Wikipedia's list of characters in Atlas Shrugged describes Mr. Thompson as follows:

Mr. Thompson is the "Head of the State" for the United States. He is not particularly intelligent and has a very undistinguished look. He knows politics, however, and is a master of public relations and back-room deals. Rand's notes indicate that she modeled him on President Harry S. Truman, and that she deliberately decided not to call him "President of the United States" as this title has "honorable connotations" which the character does not deserve.

In what way was he based on Harry S. Truman? Why Harry Truman in particular?

  • > In 1933, Truman was named Missouri's director for the Federal Re-Employment program (part of the Civil Works Administration) at the request of Postmaster General James Farley. This was payback to Pendergast for delivering the Kansas City vote to Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1932 presidential election. The appointment confirmed Pendergast's control over federal patronage jobs in Missouri and marked the zenith of his power. It also created a relationship between Truman and Roosevelt aide Harry Hopkins and assured Truman's avid support for the New Deal. (Wiki)
    – DVK
    Commented Dec 3, 2017 at 19:58

1 Answer 1


I think there is some compelling circumstantial evidence that Mr. Thompson was based on Harry Truman:

  1. First and most conclusively, the timeline fits. Truman was president from 1945 to 1953. Atlas Shrugged was being written from 1943 to 1957. So there is solid overlap between the two.
  2. Second, Truman was a democrat, and we know that Rand (and especially the ideologies put forth in Atlas Shrugged) were decidedly against democrat/socialist philosophies.
  3. Mr. Thompson's title is "Head of State" - clearly a reference to POTUS. In fact it's plausible that the reason she used that title instead of the POTUS title was so the comparison wouldn't be too blatantly obvious.
  4. This is reaching, I know: when I watch old footage of Truman, I really see him the way Rand describes Mr. Thompson:

Mr. Thompson's collars were usually wilted. He had broad shoulders and a slight body. He had stringy hair, a wide mouth and an elastic age range that made him look like a harassed forty or an unusually vigorous sixty. Holding enormous official powers, he schemed ceaselessly to expand them, because it was expected of him by those who had pushed him into office. He had the cunning of the unintelligent and the frantic energy of the lazy. The sole secret of his rise in life was the fact that he was a product of chance and knew it and aspired to nothing else.

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