Category Archives: History

Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum

Replica of the Harry S. Truman Oval Office in the White House, which is an exhibit in the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum Independence, Missouri.

My daughter and I recently visited the museum and library of Harry S. Truman, the 33rd United States president, which is in Independence, Missouri. Independence adjoins Kansas City.

I’d only been to this museum and library one time before, which is shamefully negligent of me, considering it’s only about half an hour from my house and I was an American history graduate student.

Many people make much longer journeys to visit this library, which is very well done and full of fascinating information.  On the day we visited, a majority of the license tags on cars in the parking lot were from states other than Missouri and Kansas.

I haven’t been totally remiss in my Truman travels. I’ve visited the Winter White House in Key West, Florida, where Truman spent 175 days during his nearly eight years as president, and I’ve toured his Independence home and the grounds of his family farm in Grandview, where Truman spent most of his youth. I’ll post those photos in another post.

Your first sight in the library is a mural by another prominent Missourian, Thomas Hart Benton. Then the next stop is a replica of Truman’s Oval Office in the White House. He held press conferences in the original Oval Office, until it became too crowded with reporters and photographers.  Much happened during Truman’s presidency (1945–1953), including the end of World War II, the beginning of the CIA, NATO, the beginning of the Korean War and the Cold War. 

Truman was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s vice president and assumed the presidency when Roosevelt died April 12, 1945.  World War II was still raging.   

Roosevelt’s wife Eleanor informed Truman of her husband’s death: “Harry, the president is dead.”

He asked if there was anything he could do for her, to which she replied, “Is there anything we can do for you? For you are the one in trouble now.”

One level of the museum section of the library focuses on Truman’s presidential history, while another level features exhibits about his life before and after the presidency. Scholars can do research in the library. 

The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum is also the resting place of Truman and his wife Bess,  as well as their daughter Margaret and her husband Clifton Daniel.  The library is located on U.S. Highway 24 in Independence, not far from the house where Truman lived most of his adult life. It was the first presidential library to be created under the provisions of the 1955 Presidential Libraries Act, and is one of thirteen presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

The library’s replica of the Oval Office is a feature that has been copied by the Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, William J. Clinton, and George W. Bush libraries.

Harry S. Truman had to make many critical decisions during his presidency 1945-1953.

During Harry S. Truman’s presidency: “The Buck Stops Here” sign was on Truman’s desk, meaning that he wasn’t going to ‘pass the buck” (decision) on to someone else; The end of World War II depicted in a newspaper; the Berlin Airlift during the Cold War; A newspaper headline gets the presidential election results wrong.

Official Website of The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum.

About Harry S. Truman.

About the Thomas Hart Benton mural in the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri.

The Day President Franklin Delano Roosevelt Died, and Harry S. Truman Became President.

Click on a thumbnail to see a photograph in a larger size.

 

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Historic Red Bridge, Kansas City, Missouri

The Old Red Bridge over the Blue River in Kansas City, Missouri, is near the first river crossing on the Santa Fe Trail, the first of many rivers to cross on the long trail to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The last time I visited Santa Fe, New Mexico, I saw a sign at the end of Santa Fe Trail.  Not unusual, since it was Santa Fe, after all.  But I realized then that I’ve lived near the beginning of the Santa Fe Trail in the Kansas City area for decades, but I didn’t think much about it despite signs mentioning it everywhere. Sometimes you have to leave a place to really see it.

This Santa Fe Trail sign is in Santa Fe, New Mexico, near the end point of the Santa Fe Trail.

I recently visited the Old Red Bridge in Kansas City, Missouri, for the first time. I’ve driven by it many times and didn’t see it tucked below the newest bridge on Red Bridge Road. I’ve been to Red Bridge Shopping Center scores of times, too. Did I ever wonder why the name? Not really.

The Old Red Bridge in Kansas City, Missouri, is now a spot for lovers to pledge their eternal love, but the original structure once served a more prosaic, but essential service — providing a bridge over the Blue River for travelers and freighters heading west on one of three historic trails, including the Santa Fe Trail.

