President Harry S. Truman's Education & Early Life

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

What does Harry S. Truman's middle initial stand for? In this lesson, you'll find out as you learn about this president's early life, education, work history, and military career.

Harry S. Truman

Harry S. Truman, the 33rd U.S. president, is best known as the president who took over running the country after the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (also known as FDR). He was the president who brought the largest war in history, World War II, to an end by ordering the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan.

Most people know those facts but few know about Truman's early life and education, so this lesson will seek to fill in those gaps for you. And you might as well start guessing as to what the 'S' in Harry S. Truman stands for. You might be surprised!

Birthplace & Family

Truman was born on May 8, 1884 in Lamar, Missouri. His dad was John Anderson Truman, a farmer and livestock trader, and his mom was Martha Ellen (Young) Truman. Truman also had brother, Vivian, and a sister, Mary Jane.

Truman got his name from Harrison Young, his maternal uncle. His middle initial 'S' was a tribute to his grandfathers, Solomon Young and Anderson Shipp Truman. So, the S didn't really stand for a name, it kind of symbolized both grandfathers.

Early Life & Education

When Truman was six, his parents moved his family to Independence, Missouri where he attended public schools. This is a town not far from Kansas City. If you could characterize Truman's school-age years with one word, you'd say 'nerdy'. See, Truman had to wear thick eyeglasses as a result of his poor vision and his doctor said he should avoid playing sports so as not to break those glasses. His mom didn't want him roughhousing like a little boy normally does either. So, Truman had trouble making friends even though he tried his best. In particular, he had trouble make girl friends. He was nerdy after all!

But Truman did have certain successes thanks to his nerdiness. He studied hard, read a lot, and did quite well in school as a result. He also became a great piano player. Most of all, Truman wanted to become a great soldier and attend West Point, the nation's premier military academy, after graduating high school in 1901. His poor eyesight quashed that dream.

Instead, Truman enrolled in a business college. But that only lasted a semester because his family simply couldn't afford to pay for it. So, he dropped out and went to work in a mailroom of the Kansas City Star newspaper in 1902. He switched jobs later and worked for a construction company as a timekeeper and, later still, as a bank clerk.

Work & War

In 1905, Truman joined the National Guard. One year later he left his bank job and joined his father and brother near Grandview, Missouri to work on the 600 acre family farm. Here, Harry monitored the finances and performed some manual labor as well.

In 1910, Harry started to woo Bess Wallace, a woman he went to high school with. Poor Truman! He didn't have any luck at first as she refused his marriage proposal in 1911, but Truman didn't give up. He encountered more heartache in 1914, when his father died. However, this also allowed him the chance to try his luck at leaving the farm to start his own businesses, which didn't succeed.

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