― Harry S. Truman
'Give 'em Hell' Harry had ties to Colorado
By Rob Carrigan, email@example.com
It seems, most folks underestimated Harry S. Truman.
He rose at five every morning to practice the piano, which he studied more than twice a week until he was fifteen, becoming quite a skilled player. He went to business college and used the lessons and experience to obtain a job as a timekeeper on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, sleeping in hobo camps near the rail lines. He then took on a series of clerical jobs, and was employed briefly in the mail room of The Kansas City Star. Truman and his brother Vivian later worked as clerks at the National Bank of Commerce in Kansas City.
As a soldier, he served as a captain admirably in World War, I including action during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Truman's battery provided support for George S. Patton's tank brigade, and fired some of the last shots of the war on November 11, 1918. Battery D did not lose any men while under Truman's command in France.
He farmed, and immediately after World War I, he became active in several business ventures, including a lead and zinc mine near Commerce, Oklahoma, a company that bought land and leased the oil drilling rights to prospectors, and speculation in Kansas City real estate. Truman occasionally derived some income from these enterprises, but none proved successful in the long term. Later he opened and had part ownership in a haberdashery at 104 West 12th Street in downtown Kansas City. After brief initial success, the store went bankrupt during the recession of 1921.
Later of course, he was elected as a Jackson County official in 1922. Truman was elected to the United States Senate from Missouri in 1934 and gained national prominence 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. Succeeding upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, he implemented the Marshall Plan to rebuild the economy of Western Europe, and established the Truman Doctrine and NATO.
Truman grew up in Independence, Missouri, and during World War I was sent to 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 prominence 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.President Harry S. Truman walks through a door with Governor Lee Knous at the Colorado State Capitol building. Three other men stand in the hall, one looks directly at the camera.
Harry Truman also had connections to Colorado and, at one time, is said to have considered establishing a sort of "summer White House" here. His long-time press secretary was from Victor, Colorado.
Charles Griffith Ross was for a short time in 1905, the editor of the Victor Record.
Truman's press secretary was his old friend Charles Griffith Ross. He had great integrity but, says Alonzo L. Hamby, as a senior White House aide he was, "A better newsman than news handler, he never established a policy of coordinating news releases throughout the executive branch, frequently bumbled details, never developed ... a strategy for marketing the president's image and failed to establish a strong press office."
A little over a month prior to his death, on Nov. 1, 1950, Ross is credited with pulling the president away from a window during an assassination attempt at the White House, according to historian Jim Caldwell.
A White House guard was killed and two others were wounded when two Puerto Rico nationals tried to storm Blair House on the White House grounds. The president, taking a nap at the time in Blair House, rushed to the window in his underwear to see what was going on. A guard outside yelling at him and Ross, pulling him away from the window, may have saved his life. Of the two attackers, one was killed in front of the house and the other was gravely on the front steps leading to it.On Dec. 5, 1950, Charles G. Ross died of a heart attack at his desk in the White House, moments after concluding the afternoon radio and press conference for Harry S. Truman. Ross served as press secretary to the president from 1945 until his death.
The Cripple Creek District Museum has been reminding us of other Truman connections for more than sixty years.
Snapshot of Bess Truman (center) with Blevins Davis (right) and an unknown woman, all in formal dress. The event date, and location are unknown. From: Nancy Ehrlich, Jackson County Historical Society
Founded in 1953 by Blevins Davis and Richard Wayne Johnson, the Museum has five historic buildings, two of which are among the oldest commercial structures in town. Blevens Davis was owner of the Cripple Creek Times, and was involved in changing the name of that paper's name to the Gold Rush. The paper was merged into the Courier in 2007.
Davis grew up next to the Harry S. Truman family and was a lifelong friend and White House visitor of Harry, and his wife and daughter. In 1949, Davis purchased the Claremont Estate in Colorado Springs. The mansion, which he renamed Trianon, was sold to the Sisters of St. Francis Seraph in 1952. Woodmen Sanatorium, also in Colorado Springs, was purchased by Davis in July 1950.
