Letters reveal what Bess Truman tried to make history

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WASHINGTON -- One evening near Christmas in 1955, Harry Truman walked into his Independence, Mo., home to find his wife tossing stacks of old letters into the blazing hearth.

He looked stricken.

A chronicle of the 33rd president's courtship, marriage and daily life in the first half of the 20th century was going up in smoke.

"Bess!" said Truman, who saved every scrap of paper, including 1,300 letters that he had written her. "God! What are you doing? Think of history!"

"Oh, I have," she calmly replied, continuing to feed the flames.

Bess Truman guarded her privacy. But not every letter to her husband wafted up the chimney of 219 N. Delaware St. that night.

She missed 180 others, found after her death in 1982, lost behind desk drawers and peeking out of books.

The Harry S. Truman Library & Museum has had them ever since and plans a public display in four years. But on Wednesday, the National Archives and Clifton Truman Daniel, the Trumans' grandson, offered the media an early glimpse.

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