Harry S. Truman and the “One More Club”: The President Makes a Movie

Today’s post is by Laurie Austin. Laurie is an audiovisual archivist at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library. In honor of Home Movie Day 2020, Laurie is sharing the story of how President Truman came to turn his camera on the White House photographers, with delightful results.

President Harry S. Truman had a fascinating relationship with the press. He wasn’t particularly enamored with news reporters, but he had a clear fondness for the photographers and newsreel cameramen who covered his presidency. The relationship went back to at least 1941, when he was a Senator from Missouri and chairman of the Special Senate Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program (known informally as the Truman Committee). While other Senate committees were largely closed to news photographers, the Truman Committee was open to photographers throughout its hearings.

Four men sit in front of microphones at a hearing.
Harry S. Truman is shown in 1942 at a session of the United State Senate’s special committee to investigate the national defense program, of which he was chairman. Pictured from left to right at the counsel table are James M. Mead, Senator from New York; Charles Patrick Clark, associate Chief Counsel; Senator Truman; and Owen Brewster, Senator from Maine, 1942.
(Credit: Office of War Information. Accession Number: 66-2143)

Senator Harry S. Truman also served as a judge for the White House News Photographers Association’s (WHNPA) photo contest, which further endeared him to the cameramen.

After the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945, then-Vice President Truman was sworn in as president and the press photographers experienced a new era of photographic freedom. Compared to his predecessors, FDR had been cooperative with photographers, but they were subject to strict rules about depicting Roosevelt’s use of a wheelchair. Once President Truman took over, press photographers could work with fewer restrictions. The President gave them every opportunity to take photographs, and they would often ask for “just one more.” President Truman usually obliged, at one point saying, “photographers have to make a living, too.”[1]  The One More Club was born, and Harry Truman was its president.

On October 5, 1947, the One More Club presented President Truman with two new cameras, a Graflex Crown Graphic still camera, and a 16mm motion picture camera.

President Harry S. Truman (second from left), holding a press camera, surrounded by unidentified news photographers, October 5, 1947. (Accession Number: 59-1506-3)

The President immediately used both cameras to photograph the White House grounds and the news photographers themselves.

Man with back to camera, takes photograph of a group of men in front of the White House.
Harry S. Truman (back to camera) takes a photograph of the White House photographers (the One More Club) on the south lawn of the White House, October 5, 1947. (Credit: Arthur E. Scott, International News Service. Accession Number: 63-978) Note: Truman’s inscription is highlighted in this image. See the full image using the link in the accession number.

The president annotated this International News Service photo by Arthur Scott, “I take pictures of the ‘One More Club’ HST.”

And here is the still photograph that President Truman took with his new camera.

Members of the White House News Photographers Association pose on the South Lawn of the White House. All are unidentified (except woman photographer Marion Carpenter, first row, third from right). This photograph was taken by President Harry S. Truman using a new Graflex Crown Graphic camera that the WHNPA had just presented to him, October 5, 1947. (Accession Number: 58-217)

The President’s movie camera is a Cine-Kodak Magazine 16 manufactured by Eastman Kodak Company of Rochester, NY. Fitted with a f:1.9, 25mm, Kodak Anastigmat lens, the camera was capable of producing sharp, well-exposed pictures. However, as you’ll probably notice, the photographer needed to be constantly aware of focus, lens opening, framing, and camera speed.  The camera is now part of the Truman Library’s museum collection.

A 16mm film camera, with dedication plaque reading: "To President Harry S. Truman 1947 with admiration from your newsreel friends"
The 16mm film camera the “One More Club” gave to President Truman. (Truman Library)

The inscription on the camera reads, “To President Harry S. Truman 1947 With Admiration From Your Newsreel Friends.”

The National Archives film lab recently preserved and digitized the color motion picture film President Truman made that day. I believe it is one of the most charming movies we have at the Truman Library. In this lighthearted film, which was edited by the White House News Photographers Association, you can see that President Truman is given all the credit for his work. 

President Harry S. Truman shot this footage the day the White House Press Photographers’ Association gave him his 16mm motion picture camera. The film includes humorous intertitles and credits Truman with the work of producing, directing, shooting, and editing the film. (Local Identifier: MP76-56)

Although President Truman’s daughter, Margaret, made more use of the still camera, the President retained control of the movie camera. During his presidency, Truman took the camera with him on outings to Annapolis (MP 77-14 and MP2006-43) and Key West (MP2011-10).

Truman even brought the 16mm camera with him on his trip to Europe in 1958, long after he had left the presidency.  The Truman Library is fortunate to have these films, which show just how much regard he had for the One More Club, and they had for him.

See more films from the Truman Library’s collections on the Harry S. Truman Library YouTube Channel.

[1] Presidential Picture Stories: Behind the Cameras at the White House. Dennis Brack. 2013. p. 38.

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