Over the years, visitors passing by the southeast grounds of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum may have noticed a two-foot tall gray granite cube, with a sundial on top and inscriptions on its sides. The cube contains a time capsule, in which artifacts, letters and other objects are buried.
On Sept. 3, 1976, America’s bicentennial year, the Independence Jaycee Wives, in cooperation with the Independence Bicentennial Committee, presented the capsule to the Truman Library and the Jackson County Historical Society. The dedication ceremony took place on the library’s east lawn. According to a library press release, the capsule was “dedicated to the memory of Harry S. Truman … in recognition of his interest in preserving the past as a preparation for the future.” Truman died in 1972.
The guest list at the dedication ceremonies included Independence Mayor Richard King; Truman Library Director Benedict Zobrist; Congressman William Randall; and the keynote speaker, U.S. Sen. Thomas Eagleton of Missouri. Carole Blackmore, president of the Independence Jaycee Wives, presented the capsule, and Carol Tally, chairwoman of the Time Capsule Committee, unveiled it. The Truman High School band performed a concert at the ceremony, which about 150 people attended; it was one of Independence’s Santa-Cali-Gon Days Festival events that year. Neither Margaret Truman Daniel, who lived in New York City, nor Bess Truman, who was 91 years old at that time, attended.
In January 1977, the capsule was sealed and buried at its current location, which is near the Liberty Bell replica. Inside were 54 items, including letters from President Gerald Ford and first lady Betty Ford, a recording and transcript of U.S. Sen. Stuart Symington accepting the city of Independence’s Public Service Award, a Truman medallion, notes from Bess Truman, Independence Chamber of Commerce promotional materials, a letter from United Nations Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim, and photographs taken by The Examiner on May 8, 1976, which would have been Harry Truman’s 92nd birthday. These items were placed in a metal box and sealed by Johnson & Sons Monument Company, which also designed the capsule.
The capsule will be opened on Harry Truman’s birthday, May 8, 2076, almost 100 years after its dedication. According to a letter of disposition, the capsule’s contents will thereafter become the Jackson County Historical Society’s property.
The capsule cost about $1,000 to create, and funds largely came from the Jaycee wives’ sale of bicentennial mugs and plates and from funds contributed by the Independence Bicentennial Committee. Tally apparently originated the capsule idea. As for the Jaycee Wives’ involvement, Blackmore commented, “we wanted to leave something permanent reflecting what people today want to convey to people of 2076,” the year in which America will celebrate its 300th birthday, or tricentennial.
Included in the capsule is a letter from Walter Cronkite, longtime "CBS Evening News" anchor and a native of St. Joseph, Missouri. Cronkite wrote of his hope for 2076: “That we remain strong enough to correct our own mistakes, in the cause of the justice for all that was Harry Truman’s guiding principle.”
The time capsule dedication ceremony wasn’t the only way that the Truman Library, and the city of Independence, marked the nation’s bicentennial and honored Harry Truman’s memory. In May 1976, President Ford came to Independence to dedicate a Truman statue on the east side of the historic Courthouse. The statue still stands.
– Sam Rushay is the supervisory archivist of the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence.