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#1
Old 04-12-2002, 12:20 AM
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Harry S Trumans middle name

I was told that the S in Harry S. Truman, a president of the USA elected at the end of the second world war, stood for a Russian name. It was something like Sergi.

However when I look it up on the WWW there are many references saying there was no middle name or it stood for his grandfathers name.

What gives?
#2
Old 04-12-2002, 12:27 AM
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I was told that his middle name was S - just hte letter S - because his grandfathers' names both started with an S and his parents didn't want to choose between which to honor.
#3
Old 04-12-2002, 12:30 AM
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I've also heard that it was just "S"

no abbreviation
#4
Old 04-12-2002, 12:41 AM
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It is just S.

Apparently Harry's parents had quite a few members of each respective family whose name began with "S," and rather than choose one to give him, they just decided to honor them all, but more specifically the two grandfathers.
#5
Old 04-12-2002, 03:14 AM
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I heard his parents dropped a piece of noodle on his birth certificate (in the shape of an S) and it kinda stuck. ::shrug:: :b
#6
Old 04-12-2002, 03:33 AM
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If I'm not mistaken, he gave his name as Harry S Truman--no period after the S.
#7
Old 04-12-2002, 03:45 AM
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It is correct that the "S" is not short for anything. "To period or not to period" can be a tough issue for the picky, but I'm willing to defer to the Harry S. Truman Library. It has on its website this page, which addresses the issue of the period.

It says, in part:
Quote:
The evidence provided by Mr. Truman's own practice argues strongly for the use of the period. While, as many people do, Mr. Truman often ran the letters in his signature together in a single stroke, the archives of the Harry S. Truman Library has numerous examples of the signature written at various times throughout Mr. Truman's lifetime where his use of a period after the "S" is very obvious.

<snip>

Most published works using the name Harry S. Truman employ the period. Authors choosing to omit the period in their texts must still use it when citing the names of organizations that employ the period in their legal titles (i.e. Harry S. Truman Library) thus seeming to contradict themselves.
#8
Old 04-12-2002, 10:21 AM
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I offer no authoritative evidence on this subject. All I know is that most respected reference books say Truman's parents gave him the middle initial "S" without telling anyone what it stood for, so that two different sets of relatives (each of whose family names started with "S") could think Harry had been named for them.

That's a plausible story, and I can buy it. But I myself brought up the issue of "Sergei" on these boards, after seeing an old George Burns movie called "18 Again." In that movie, the mind of elderly George Burns is placed in the body of a young college student (Charlie Schlatter). In history class, a smug professor embarrasses kids by asking them what the "S" in Harry Truman's name stood for, and then smirking that it didn't stand for anything.

Now, the George Burns character supposedly KNEW Harry Truman, way back when. So the kid with George Burns' mind scoffs at the professor, saying something like, "Ha! You idiot! You BELIEVED that old story? His middle initial stood for Sergei. His family was part Russian. But he didn't want to be perceived as a Russian sympathizer, so he told people the "S" didn't stand for anything!"

Now, I have NEVER seen that claim substantiated anywhere. In fact, I'd never heard it before seeing the movie. OBVIOUSLY, silly movie comedies are NOT a great place to look for historical data... but I've long been curious as to where that theory came from. Did the screenwriter make it up completely? Were there long-standing rumors to that effect (perhaps scurrlilous rumors made up by Red-baiters in the McCarthy era)?

In short, it's an interesting rumor, if true... but apart from that dubious film, I've never seen any evidence to suggest that it is.
#9
Old 04-12-2002, 10:36 AM
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Truman's family history is pretty well known (see McCullouch's biography Truman, or just about any book on him) -- no Russians anywhere in sight on that family tree.

Verdict -- as you say, don't get your history from movies. If you do, I've got a fantastic deal on this here black statue of a Falcon. It's from Malta.
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#10
Old 04-12-2002, 10:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by clonestyle
I heard his parents dropped a piece of noodle on his birth certificate (in the shape of an S) and it kinda stuck. ::shrug:: :b
I think this story came from James Whitmore's one man show (and movie) 'Give 'Em Hell Harry'.
#11
Old 04-12-2002, 02:05 PM
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In the normal FN-MI-LN format (Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, George W. Bush), Harry's name was Harry S. Truman.

When written out, ā la Franklin Delano Roosevelt, it was Harry S Truman. The S. stood for his middle name, which was S
#12
Old 04-12-2002, 02:18 PM
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I have it on good authority that his middle name was Sue .



The again the guy who told me that did end up in Folsum Prision.
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#13
Old 04-12-2002, 04:58 PM
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Looks like I'm beating a dead horse, but...

