So Katrina and I have hit the road for our big Presidential Tour. First stop was the Herbert Hoover Museum in Iowa, but I'm going to share today's adventure in Independence, Missouri first.
Independence is President Harry Truman's hometown and it had a beautiful courthouse which gives guided tours. Our guide was wonderful and I won't spoil it by giving it all away. It's less about the architectural aspects and more about Truman who was responsible for its expansion/reconstruction when he was an elected judge in Jackson County before his career in the Senate began.
|Device Truman used to sign multiple documents at once!|
Also in the museum is art by George Caleb Bingham, who was a self taught artist of the newly expanding west. A lot of his work depicted commerce and daily life, including this engraving titled "County Election" with an amusing collection of voters waiting in line.
On the town square was a covered wagon giving a history tour puled by horses wearing Santa hats. Those poor horses! At least it was a sunny day.
Independence is also known as a mecca for the Church of Latter Day Saints, and a Visitors Center is located there to guide those looking for Mormon attractions in the area. We didn't go inside, but admired the architecture of a church site across the street. Here is a list of sites if you're interested.
But the main reason for our visit was of course the National Archives museum for President Truman.
Katrina checked out the gift shop first, getting very excited when she found a Rosie the Riveteer rubber ducky to take home with her.
But of course what drew my eye upon entering was the mural "Independence and the Opening of the West" painted by Thomas Hart Benton. Native Americans from the Pawnee and Cheyenne tribes are depicted, as well as Fort Bent along the Santa Fe trail on the Arkansas River.
When Truman himself came to check on the progress of the mural the artist invited him to come on up the scaffold and paint a few strokes of the blue sky.
If you're not familiar with Truman as president, his is an interesting story. He was Vice President and became president when Franklin D. Roosevelt died suddenly of a stroke in the last months of World War II. He instantly inherited a lot of serious problems. Not only did he have to contend with the defeat of the Germans, for months the war with Japan still dragged on, and the atomic bomb was seen as a solution to ending the war quickly.
After the war he had the job of trying to rebuild our economy. He wanted to gradually remove wartime wage and price controls to avoid shortages and inflation. He was a true liberal who wanted to ban racial discrimination in employment, expand social security benefits, raise the minimum wage by 50% percent and clear slums and build housing. This proved to be too ambitious for Congress who blocked most of the reforms and unfortunately inflation, shortages and strikes resulted. Even though he had given solutions that were ignored to prevent the situation he and his party were blamed. He also wanted to enact government sponsored health care like Great Britain did. Think how long we have been trying to get that off the ground! He did see some success in that area when Medicare and Medicaid were enacted, and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed them into law in the museum with Truman in attendance. A look at the list below will show most the issues of his presidency are not different from those we are still battling over more than half a century later including voter rights laws and higher taxes on the wealthy.
It wasn't just the end of WWII and the recovery of our economy on his plate, here are some quick bullet points:
- President Truman signed the United Nations Charter and the United States became the first nation to complete the ratification process and join the new international organization.
- He undertook extensive renovation of the White House due to structural problems
- Was the first to recognize the new nation of Israel
- Appointed justices to the Supreme Court who believed in Civil Rights
- Dealt with the emergence of Soviet/Cold War tensions post World War II
- Dispatched troops to South Korea to try to contain the spread of Communism
He had a LOT of hard decisions to make, as most U.S. Presidents do. Not all of them were popular, as is true today.