The Truth About Harry S Truman's Middle Name

Presidential history is littered with morsels of trivia. According to Parade, some popular examples include the first president to die in office (William Henry Harrison), and the only president to be born on July 4 (Calvin Coolidge). One interesting fact associated with the 33rd American president, Harry Truman, is that he's the only president to have a newspaper declare his opponent the victor, only to retract the story. There's one other presidential factoid related to Truman, however, and it has to do with his middle name.

Born in 1884, both Harry S. Truman's grandfathers had an "S" in their name: Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young, per Truman Little White House. As is often the case, Truman's parents chose a middle name in tribute to these patriarchs of the family. Does that mean, then, that the "S" in Truman's name stands for Solomon, or maybe Shipp? That gets us close to the truth about Truman's middle name, but neither answer is exactly correct.

It's just an 'S'

It's now lost to time why Harry Truman's parents decided on just an "S" for their son's middle name. Perhaps it was because they couldn't agree which of their fathers was most deserving of the naming tradition, and so instead, they decided to make it simply an "S," honoring both. It's likely that we'll never know for sure. Since it's just "S" and there's no actual name in the middle explains why Harry S. Truman is sometimes punctuated as Harry S Truman, without a period.

Publishing editors being who they are, however, means that a missing period caused much consternation and debate shortly after Truman was elected to office. Per Truman Library, several popular style manuals insist on the period, including the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style. There's evidence, however, that Truman himself went back and forth on the matter, but in 1962, he did confirm that in his view, the period was not required.