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EMAILED ON February 14, 2020 BY Nick DeSantis

Small business of the week: Harry Truman’s fashion flop

Hope you enjoy this throwback special in place of our regularly scheduled small biz feature.

Shirts, belts, gloves, hats. You could find it all at Kansas City’s Truman & Jacobson haberdashery, which opened its doors on November 28, 1919. Harry Truman launched the men’s clothing store with a wartime pal, Eddie Jacobson.

Jacobson had 10 years of experience in the clothing biz, so at first, the store was a success. But when the economy tanked in the early 1920s, the cash stopped pouring in. The store held a going out of business sale in September 1922, leaving Truman on the edge of ruin.

Jacobson declared bankruptcy in 1925, but Truman never did. The presidential historian Michael Beschloss wrote that Truman’s business failure had a major influence on his handling of the nation’s finances as president.

  • Founders: Harry Truman, Eddie Jacobson
  • Years in business: 3
  • Funding methods: Sold holdings in family farm (including hundreds of hogs), loans
  • 1st-year revenue: an estimated $70k in 1920 (about $900k today)

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