202. The Political Education of Harry Truman - Farmers and Merchants Bank Building

Politics is all about who you know, and the more people you know and the better they like you, the easier it is to succeed in politics. This building at 101 North Main Street is the old Farmers and Merchants Bank Building. And this building is all about who you know. This is where the Harpie Club met. The Harpie Club was Harry Truman’s poker playing club. It was formed around 1924 by him and some of his friends. Most of them were veterans of World War I. There were usually about 16 to 18 members, and they played every Monday night. Its name, the Harpie Club, had something to do with a harmonica playing contest and was called the Harmonica Club for a time. The name gradually changed into the Harpie Club partly because they found out that sometimes the harmonica is called a French Harp. That may have been something they picked up on during the time they spent in France during World War I. Anyway, the club met here in this building in a back room on the third floor. These were good-natured poker games. Harry Truman really loved poker, but he didn’t seem to take the game too seriously. And it doesn’t sound like he was much of a bluffer, either—he was a pretty straightforward guy. One of his friends recalled. "You can tell when he's winning, because there's a kind of smile on his face." These men, Truman’s friends, were prominent men in the community—business owners, public officials, government employees—and it was these friends that assisted Harry Truman in his political career. So, Harry learned it’s good to have friends. Before he settled completely into politics, though, Harry tried to be a businessman and chose friends of his for his business partners. None of these business ventures worked out, but it wasn’t always his fault. Go on to the next stop, number 203 and we’ll talk about that.