19451953.  Beautifully framed typed letter signed, Harry S. Truman, one page, 8” x 10½”, on stationery of the United States Senate, Committee on Interstate Commerce, no place [Washington, D.C.], March 30, 1936.

Just two months after starting his second year in the Senate, Truman sends condolences to a widow in Kansas City, Missouri, on the death of her husband.  He writes, in full:  “I received a copy of the Missouri-Democrat and saw where Earl Swope had suddenly passed away.  /  There was not a Democrat in Kansas City whom I thought more of.  I feel his distinct, personal loss, and you have my sincere sympathy in your bereavement, although there is not much that can be said or done in a case of this kind.  /  I wish I could have been home to help pay a personal tribute to him.”

Truman lived in Independence, Missouri, which borders Kansas City on the east.  Before he was elected to the Senate in 1934, Truman served as the presiding judge of the county court in Jackson County, Missouri, essentially the presiding county commissioner in an administrative rather than a judicial post.  He was heavily involved in Democratic politics in Jackson County as a member the Pendergast organization, the Democratic political dynasty run by Thomas J. Pendergast, the political boss of Jackson County whose influence was statewide.  Truman’s emphasis here on the decedent’s connections with the Democratic party is thus natural.

Truman was first elected to the Senate as the Pendergast candidate.  Undoubtedly, Earl Swope was a Pendergast Democrat as well. 

Derided by some as the “Senator from Pendergast,” with all of the corruption that the nickname implied, the honest, straightforward Truman gradually overcame the belief that he was a Pendergast lackey through hard work and personal integrity.  He received a standing ovation from the other Senators when he entered the Senate chamber following his victory—without the support of Pendergast, who by then was in prison for tax evasion—in the hard-fought, three-way Missouri Democratic primary for reelection to the Senate in 1940.  Four years later, Truman would be elected Vice President along with President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Truman, who did not want to be Vice President in the first place, found himself in the presidency when Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945.

The letter is in fine condition.  We have examined it out of the frame.  It has normal mailing folds, and there are diagonal stains on each side of the text from where the letter was stored with the envelope, which accompanies the piece.  The stains affect only three or four words of the typewritten text and do not touch Truman’s black fountain pen ink signature.

The letter has been matted with a period photograph of Truman.  The amount of hand work in the framing is amazing.  The letter and photo are matted in a linen-wrapped mat, with hand-painted underlying mats of dark blue, burgundy, and gold surrounding the letter and gold surrounding the photo.  The letter and photo are protected by clear Plexiglass.  We did not do the framing, but as far as we can tell, it is archival.  The piece is finished with an engraved brass identification plate and is framed in a cherry-color wood frame.

22¼” x 25⅝”.

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