From the USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75) website:

You can use the period or not use the period, it is up to you.

The S is not an abbreviation for anything.
#14
Old 04-12-2002, 07:21 PM
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Harry S Trumans middle name

FYI, Harry Truman's grandfathers' last names were Solomon and Shippe, IIRC, and rather than offend one or the other, the compromise of just using "S" was improvised.

Hope that helps,
TD
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#15
Old 04-13-2002, 12:16 PM
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Close but no cigar.

One of Harry's grandfathers was Solomon Young. His great-grandfather (one of them) on his father's side was a Shippe -- and that name was preserved in the family. So yes, the S was a compromise between Solomon and Shippe, as you note, but not on account of its being his grandfathers' surnames (one of them, of course, would have had to have been Truman).
#16
Old 04-14-2002, 11:48 PM
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More info on the S in Harry S Truman. I did a search on "Harry Sergei Truman", with correct spelling of Sergei, and was returned the URL...
skeptics.com.au/features/quiz/quiz0105.htm
A reference here says...
"For the truth of the matter, you have to either look at the birth records for Lamar Missouri
(there is only one Truman born there on May 8 1884 - "Harry Sergei Truman." Read the autobiography of Allen W. Barkley (Truman's VP) or read the superlative "an Underground Education" by Richard Zacks. It is for this reason alone that Harry Truman's birth certificates are not on display at his presidential museum."

I was thinking that Astorians theory the Sergie rumour started via the George Burns movie was satisfactory, but now I dont know.

Anyone live in Lamar Missouri?
#17
Old 01-16-2012, 07:44 PM
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Source

I think the idea that it stands for Sergei comes from the movie "18 Again!" I found this thread because that idea was outlined in the movie and I was curious whether there was any truth to it. Ultimately I think it was just a plot device.
#18
Old 01-16-2012, 07:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Polycarp View Post
... his grandfathers' surnames (one of them, of course, would have had to have been Truman).
That's only true if everyone takes their father's surname. At least one President of the U.S. had a surname that did not belong to one of his grandfathers: Gerald Ford's grandfathers were Lynch and Gardner -- he took his stepfather's surname.
#19
Old 01-16-2012, 08:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Giles View Post
That's only true if everyone takes their father's surname. At least one President of the U.S. had a surname that did not belong to one of his grandfathers: Gerald Ford's grandfathers were Lynch and Gardner -- he took his stepfather's surname.
Note that this is a ten year old thread that has been revived.
#20
Old 01-16-2012, 08:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hajario View Post
Note that this is a ten year old thread that has been revived.
I knew that, but Polycarp still posts here regularly, and no one had responded to his comment.
#21
Old 01-16-2012, 09:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Giles View Post
That's only true if everyone takes their father's surname. At least one President of the U.S. had a surname that did not belong to one of his grandfathers: Gerald Ford's grandfathers were Lynch and Gardner -- he took his stepfather's surname.
As is the case with President William Jefferson Blythe III.
#22
Old 01-16-2012, 09:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by antechinus View Post
More info on the S in Harry S Truman. I did a search on "Harry Sergei Truman", with correct spelling of Sergei, and was returned the URL...
skeptics.com.au/features/quiz/quiz0105.htm
A reference here says...
"For the truth of the matter, you have to either look at the birth records for Lamar Missouri
(there is only one Truman born there on May 8 1884 - "Harry Sergei Truman." Read the autobiography of Allen W. Barkley (Truman's VP) or read the superlative "an Underground Education" by Richard Zacks. It is for this reason alone that Harry Truman's birth certificates are not on display at his presidential museum."

I was thinking that Astorians theory the Sergie rumour started via the George Burns movie was satisfactory, but now I dont know.

Anyone live in Lamar Missouri?
That link goes to nothing today and the Australian Skeptics site returns no entries for that name combination.

There is nothing on Google today for "Harry Sergei Truman" except references to this post, which is being quoted as true. A search inside Alben (not Allen) W. Barkley's autobiography, That Reminds Me, yields no hits for Sergei.

Since there is no evidence whatsoever that such a birth certificate exists and no biographer of Truman refers to Sergei as a middle name, I have to conclude that if such a posting ever existed it was a hoax. I wanted to get this post on the record so that when Google comes up with this thread in the future nobody can take it as confirmation of something so silly.
#23
Old 01-17-2012, 02:17 AM
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I'd just like to point out that the thread title is missing an apostrophe.
#24
Old 01-17-2012, 04:10 AM
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Harry "Seven" Truman?