More than 3,500 love locks are attached to the Old Red Bridge rails. Lovers are instructed not to toss the keys into the river, where they could hurt wildlife that might swallow them. Instead they are to drop the keys into one of two boxes on the bridge. The keys are to be collected and forged into a butterfly sculpture. When I visited, though, the boxes had been broken open by some hard-hearted vandal.

Old Red Bridge is the third of four bridges to span the Blue River near the first river crossing of the trails that led west. Old Red Bridge is in the 3-Trails Corridor park, Red Bridge Segment, dedicated to three National Historic Trails: Santa Fe, Oregon and California.

Beginning with William Becknell in 1821, the Santa Fe Trail was a 19th-century transportation route through central North America that connected Independence, Missouri with Santa Fe. Thousands of people traveled the Santa Fe Trail to trade in places like Bent’s Old Fort, the Kozlowski’s Stage Station, and in the plaza in Santa Fe.

Emigrants heading west from Independence, Missouri, encountered their first river crossing at this site. On May 8, 1846, Virgil Pringle, “went 12 miles to the Blue and encamped, it being too high to cross. Another wagon capsized at the encampment. . . . No injury to persons or property.” The next day his party, “crossed the Blue soon in the morning.”

In 1859, the first red bridge was built by Colonel George N. Todd, a 50-year old Scottish stonemason. The 100-foot span was a covered wooden bridge on stone piers, located just downstream from today’s two bridges at the actual trail crossing, which is the first river crossing on the trail. The first bridge was painted red, creating the “Red Bridge” neighborhood name.

After the original bridge was torn down in 1892, a steel bridge, called a “tin” bridge, also painted red, replaced it. The 1859 bridge was dismantled; local farmers recycled the lumber into barns.

A third Red Bridge replaced the 1892 “tin” bridge and was dedicated by the 33rd U.S. president Harry S. Truman (when he was a judge) in 1932 during the Great Depression. This bridge, now called Old Red Bridge, is made of concrete, red painted steel and red granite. It was built by Jackson County; Richard Wakefield was the architect.

When the newest Red Bridge was opened, the Old Red Bridge became the Love Locks Bridge. It has been festooned with more than 3,500 locks since opening in February 2013. It stands next to the new bridge and is now a foot bridge in the park.

Old Red Bridge, Kansas City, Missouri Photo Print

Old Red Bridge, Love Locks, Kansas City, Missouri.

 

More information about the beginning of the Santa Fe Trail is in the links below:

Old Red Bridge Locks of Love.

About the Santa Fe Trail – Highway to the Southwest

 

 

 

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Kansas City Streetcar and The Western Auto Building

 

The Kansas City Streetcar passes in front of the Western Auto Building.

When my family and I left a restaurant recently near Kansas City’s Union Station, I saw the Kansas City Street car traveling south on Main Street. My daughter has moved near the route of the streetcar so some day soon I hope to hop on for a ride.

In the background is the Western Auto building on Grand Street. The building was constructed for the Coca-Cola Company in 1914 and later became the headquarters of Western Auto Supply Company. It is now a condominium residence. The Western Auto sign is a Kansas City, Missouri, landmark.  The Western Auto building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

According to Wikipedia, The KC Streetcar, formally branded as the RideKC Streetcar, is a streetcar system in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Construction began in May 2014. The system opened for service on May 6, 2016. The KC Streetcar is free to ride, as it is funded by a Transportation development district. As of April 30, 2018, the streetcar has a daily average ridership of 5,373 daily riders, logging over 4 million riders since opening.

The downtown streetcar runs along a 2.2-mile-long (3.5 km) route between the River Market and Union Station, running through the central business district and the Crossroads, mostly along Main Street. It makes stops about every two blocks and has 16 designed stops along the route. Along the way it connects directly with Amtrak, local and commuter RIDE KC bus services (including a direct route to Kansas City International Airport), and several B-cycle bike-share kiosks.

Proponents tout this initial linear segment as one of the simplest and straightest modern streetcar routes in the United States. All platforms offer level boarding and real-time arrival information.

About the Western Auto Building.

Kansas City Streetcar Website

About the Kansas City Streetcar

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In Search of Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln, one of the United States of America’s greatest presidents…

Catherine Sherman

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.  Photo by Cathy Sherman. The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

My first memory of Abraham Lincoln is a huge face on Mt. Rushmore when I was a preschooler.  You don’t forget that. And who can miss his face on the penny and the five-dollar bill.  The guy is everywhere.

