Skip to main content

To Plan A Trip

May 2024
1min read

Call the Independence Tourism Office at 800-810-4700, or visit www.ci.independence.mo.us , for general information on local attractions and events. During the first week in May, Independence throws a birthday party for Truman, offering discounts on admission to all its historic sites and serving free birthday cake in the town square. There are many things to do and see in Independence, but except for a few bed-and-breakfasts, there aren’t many places to stay. I recommend finding a place in Kansas City, a fifteen-minute drive away, whose many urban attractions serve as a counterpoint to Independence’s rural charms.

Directly across the street from Independence’s National Frontier Trails Center, the Bingham-Waggoner Estate is worth a visit, both as a lovely example of Italian Renaissance Revival architecture and as the onetime home of the painter George Caleb Bingham. The house holds many prints of his works, including his Order No. 11 , which depicts the hardships inflicted on Missourians by the Union’s declaration of martial law in Missouri in 1863 and the removal from their homes of all the civilians in three and a half counties bordering on Kansas. Bingham, like most Missourians, was loyal to the Union, but he said of the order, “The effect of it was not only the depopulation, but the desolation of one of the fairest and most highly cultivated districts in our state. The people … were compelled to abandon their homes. … Their dwellings were plundered and then burned to the ground.”

Take the time to wander through downtown Independence and visit its many antiques shops. Be sure to stop in at Clinton’s Old-Fashioned Soda Fountain, where the young Harry Truman got his first job. “I can remember the first three dollars I received for working a week,” he recalled. “I had to wipe off the bottles, mop the floor every morning, make ice cream for sodas, and wait on the customers. That three silver dollars looked like three million and meant a lot more. I’ve never had as much or as big a payday since.” Today the soda fountain is run by the Jackson County Historical Society, and you can check out a display of Truman memorabilia while sipping a vanilla Coke at the long marble bar.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this magazine of trusted historical writing, now in its 75th year, and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.

Donate