Unpacking Manuel’s: Portrait of Harry S Truman
Manuel Maloof turned Manuel’s Tavern turned it into an almost-museum where his friends, family, and fellow democrats would come to visit and leave little bits of their memories behind. One of these artifacts is a portrait of Harry S Truman by John Slavin, hanging on the level 2 north-west wall, and it serves to create a connection between the past, present, and future of American politics and the political influences the Tavern experiences, as well as those influenced by customers of the Tavern.
The actual portrait is part of the Truman Library collection in the Truman Library & Museum. It dates back to 1964 during Truman’s first term as president. The portrait is quite similar to the official presidential portrait of president Truman. It could be easily mistaken to be the official one. Except, in the portrait by John Slavin, Truman appears to be writing/ signing a document. While the official portrait appears very formal and depicts him sitting in front of an image of the white house, the portrait by Slavin seems to show him in a more familiar setting, it might be him in his study the White House while he was living there during his time as president, or a similarly homely setting.
All of the pictures, posters and painting’s hanging on the walls of the Tavern seem to have some historical of cultural connection with Maloof’s life, pop culture at that time and the democratic party. Harry S Truman was the 33rd President of the United States. Similar to Manuel Maloof, President Truman was also a democrat which could link to why Maloof chose to hang his portrait. Truman served as president from 1945 – 1953, after the death of Franklin Roosevelt, and was elected for a second term. Maloof could have been inspired by Truman and the hard choices he had to make, as a gesture of respect and dignity towards the former president as well as a fellow democrat, and to serve as a reminder of what happened during Truman’s term as president, giving him reason to hang the portrait.
Harry Truman was president during World War II. It was his harsh decision to drop nuclear missiles on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Maloof, perhaps, wanted his portrait to serve as a reminder of what war could do, and how it’s his responsibility as a political figure to prevent similar events from taking place again. But during his time, President Truman was much more than a war time president. Truman’s victory during the 1948 election is considered one of the most surprising victories in presidential history. The US economy had been shaken by the war and the population was uncertain about whether Truman would be a suitable leader after he “dropped the bomb” on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Conservative southern democrats who refused to support Truman’s civil-rights movement also devoted time and energy to ensure he wasn’t elected. But his “whistlestop tour” proved to be extremely successful in gathering as many voters, making voting for him the popular opinion. Even with the odds stacked up against him, Truman successfully won the election. This is perhaps why Maloof decided to hang the portrait up on the wall. It reminds people of how you could overcome anything if you set your heart to it.
He also could have put it up to depict the role media plays in the election process. Media outlets had predicted that Dewey, the republican candidate would win the election. In hopes of being the first print media to publish the news of Dewey’s win against Truman, The Chicago Daily Tribune, which leaned towards a more Republican direction, published newspapers with the front page reading “Dewey Defeats Truman.” The day he was elected, Truman posed with the newspaper with utmost joy. This, perhaps, is what Maloof was trying to show about American politics and media. Nothing is certain, and in the matter of a few months everything could change. Truman winning the election, even though it was predicted Dewey would have a landslide victory, is just what American politics embodies. The case emphasizes the unpredictability of politics, and the impact it has on the lives of not just politicians, but everyone else. It also shows how media tends to be biased towards one party or the other and how the media too can have vast influences on how people perceive certain candidacies or political parties.
This also transfers into current affairs. Manuel’s Tavern, by having a picture of Truman on the wall, is influencing how people perceive certain political parties as well, but also how they perceive the Tavern itself. Each person who views the picture could interpret it in a different way, and every individual has a different way of responding to it. Some people, who are familiar with Truman and know about his time as president may recognize the picture, others may not have any clue who Truman is and why he’s on the wall. The Tavern itself, therefore, would be a place that brings different people together. It’s a place where people from all walks of life come together and exchange knowledge and leave a bit of their lifestyle behind. The fact portrait of Truman is hanging there with a variety of other artifacts that represent blue-collar jobs to white-collar desk jobs, allows people to perceive what type of politicians visited the Tavern, and who their customers were.
Overall, Manuel’s Tavern has created a living, thriving connection between the past and present, and the portrait of Harry S Truman helps to showcase those connections. The Tavern and the artifact serve as a time capsules which, if preserved, will grant generations to come an unaltered and unhindered view of what pop-culture and politics were like, starting from the 70’s, up until the present, and, hopefully, the future as well.
Harry S Truman Library & Museum “Portrait of President Truman by John Slavin.” Truman Library Photograph. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Oct. 2016.
PBS: Harry S Truman Presidential Politics “General Article: Presidential Politics.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 06 Oct. 2016.
PBS: Southern Response to the Civil-Rights Speech Excerpted from: Congressional Record – House, April 8, 1948, pp. 4270-4272. Speaker: William M. Colmer, Democratic Representative from Mississippi.
The Chicago Tribune: Dewey Defeats Truman Jones, Tim. “Dewey Defeats Truman.” Chicagotribune.com. N.p., 2008. Web. 06 Oct. 2016.