The Who2 Blog

Harry Truman, Jesse James, and a Bucket of Warm Spit

Photo of Harry Truman looking at two long pistols held by a grinning white-haired dude with a cigar

President Harry Truman was born 129 years ago, on May 8, 1884.  In his honor, here’s a photo of him from his days in the Senate with that notorious wag, Vice President John Nance Garner.

Truman was from Missouri and Nance was from Texas, so naturally they’re horsing around with the guns of outlaw Jesse James. Says the Library of Congress:

After inspecting a couple of 45-caliber pistols formerly owned by Jesse James, famed bandit of another generation, Vice President Garner playfully tries his “stickup” technique on Senator Harry Truman of Missouri, present owner of the guns. Senator Truman secured the guns in Southern Missouri from a doctor’s wife, whose husband received them in payment of medical services rendered Frank James, another of the James’ boys.

Here’s another shot from the same session:

Another angle of the same two guys messing with the long pistols

Senator Truman’s suit and handkerchief are impressively crisp. (That’s what you get from a former haberdasher.) These shots are from 1938, seven years before Truman himself became vice president and then, after the death of Franklin Roosevelt, president of these United States.

John Nance Garner was FDR’s vice president from 1933 until 1941, when he retired back to Texas. Garner is famous for saying that the vice presidency “is not worth a bucket of warm spit.” Did he actually say that line? The scholarly view is that he probably did, though he may have said “quart” or “pitcher” instead. (Eww.) He also probably said “piss” instead of spit, but “the journalistic standards of the era would not allow for the introduction of some of the earthy language that Garner often employed.”

Harry Truman died in 1972 at the ripe age of 88. Garner went him a decade better, dying at the age of 98 in 1967. And Jesse James, of course, never died at all.  

See our full biography of President Harry Truman »


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