Give Harry a Grade! Background:
After he graduated from Independence High School in 1901, Harry Truman attended Spalding’s Commercial College in Kansas City. The college occupied twenty rooms of the New York Life building. There were sixteen teachers who taught bookkeeping, shorthand and typing. Harry took courses in all of the subject areas. He had to ride city streetcars from Independence to his classes in downtown Kansas City. His parents gave him money for transportation and twenty-five cents for lunch. He often dined at an eatery called Herman’s located at Eighth and Main in downtown Kansas City. Mr. Jesse James, Jr. operated a Soda Fountain and Candy Shop where Harry would sometimes stop for an ice cream soda. On one occasion, Mr. James extended Harry “credit” because he did not have the necessary nickel for his treat. The nickel was paid the next day.
The Truman Presidential Museum & Library has the only surviving paper from Harry Truman’s student days at Spalding’s Commercial College. It is a half-page letter he typed and mailed to the farm in Grandview.
What can you learn from this old letter of just a few lines?
Why would someone save it? Why is it important to us? Think about these questions as you examine the letter the way an archivist or historian would.
Time: 20-30 minutes
1. streetcar: an electric vehicle that goes along metal tracks in the road taking people from one place to another.
2. credit: paying for an item at a later date.
3. archivist: a person who takes care of historical records.
4. historian: a person who writes about and/or studies past events and people.
Materials students need: