The Private Life of a Presidential Wife: Bess Truman Letters to Husband Harry Revealed to Public

Letters show one of the greatest marriages in U.S. political history.

ByABC News
October 14, 2009, 7:01 PM

Oct. 15, 2009— -- Michelle and Barack. Bill and Hillary. George and Laura. For many Americans, mention of these famous first couples can evoke strong images.

But what about Bess and Harry Truman? Public displays of romance do not necessarily come to mind. But, as newly released letters written by Bess Truman show, their relationship was one of the most endearing in U.S. presidential history.

Eight letters, revealed this week to the media for the first time ever by Truman's eldest grandson, Clifton Truman Daniel, shed insight into the intimate and close relationship shared by the Truman couple, who met at Sunday school when Harry was 6 and Bess was 5.

"He recalled in his memoirs, walking in and seeing this blue-eyed, blond-haired little girl, and he was just smitten," Daniel said. "He basically carried a torch for her from then on, all through grade school and high school.

"As far as we know, she had one or two other suitors, but he never looked at another woman from the age of 6 on."

Twenty-nine years later, while overseas after the end of World War I, Truman implored Bess to marry him.

"Please get ready to march down the aisle with me just as soon as you decently can when I get back," he wrote on Feb. 18, 1919.

"I haven't any place to go but home and I'm busted financially but I love you as madly as a man can and I'll find all the other things. We'll be married anywhere you say at any time you mention and if you want only one person or the whole town I don't care as long as you make it quickly after my arrival," he wrote.

In response, she wrote back March 16, 1919, "You may invite the entire 35th Division to our wedding if you want to."

They were married June 28, 1919. Their only child, Mary "Margaret", was born Feb. 17, 1924. Clifton T. Daniel, an author and journalist, is Margaret's eldest son.

Harry and Bess Truman remained married for more than 50 years, until his death at age 88.

During Truman's senatorship from 1934 to 1945, the entire Truman family would stay in Washington, D.C., from January through June. But, for the remainder of the year, Bess and Mary would head back to Independence, Mo. To keep in touch, Harry and Bess would write each other thousands of letters.

Between 1910 and 1959, the couple would write more than 3,000 letters chronicling for each other the details of their days spent separately, often discussing the same matters that ordinary husbands and wives would today -- house pests, hair cuts and the weather.

In one letter dated July 16, 1923, after Harry had taken off for the Missouri National Guard training camp at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., as he did every July, Bess wrote to her husband:

"Dear Pettie -- I hope you didn't run into the rain we had about five-thirty -- It didn't last long but it was good and wet while it did last. It is now 10:20 and I am in bed. There was a big black bug on my bed when I turned the sheet down and I had to kill it myself -- but that wasn't the first time I had wished for you."