President Harry S. Truman attending a luncheon in association with the dedication of the Liberty Bell replica given to Independence, MO, by the people of Annecy-le-Vieux, France. From left to right at the head table are Mary Jane Truman, Blevins Davis, President Truman, unidentified man (standing), Mayor Robert Weatherford (standing), and Secretary of the Treasury John Snyder.
His wife, Marguerite Davis, a railroad heiress died in 1948 and wished
to have her fortune used for charitable purposes. The Modern Woodmen
Sanatorium property and Trianon were sold to the Poor Sisters of St.
Francis (Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration) for $1 in 1952.
In 1949, Davis purchased the Claremont Estate in Colorado Springs,
Colorado. The mansion, which he renamed Trianon, was sold to the Sisters of St. Francis Seraph in 1952. Woodmen Sanatorium,
also in Colorado Springs, was purchased by Davis in July 1950. His
wife, Marguerite Davis, a railroad heiress died in 1948 and wished to
have her fortune used for charitable purposes. The Modern Woodmen
Sanatorium property and Trianon were sold to the Poor Sisters of St.
Francis (Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration) for $1 in 1952. The combined fortune that they received was worth $2,325,000 (equivalent to $22,135,037 in 2019)
According to "Colorado Newspapers 1935-1977" Walter H. Stewart, Elma St. John Stewart, in a history for the Colorado Press Association:
"Davis became owner of a weekly Cripple Creek, Colorado newspaper in 1951 and took possession in Jan. 1952. It was consolidated under the name The Gold Rush and Gold Rush Publishing in. The Cripple Creek District Museum in Colorado was founded by Blevins Davis, Margaret Giddings and Richard Wayne Johnson, in 1953.
When Davis' obit ran in the New York Times, a headline called attention to his friendship with the Trumans,
Davis achieved his greatest success as co‐producer with Robert Breen of
the 1952 revival of George Gershwin's “Porgy and Bess.” With State
Department backing, they took it on tour in Europe, where it was warmly
received. The production over the next four years was hailed in capitals
from Madrid to Moscow and on other continents," according to the Times.
Mr. Davis was the son of Charles A. Davis, a banker and businessman in Independence, and grew up as a neighbor and acquaintance of Mr. and Mrs. Harry S. Truman. He studied at the University of Missouri and returned to teach English and coach high school plays.
joined the dramatic staff of National Broadcasting Company in New York
in the 1930's. His first effort as a Broadway producer was the
unsuccessful “Rhapsody” in 1944, an operetta based on the melodies of
Fritz Kreisler. In 1946 he produced “A Joy Forever,” with Guy Kibbee,
and in 1948 “Skipper Next to God,” with John Garfield," said the Times.
"In 1946, Mr. Davis married Mrs. Margaret Sawyer Hill, widow of James N. Hill of the railroad family. She owned Big Tree Farm, a showplace in Glen Head, L. I., and Mr. Davis bought Glendale Farm, an estate outside Independence, where the Trumans were entertained in 1949. Mrs. Davis died in 1948.
A side note in the Times obit. "Mr. Davis was interested in other ventures and in 1951 became co‐owner of a weekly newspaper in Cripple Creek, Colo. He suffered reverses and in 1959 was required by a Kansas City court to sell Glendale Farm to meet loans of more than $400,000 from the City Investment Company of New York."
According to a more recent Kathy Reynolds' story in the Arvada Press:
"In 1949, after the proud red brick building had served travelers for
well over half-a-century, the last passenger train steamed out of
Cripple Creek and the old station was boarded up. It stood sadly
neglected until 1953. By then, a trickle of tourists had begun to
discover Cripple Creek’s charm. There were a few forward looking
citizens who felt a museum should be established where bits and pieces
of the past might be collected, preserved and enjoyed. The Midland
Terminal depot seemed to be an appropriate place for such a collection," chronicled Davis participation in the creation of the District Museum.
"The old building was then purchased by Margaret Giddings of Colorado Springs, whose grandfather had struck it rich in the hills above Cripple Creek, and by Blevins Davis, a New Yorker, who had fallen under the spell of the little mining town. The two gave the building to the community and a marvelous transformation took place. Donations of all kinds poured in from old Cripple Creek families and on June 14, 1953, the new Cripple Creek District Museum was officially dedicated by Gov. Dan Thornton."