Everyone recognizes Lincoln and not just because he’s monumental and monetary.  He truly is larger than life.

When Anita and I visited the home of the abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass (maybe more on him later), a little boy on our tour was silent until he saw the president’s framed photograph on the wall.  “Abraham Lincoln,” he called out.

It wasn’t until I was much older that I learned how important and rare this president was — and I’m still learning. I want to shout out “Abraham Lincoln,” too.  So this is my shout out.

Abraham Lincoln was burdened with one of the gravest trials a leader can face — holding this nation together.  The Civil War still casts…

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The Smallest Post Office in the United States

Customers visit the Ochopee, Florida, Post Office.

Traveling on Highway 41 in southern Florida, if you don’t blink, you’ll see the smallest post office in the United States. The 7- by 8-foot building, formerly a storage shed for irrigation equipment to water tomato plants, now houses a fully functioning post office.

Ochopee, Florida, Post Office Historical Sign.

The shed was pressed into service after a fire in 1952 destroyed the Ochopee general store, which previously had housed the post office. The post office is in Big Cypress National Preserve.

The building is small, but the Ochopee mail route is large, covering three counties and is about 132 miles long, according to Roadside America.

 

Ochopee, Florida, Post Office, Smallest in U.S. Postcard

Click on the thumbnail to see the full-size photograph.

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The Miraculous Stairway in the Loretto Chapel

 

Loretto Chapel Miraculous Stairway, Santa Fe, N.M. Poster

The Miraculous Stairway in the Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

I took these photographs in April 2014 when I visited the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The chapel is famous for its “miraculous” staircase. The staircase has two 360-degree turns and no visible means of support.

When the church was completed in 1878, there wasn’t enough room for conventional stairs, and the Sisters of Loretto didn’t want to climb a ladder in the long skirts of their habits. They prayed for a miracle, the legend goes, and a mysterious carpenter came, who built the staircase. He asked for no pay and disappeared as mysteriously as he came. His identity is still unknown, and even some of his methods in building the freestanding spiral stairway have not been discerned, so it is indeed a miracle still. To read more about the Loretto Chapel and its staircase, click on the links beneath the photographs.

The bottom link is about Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy (October 11, 1814 – February 13, 1888). The archbishop commissioned the building of the Loretto Chapel. He was a French Roman Catholic prelate who served as the first Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the United States. The American writer Willa Cather’s novel “Death Comes for the Archbishop” is based on his life and career.

The miraculous staircase leads to the choir loft at the back of the Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

Musicians practice for Holy Week events at the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in this photograph from April 2014.

 

The Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was designed by French architect Antoine Mouly in the Gothic Revival style, complete with spires, buttresses, and stained glass windows imported from France.

 

About the Loretto Chapel Staircase

About the Loretto Chapel

About Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy

Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy Statue Postcard

Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy

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Why Is There a Ship Hanging in a Church?

Aarhus Cathedral Votive Ship Poster

Aarhus Cathedral, Denmark, Votive Ship.

In many churches in Scandinavia, you’ll see a ship hanging from the ceiling, a symbol of how important the sea is to the Nordic people. The ship reflects an old Nordic tradition of giving offerings for the protection of loved ones at sea and is a reminder of those lost at sea. The ship models are often called votive ships.

The ship model in the Aarhus, Denmark, Cathedral originally served another purpose — it was among those created (probably in the Netherlands) to show Russian Czar Peter the Great what the ships he ordered would look like. The cathedral’s ship (dated 1720) is named Enigheden (English: Unity). The ship carrying the model, however, sunk near the northern coast of Denmark, a reminder of the dangers of the sea. The model survived in good shape and was purchased by Danish fishermen as a gift to the cathedral, which is the largest church in Denmark. The Aarhus Cathedral model ship is also the largest votive ship in Denmark.

Akureyri Church Interior, Iceland Photo Print

Ship model hanging in Akureyri Lutheran Church in Akureyri, Iceland.

What is a Votive Ship?

More Photos of Aarhus Cathedral Ship.

About Aarhus Cathedral.

About Akureyri Church.

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