Correspondence chronicles Presidents’ lives
Love letters penned by presidents have touched thousands through the rare lens they offer into the private lives of the first families, before and after the White House.
This is the third and last installment in a series of stories about presidential prose.
Harry Truman and Bess Wallace met during Sunday school in Independence, MO, in 1890. Six-year-old Truman developed a crush. After graduating from the same high school in 1901, the two did not see each other again until a chance encounter 1910 started a blossoming relationship.
Much of the Trumans’ courtship happened through letters between December 1910 and June 22, 1911, when Truman proposed. He wrote about a drought Missouri was suffering, “Water and potatoes will soon be as much of a luxury as pineapples and diamonds.” Followed by, “Speaking of diamonds would you wear a solitaire one on your left hand should I get it?” Wallace turned down this proposal, but the couple was engaged in November 1913.
Truman wrote his wife a total of 1,300 letters in times they were apart during his career and presidency.
Unlike Thomas and Martha Jefferson and George and Martha Washington, who burned all of their personal letters, John and Abigail Adams kept every one.
More than 1,000 letters follow the pair from their courtship in 1762 through their 54-year marriage. John often addressed his letters to “Dear Adorable” or “My dear Diana,” but Abigail always addressed him as “My Dearest Friend.”
The letters chronicle everything from family affairs to the ratification of the Constitution, with a playful touch that might make readers today blush.
“By the same token that the Bearer hereof sat up with you last night I hereby order you to give him as many kisses and as many hours of your company after 9 o’clock as he shall please to demand and charge them to my account,” he once wrote to Abigail in 1762.
In 2008, USPS joined Home Box Office (HBO) to promote a miniseries, John Adams, based on the letters John wrote Abigail during their relationship.
Photo credit: PBS.com