Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Truman's Punctuation Prank

I attended the Grand Lodge of Illinois A. F. & A. M. Annual Meeting over the weekend, so I didn't get a chance to write anything brilliant.  However, this is an oldie but a goodie I originally posted back in 2007.  It also features one of my favorite photographs of Harry Truman at the piano . . . hope those of you new to the blog enjoy it, and those of you that have been around a few years don't mind reading it again (I did change it a little bit).
Only in America could a controversy erupt over whether it is appropriate to use a period after Harry Truman's middle name. Harry didn't have a middle name--it's just S.  It was apparently a compromise between his parents and it stood for the name of both his maternal grandfather Solomon Young, and his paternal grandfather Anderson Shipp Truman.

Truman said he had two choices in life: politics or piano player
Any regrets, Harry?
Seems Truman may have created the controvesy himself--possibly in jest.  It's possible, because he was well known for his funny stories. He told a group of reporters in 1962 that the period should be omitted because it doesn't stand for anything.  Some took him seriously, and some didn't.  Some used a period, and some didn't.  Then the question became what was actually correct?  Reporters didn't want to incorrectly punctuate the name of a United States President.  Here we are more than 50 years later still discussing it.  I guess you'd have to give him credit if it was a joke, it was a good one, Mr. President!

And he probably did say that in jest, because the fact is, more often than not (both before and after he told those reporters that in 1962), Harry used a period after the S in his signature.  There are a few examples of when he didn't, but maybe he just did that to mess with us.


Todd E. Creason is an author and novelist whose work includes the award-winning non-fiction historical series Famous American Freemasons and the novels One Last Shot (2011) and A Shot After Midnight (2012). He's currently working on the third novel Shot to Hell which will be released in Spring 2014.


  1. This drives me nuts. The Harry S. Truman Library & Museum (That's the OFFICIAL name) is practically in my back yard. I do a lot of research there. I have been through hundreds, perhaps thousands, of original documents and have yet to find a single one... whether its Brother Truman's signature, his signature stamp or a typewritten name... where there is no period after the "S" - telegrams excepted, but they have no punctuation. As far as I'm concerned, it's "case closed." And I'll bet somewhere MWB Harry is still chuckling over this little prank.

    1. I'm sure you're right... I'm thinking about dropping the period after my middle initial now. :-)


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