Sunday, July 14, 2013

Independence, Missouri -- small-town Americana

I spent June 2013 in Independence, which is a town of 100,000 in Missouri, USA.  I visited here for research work at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, and during this period I learned much about this town's varied histories which make Independence most quirky.

1. Nineteenth-century trading routes converged in Independence, which stretched toward Santa Fe, Oregon, and California.  Merchants met at the Courthouse Exchange to barter deals over a pint of local ale.  This pub remains open in the town’s city square and I quickly became a regular, ordering unfiltered Kansas City Boulevard Beer (of Missouri) and $1 tacos -- a.k.a. grad student bread & butter.  

town square; Courthouse Exchange pub


2. Latter Day Saints (Mormons) settled in Independence and dedicated a sight near to which a Community of Christ Temple was recently erected with rather modern and marveling architecture.  Churches of other Christian denominations also flood Independence and locals are fond of naming their children after ‘strong biblical names’, such as Elijah which is the son of my lovely server Heather at Ophelia’s Restaurant in the city square. 

Community of Christ Temple; taxi driver's dashboard; local license plate

3. The 33rd President of the United States and architect of the post-WWII world order, Harry S. Truman, was born in Independence.  Here can thus be found Truman’s home, a United Nations Plaza where Truman spoke about America’s signing the UN Charter in San Francisco, and the Truman Library.  At the Library I used archives of declassified correspondence and unclassified speeches regarding the Truman Administration’s policy interventions in South Asia and also East Asia, which were shaped heavily by Cold War interests.  Adjacent to the archives is a museum which displays the original document in which Truman authorized an atom bomb over Japan, among other artefacts.  The museum presents history in a very balanced fashion by prompting visitors to express their own views on the efficacy of Truman's administration.  One example is a journal for guests to record why they agree or not with Truman’s authorization of an atom bomb.     
Truman home; Truman in bronze in pavement; Truman statue; UN Plaza

entry sign for Harry S. Truman Library; personal researcher card; archive research room

Truman authorization of atom bomb over Japan; guests to Truman Museum invited to react to atom bomb

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