What Was Harry S. Truman’s Middle Name?

Sometimes the simplest and most correct answers are the least satisfying.

  • Published 31 December 2002

Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States, came into the world on 8 May 1884. However, his parents, John Anderson Truman and Martha Ellen Truman, couldn’t decide on a suitable name for their bouncing baby boy, and when the attending doctor finally registered the child’s birth with the county clerk a month later, the infant still had no name. Eventually the Trumans chose to name their boy “Harry” after his maternal uncle, Harrison Young.

Unable to decide between a middle name honoring Harry’s maternal grandfather (Solomon Young) or his paternal grandfather (Anderson Shipp[e] Truman), John and Martha opted not to give little Harry a middle name at all and settled on something that could represent either grandparent: the letter ‘S’ by itself. (As Truman biographer David McCullough noted, using a single letter that stood for nothing specific was “a practice not unknown among the Scotch-Irish, even for first names.”)

Although the ‘S’ was not technically an abbreviation and therefore did not need to be followed by a period, Truman’s full name was generally rendered as ‘Harry S. Truman’ during his lifetime, and Truman himself used letterhead bearing the name ‘Harry S. Truman’ and signed his name with a period after the ‘S,’ as shown in these excerpts from letters on file at the Truman Presidential Museum & Library:

Snopes.com
Since 1994
A Word to Our Loyal Readers

Support Snopes and make a difference for readers everywhere.

Editorial
  • David Mikkelson
  • Doreen Marchionni
  • David Emery
  • Bond Huberman
  • Jordan Liles
  • Alex Kasprak
  • Dan Evon
  • Dan MacGuill
  • Bethania Palma
  • Liz Donaldson
Operations
  • Vinny Green
  • Ryan Miller
  • Chris Reilly
  • Chad Ort
  • Elyssa Young

Most Snopes assignments begin when readers ask us, “Is this true?” Those tips launch our fact-checkers on sprints across a vast range of political, scientific, legal, historical, and visual information. We investigate as thoroughly and quickly as possible and relay what we learn. Then another question arrives, and the race starts again.

We do this work every day at no cost to you, but it is far from free to produce, and we cannot afford to slow down. To ensure Snopes endures — and grows to serve more readers — we need a different kind of tip: We need your financial support.

Support Snopes so we continue to pursue the facts — for you and anyone searching for answers.

Team Snopes