5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Harry Truman

On November 2, 1948, Harry Truman defeated Thomas Dewey in one of the greatest surprise upsets in the history of U.S. presidential elections. Here are 5 surprising facts you probably didn't know about Harry S. Truman, our 33rd president....


Truman Didn’t Have a Middle Name Harry S. Truman was born to John Anderson Truman and his wife, Martha Ellen Truman, on May 8, 1884. The couple had trouble deciding on their new son’s middle name. They ended up choosing the letter “S.” This was a compromise between Solomon, Truman’s grandfather on his mother’s side and Shipp, which was the middle name of his paternal grandfather. Officially, the “S” is followed by a period: “Harry S. Truman.” That’s because Truman used a period with the letter “S” in his correspondence. The Truman Library & Museum offers a detailed explanation of the “S” controversy.

He Learned of the Atomic Bomb Only Minutes After Being Sworn In Truman began serving as president 82 days after the start of Franklin Roosevelt’s fourth term when FDR suddenly died, and the new president knew little about the plans to end the war. Just moments after Truman’s swearing-in ceremony, Henry Stimson, the Secretary of War, drew him aside to tell him of the atomic bomb project. About four months after this, Truman ordered that atomic bombs be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Truman Survived an Assassination Attempt On November 1, 1950, two Puerto Rican pro-independence activists tried to assassinate President Truman at the Blair House in Washington, where he was living while the White House was under renovation. Truman was unharmed, although a police officer and one of the would-be assassins were killed.

The Minimum Wage Close to Doubled Under Truman A big shift in the 1950 economy was seen when Truman almost doubled the minimum wage through his Fair Deal program. The minimum wage went from 40 cents an hour up to 75 cents, which was an 87.5 percent increase. Some economists reported that this increase in wages lowered the unemployment rate in 1949, which was 6.6 percent, down to 2.7 percent by the end of 1952.

His Grandson Portrayed Him in a Play For a 2017 run in Give 'Em Hell, Harry!, a play about Truman staged in Wilmington, North Carolina, the lead role went to someone who knew a little about the man—his grandson, Clifton Daniel. A part-time actor and the honorary chairman of the Truman Library Institute in Kansas City, Missouri, Daniel learned his relative's vocal inflections by listening to old recordings.