The methods of communication were limited in the past, so letters were the easiest way to relate messages, thoughts, and feelings. We still use letters today, possibly because we feel that we can express ourselves more freely with words when done on paper or through email. Whatever the case may be, it still feels wonderful to receive a handwritten letter. It is a personal keepsake that we can cherish and treasure.
At the mere age of 6, Harry Truman met Bess Wallace in Sunday School. Though they attended school together until they graduated high school, they didn't become more than acquaintances. For over a year Harry and Bess went their separate ways. Harry decided to move and it happened to be only 20 miles away from Bess.
He began to court her through letters, and after a year he asked for her hand in marriage, but she initially turned him down. It was difficult for him to win her love. She was from a wealthy family and was expected to marry someone who had better prospects and a planned future. Though he entered into a series of business ventures, they ended in disappointment.
Harry joined a Missouri National Guard in World War I and trained for combat. He gained respect and acknowledgment for his leadership skills and courage under fire when he took charge over a unit known for rowdy behavior and refusal to take orders. Truman kept Bess close to his heart by carrying her picture in his breast pocket and writing to her daily. His spirits were uplifted by her promise to marry him when he returned.
Over 1300 letters that Harry wrote to Bess survive in the Truman Library collections. Unfortunately, most of the letters she wrote to him have been lost. Throughout their courtship and marriage, writing letters remained a constant form of communication. Below are a few excerpts from different letters Harry wrote to Bess.
November 4, 1913:
"It doesn't seem real that you should care for me. I have always hoped you would but some way feared very much you wouldn't. You know, I've always thought that the best man in the world is hardly good enough for any woman. But when it comes to the best girl in all the universe caring for an ordinary gink like me--well, you'll have to let me get used to it. I've always said I'd have you or no one and that's what I mean to do. I'm all puffed up and hilarious and happy and anything else that happens to a fellow when he finds his lady love thinks more of him than the rest of the beasts."
November 19, 1913: "I know your last letter word for word and then I read it some forty times a day. I could die happy doing something for you. Since I can't rescue you from any monster or carry you from a burning building or save you from a sinking ship--simply because I'd be afraid of the monster, couldn't carry you, and can't swim--I'll have to go to work and make money enough to pay my debts and then get you to take me for what I am: just a common everyday man whose instincts are to be ornery, who's anxious to be right. You'll not have any trouble getting along with me for I'm awful good-natured, and I'm sure we'd live happy ever after sure enough."
July 14, 1917: "I'm dead crazy to ask you to marry me before I leave, but I'm not going to because I don't think it would be right for me to ask you to tie yourself to a prospective cripple--or a sentiment."
January 2, 1934: "I'm lonesome and thinking of you and writing you instead of going to a show. I got disgusted last night because I didn't have your hand to hold (that's all I go to shows for anyway) and left, so I didn't try any tonight."
On their 16th Wedding Anniversary: "This is the day sixteen years ago that I made a plunge and took a chance for which I have been a better man. My only regret is that it was not done ten years sooner. I've never had but one golden-haired, blue-eyed sweetheart and she's still the same blue-eyed, but now maybe silver-haired, sweetheart and just as perfect and as beautiful as I dreamed of when I was ten and twelve and sixteen."
February 10, 1937: "I never had but one [love] from the time I was six and a half to date, and maybe that's more foolishness according to modem standards, but I'm crazy enough to stay with it through all eternity."
June 28, 1944: "Guess I'm just a damned, sentimental old fool. I've always had you on a pedestal and despite the fact that you try to climb down sometimes, and I don't blame you for trying, I'm not going to let you. From Sunday school days, to the Senate, to World War II you are just the same to me--the nicest, prettiest girl in the world."Though Harry and Bess were romantically linked by letters, they aren't just for your significant others. Handwritten letters can leave an impact on anyone because the thought and effort put into them is clearly seen. Certainly, it may take a bit more time to prepare and send a handwritten letter, but it's definitely more personable and the sincerest way to communicate