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Tag: Bess Truman

Hats off to Bess Truman!

Bess Wallace Truman, age 13, in elaborate straw hat (ARC 6233736)

Today’s guest post comes from Tammy Kelly, archivist and hat aficionado at the Truman Presidential Library.

I admit it—I love hats. I have several vintage hats in my closet, but I find them challenging to wear because sometimes, I just don’t know how to wear them. People no longer wear hats on a regular basis, and you have to be careful how you wear them so that you avoid looking like you’re wearing a costume to work.

Bess Wallace Truman lived during a time when women regularly wore hats when going out in public, and as the granddaughter of a prominent family in Independence, MO, she always wore nice clothes. Mary Paxton Keely, her childhood friend, recalls that “Bess wore what the rest of us did; the difference was that she always looked more stylish than anyone else we knew.” She goes on to say that “Bess always had more stylish hats than the rest of us did, or she wore them with more style.”

One of the earliest photographs (above) of Bess wearing a hat demonstrates this interesting sense of style—it looks like she’s wearing a flag or a model ship on her hat! Sadly, this hat is not the museum collection of the Truman Library. The library has about 55 hats … [ Read all ]

Thursday Photo Caption Contest–February 16

"Now tell me - am I supposed to eat this thing or wear it on my head like I did the pheasant from last night's dinner?"

Choosing last week’s winner was a tough nut–er, lobster?–to crack, so we turned to Tammy Kelly, our crack judge at the Truman Library.

Congratulation to RJ! Check your email for a code to use for a 15% discount at our eStore! Tammy chose your caption as the winner. Perhaps she was reminded of the fine collection of hats that Bess Truman wore throughout her life (featured on Millinery Monday).

Tammy kept her reasons for choosing RJ’s caption under her hat, but she did reveal that this image was taken by Abbie Rowe at the Maine State Society Lobster Dinner in the Department of the Interior cafeteria on February 21, 1951. The lobster-demolishing pair are Senator Owen Brewster and fellow guest Ann Chapman (wife of Oscar Chapman, Secretary of the Interior).

There’s no lobster in today’s photograph, but there are some….really large microphones? Give us your wittiest caption in the comments below!

"Your caption here!"

[ Read all ]

Meatloaf by candlelight? Not for this President.


Like most boys from Missouri, Harry Truman developed simple tastes in food as he was growing up—especially things like his mother’s fried chicken and that great American budget-friendly staple, meatloaf.

According to the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri, the 33rd President also liked corn bread with Missouri sorghum, all kinds of fowl, and Ozark pudding, which included chopped apples and nuts. (The Boss, that’s Mrs. Truman, had a special recipe for this.) Truman preferred chocolate cake to white cake, but the exception was angel food cake (and why not!).

Several accounts from that period agree that Truman really hated onions and could not be fooled into eating them. He could detect the smallest amount of onions in a dish and would just push that dish aside.

Once in the White House, however, meals became a more formal and ritualized experience for Truman.

In November 1949, Mrs. Truman was back in Independence, leaving the President alone in the “Great White Jail,” as he called the White House.  And alone for meals.

When mealtime came, a White House butler announced dinner, and Truman would head to the dining room and be helped into his chair by another butler. In his diary for November 1, Truman provides an account of how butlers waited on him hand and foot while he ate alone by candelight.

Early in the 1960s, with Mrs. Truman at his side laughing, the former President read the … [ Read all ]

Hats off to Bess Truman!

Bess Truman's hat, 1906. (Truman Library)

Bess in a feathered hat, 1906. (Truman Library)

Here at Prologue: Pieces of History, we have Facial Hair Friday. On the Harry S. Truman Library’s Facebook page, they celebrate Millinery Monday! When I was very little, I loved poking through my mother’s old hatboxes stored in the basement. Alas, the era of wearing hats for every occasion had passed, but she had saved her favorites.

Bess Truman apparently did the same thing. The Truman Library has several of her hats and many more photographs of her in hats at various stages of her life. Scrolling through the Truman Library’s page is a good substitute for exploring my mother’s hatboxes. Not only do you get to see some remarkable chapeaux, but you also get to see the very stylish young Bess Wallace (and others) wearing the hats.

 Bess (left) with her best friend, Mary Paxton, ca. 1901. (Truman Library)

Bess Wallace (left) with her best friend, Mary Paxton, ca. 1901. (Truman Library)

Because Millinery Monday covers the span of Bess Truman’s life, we get to see how hat styles changed from the start of the 20th century through its late decades. We also get to see a part of the library’s collection that is not usually seen by the public. On the National Archives Facebook page, click through our list of “Favorite Pages” to find out more about the Presidential libraries, regional archives, and other units that are all … [ Read all ]