Toast to Olde Tymes, In Kansas City Independent, noted that Davis was a favorite son in the Kansas City area.
"He was born Charles Blevins Davis, the son of Julia Blevins Davis and Charles Ammon Davis, in Osceola, Missouri, in May 1903. His parents lived for many years at 900 South Main Street in Independence, Missouri. Blevins attended school with Fred Wallace, which led to a friendship with Fred’s much older sister and her husband, Bess Wallace Truman and Harry S Truman. In “Impresario From Missouri: Blevins Davis and Cold War Cultural Diplomacy,” Sharon Bagg noted that, “He often visited the Wallace home where the Trumans also lived, played piano duets with Harry, and teased little Margaret.” No one then could have imagined that Harry would someday be president"
"As a young adult, Blevins seemed poised for a career as an educator. He attended Kansas City Junior College and then went to Princeton. His studies there were curtailed due to financial hardship. Returning to the Midwest, he graduated from the University of Missouri – Columbia. Blevins spent six years as an English teacher in Independence before becoming the principal of a junior high school. He played the organ at church and enjoyed traveling in the summers, but theatrical productions were his main interest. Blevins was the writer and director of The Clouds of Times, a 1932 celebration of the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth. In “Blevins Davis: Creating a Cultural Impresario,” Brent Schondelmeyer described A Century of Progress, written and directed by Blevins, which was presented in connection with the dedication of the new courthouse in Independence in September 1933 as having “a cast of 350 players including many of the community’s leading citizens.” His ticket into international attention was a fellowship at Yale University. According to Sharon Baggs, a chance meeting with William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper publisher, at a luncheon, led to Blevins being hired as a writer. His topic? The upcoming coronation of King George VI. And that was just the beginning…
In the April 3, 1937 issue of the Kansas City Independent, our scribe wrote:
“Blevins Davis, who is well known socially in Kansas City, jumped into the spotlight of fame last week when he signed a contract with the National Broadcasting Company to serve as “Staff Commentator” for the coronation of His Majesty George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Blevins will sail on April 18 on the “Normandie”… He is doing graduate work in the Department of Drama of Yale University and has collected invaluable information on the coronation service, symbolism of the regalia, and significance of the state processions. His research on the subject represents material which he has accumulated for the past twelve years.” Sixty years later, Sharon Bagg cast some light on his archives: “Throughout his life, Davis kept huge reference files and scrapbooks on the third floor of his parents’ home… [After meeting William Randolph Hearst] He immediately wired his father to mail the appropriate file.”
"Think for a moment about this: King Edward VIII served
less than a year after his coronation in January 1936 before abdicating
to marry Wallis Warfield Simpson. Had he instead remained as monarch,
Blevins Davis’ files would have had valuable historical information, but
nothing related to current events in 1937," offered the paper.
Blevins’ work with NBC continued, and he also began directing plays on Broadway in New York. In April 1945, Harry S Truman became the 33rd president of the United States. Blevins was certainly qualified to stage patriotic pageants – and having a connection to the White House also helped. By that point, he was known as a theatrical producer who sometimes squired Margaret Truman.Interior of Amusement Hall in Memorial Building at Modern Woodmen of America Sanatorium, showing chandeliers hanging from raftered ceiling, auditorium seating and upright piano at front of hall. Photographer: Standley, Harry L. Courtesy of Gordon Sweet estate. Pikes Peak Library District.
"Republicans approve of the American farmer, but they are willing to help him go broke. They stand four-square for the American home—but not for housing. They are strong for labor—but they are stronger for restricting labor's rights. They favor minimum wage—the smaller the minimum wage the better. They endorse educational opportunity for all—but they won't spend money for teachers or for schools. They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine—for people who can afford them ... They think American standard of living is a fine thing—so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it."— Harry S. Truman, October 13, 1948, St. Paul, Minnesota, Radio Broadcast