SUSAN: Seven Costanza? You're serious?
GEORGE: Yeah. It's a beautiful name for a boy or a girl...
SUSAN: I don't think so.
GEORGE: What, you don't like the name?
SUSAN: It's not a name. It's a number.
GEORGE: I know. It's Mickey Mantle's number. So not only is it an all around beautiful name, it is also a living tribute.
SUSAN: It's awful. I hate it!
GEORGE: (angry) Well, that's the name!
SUSAN: (also angry) Oh no it is not! No child of mine is ever going to be named Seven!
GEORGE: (yelling) Awright, let's just stay calm here! Don't get all crazy on me!
#25
Old 01-17-2012, 08:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by antechinus View Post
I was told that the S in Harry S. Truman, a president of the USA elected at the end of the second world war . . .
Just surprised to be the first SDMB pedant to point out that Truman was not elected President until more that three years after the end of the second world war.

Last edited by bienville; 01-17-2012 at 08:42 AM. Reason: more pedant picking
#26
Old 01-17-2012, 09:12 AM
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In modern usage (at least in the UK) the style is increasingly to omit those fussy dots after initials, so the question is academic. It's the BBC, not the B. B. C.
#27
Old 01-17-2012, 09:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Tim R. Mortiss View Post
I'd just like to point out that the thread title is missing an apostrophe.
You mean it should be Harry S' Truman?
#28
Old 01-17-2012, 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Colophon View Post
In modern usage (at least in the UK) the style is increasingly to omit those fussy dots after initials, so the question is academic. It's the BBC, not the B. B. C.
Well, the Brits just make a mess of putting commas where there should be periods and periods where there should be commas, so it may be for the best that they just get out of the business all together.
#29
Old 01-17-2012, 09:46 AM
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I guess this would be the attack of the zombie presidents. (runs)
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#30
Old 01-17-2012, 09:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wheelz View Post
You mean it should be Harry S' Truman?
Don't be silly, everyone know's apostrophe's come before an S.

It's Harry'S Truman.

bienville - We do? If we do then Americans are equally guilty, as I think we follow the same system as them in that regard. Funny European types, on the other hand...
#31
Old 01-17-2012, 11:07 AM
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I once had a chat with Gloria Steinem about how "Ms" should not have a period after it, as it is not an abbreviation, but a made-up word.

Mr. is short for Mister; Mrs. is short for Mistress or Missus. But Miss is not an abbreviation and neither is Ms. Gloria Steinem agreed, but said, "well, it's about 30 years too late for me to do anything about it now."
#32
Old 01-17-2012, 08:23 PM
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I think the man's own practice would put to rest any pedantic objection. He used a period after the S. Period.

David McCullough's biography (p. 37) says "It could be taken to stand for Solomon or Shipp, but actually stood for nothing, a practice not unknown among the Scotch-Irish, even for first names."
#33
Old 01-17-2012, 09:01 PM
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Thanks for all your efforts working on this case over the last 10 years. I think we are getting closer to the truth. Keep up the good work.
#34
Old 01-17-2012, 09:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisk View Post
I guess this would be the attack of the zombie presidents. (runs)
Don't be slly; it was FDR, not Truman, who had the Brains Trust. (*runs faster*)

Last edited by Polycarp; 01-17-2012 at 09:13 PM.
#35
Old 01-17-2012, 11:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Colophon View Post
bienville - We do? If we do then Americans are equally guilty, as I think we follow the same system as them in that regard. Funny European types, on the other hand...
Oh, my mistake. I thought our systems were flipped when working with numbers: one and one tenth being "1,1" for you guys, and one thousand being "1.000".

I stand corrected. It seems you are not as ridiculous as I thought you were. Only just ridiculous enough to say things like "aluminium".
#36
Old 01-17-2012, 11:14 PM
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'It is true that in British style, quotes are normally inside the punctuation', he commented.

"In American style, quote are normally outside."

'Hey, you use double quotes where we use single quotes.'

"'Two countries separated by a common language,' as Churchill said."

'I saw what you did there'.

"Should that be, 'I saw what you did there.'?"

'Now I'm totally confused..."
#37
Old 01-18-2012, 04:34 PM
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http://snopes.com/history/american/truman.asp
#38
Old 01-18-2012, 06:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Polycarp View Post
In the normal FN-MI-LN format (Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, George W. Bush), Harry's name was Harry S. Truman.

When written out, ā la Franklin Delano Roosevelt, it was Harry S Truman. The S. stood for his middle name, which was S
Carp, carp, carp.
#39
Old 01-19-2012, 12:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
Since there is no evidence whatsoever that such a birth certificate exists and no biographer of Truman refers to Sergei as a middle name
Obviously it is all a cover up. Truman was Russian. If not, why wouldn't they just produce the birth certificate!
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