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Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip - Matthew Algeo A couple of years ago my in-laws called offering to meet us in Independence, Missouri to tour the Truman library. First, I was surprised because they are dyed in the wool Republicans who think that all Democrats have already punched a one way ticket to the fiery furnaces of HELL. Second I was excited because I frankly don't know much about the President that was overshadowed by FDR, possibly the greatest president ever, and Eisenhower who was instrumental in saving the world from living under a Nazi regime. Of course I knew that Truman dropped the bomb not once, but twice, and he had that famously close election with Dewey, but beyond that I really didn't know much about Truman.


Presidential libraries are wonderful. If you are near one or on vacation in a state that has one, please take the time to take the tour. Yes, they may be biased, that is their privilege, but the point is not to learn about the man (although that too can be fascinating) as much as it is to learn about what happened while he was president.

I had no idea how quick Harry was with a quip. After Eisenhower came into office and the farmers in Missouri were getting restless with the farm economy. "We gave them three-hundred-dollar cows," Truman said, "now they've got thirty-dollar Eisenhower calves." He was a fervent defendant of the Democratic party his whole life and could always be counted on to campaign for the Democratic presidential nominee.

Matthew Algeo built this book around a 2,500 mile road trip that Harry and his wife Bess decided to take in 1953 to Philadelphia to give a speech about the pending defense spending cuts, and place a burr under the saddle of his replacement in Washington, Eisenhower, at the same time. Chrysler had just supplied him with the newest model of the New Yorker rumored to have been sold to Truman for $1.


Truman loved cars and the New Yorker was the finest car that Truman had ever owned, so instead of flying or taking the train he decided to drive across country. This trip became a national sensation. Reporters and photographers stalked him from Independence to Philadelphia and back. Interviews and pictures of the Trumans were circulated in newspapers and movie theaters throughout the country. Where is Harry? was around long before Where is Waldo? became a bestseller.


You can tell from this picture how happy Truman was on this trip. The reaction from the public was well beyond what he expected. When he left office his approval rating was at 22%, but it didn't take long for the public to miss him. He was barraged by people to run for reelection. He finished FDR's last term and won one reelection so he could have legally run for another four year term if he had chosen to do so. I actually think the possibility crossed his mind, but as time went on, and he settled into his life back in Independence the desire for returning to power abated.

This book is full of wonderful observations. If anyone has been intimidated by the thought of reading Truman this book would be a great introduction to Truman. I came away convinced that it would be well worth my time to read the much more in-depth McCullough biography. There is much to be mined in the Truman legacy.

Truman was devoted to Bess, case in point check out this photo.


His eyes are on her face. My eyes would have been glued to Bacall's wonderful long legs. You had wonderful self-control Mr. Truman. "While they were in New York, Harry's friend Leonard Lyons, a New York Post columnist, offered to arrange a private screening of the new Marilyn Monroe move Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Harry declines. "Real gentlemen," he told Lyons, "prefer gray hair." You hit that one out of the park Mr. Truman.

I really enjoyed this book. Algeo provides wonderful observations, and by sharing Truman's interactions with the public on this road trip reveals the man behind the office. Truman was feisty(always good for a quote), caring, and devoted to his country. Truman passed away on December 24th, 1972 at the age of 88. Bess died on October 18th, 1982 at the age of 97.

"Harry and Bess are buried next to each other in the courtyard of the Truman Library.
Harry is on the driver's side."