One of the seminal leaders of the 20th century was Missouri born and raised. Harry S.Truman grew up in Independence, Missouri, and during World War I fought in France as a captain in the Field Artillery. Returning home, he opened a haberdashery in Kansas City, Missouri and was later elected as a Jackson County official in 1922. Truman was elected to the United States Senate from Missouri in 1934 and gained national distinction as chairman of the Truman Committee aimed at reducing waste and inefficiency in wartime contracts. Soon after succeeding to the presidency, he authorized the first and only use of nuclear weapons in war. Truman's administration engaged in an internationalist foreign policy and renounced isolationism. He rallied his New Deal coalition during the 1948 presidential election and won a surprise victory that secured his own presidential term. While Truman gained valuable political experience as a member of the controversial “Pendergast Machine.” Ironically, the very association to crime and corruption that furthered his career, coupled with the United States’ involvement in the controversial Korean War, lead Truman to decide not to run for a subsequent term.
Truman sat for portraitist Jay Wesley Jacobs only a month into his first term. At this point in American history, World War II was nearly over but Japan was still a force to be reckoned with. In this portrait, Truman is seated, wearing a white dress shirt, contrasting dark double- breasted suit, which he favored, and a coordinating blue tie and pocket square. He looks straight at the viewer and with a casual touch, holds one hand in a pocket. The setting is simple: Old Glory and a flag bearing the nation’s Great Seal proudly displayed against a light background.
The original portrait was purchased by the William T. Kemper Foundation and given to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.