A Family – and now Historical – Record

History has documented Woodrow Wilson’s birth as being December 28, 1856 in Staunton, VA. It’s the reason our museum and library are located in the area, but have you ever wondered how we knew that Wilson was in fact born here? If you need some the proof, it’s housed in our library in the form of the Wilson Family Bible.

Bible 1 - Copy

Given by descendants of Joseph Ruggles and Jessie Woodrow Wilson, this family Bible is now part of the WWPL archival collection.

The Wilson Family Bible belonged to Reverend Joseph Ruggles Wilson and his wife Janet “Jessie” Woodrow Wilson. Rev. Wilson, a Presbyterian Minister, received the call to serve Staunton in 1855. It is believed that Rev. Wilson acquired the bible during his time in school or as a teacher and it followed him to his time in the area. Titled Holy Bible and published in 1846 in New York, the Wilson Family Bible was an American Bible Society book, measuring 7 ¾ inches wide, 10 ¾ inches long and 3 ¼ inches deep.

Birth Records 2 - Copy

Woodrow Wilson’s parents’ births are also recorded in their family Bible.

The bible was used daily and it is believed that the book was kept in the parlor for easy access, especially during the evening. While the Wilson’s did use the bible throughout their daily lives for scripture, it was used for another important matter: record keeping. Rev. Wilson and Mrs. Wilson recorded the birth of all their children in the family bible. In between the New and Old Testaments of the Bible are the inscriptions of the birth of each of the Wilson children. It reads Marion Wilson, born in Wash. Co., Pennsylvania on October 20, 1851 at 1 ¾ o’clock in the afternoon, Anne “Annie” Wilson in Hampton Sydney, Virginia on September 8, 1853 a 8 ¾ o’clock, Thomas Woodrow Wilson in Staunton, Virginia on December 28, 1856 at 12 ¾ o’clock at night, and Joseph Wilson, Jr. in Augusta, Georgia on July 20, 1867 at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

Birth Records - Copy

The Wilsons record the births and baptisms of their children.

In addition to their own children’s births Rev. Wilson and Jessie Wilson recorded their own births with Rev. Wilson born in Steubenville, OH on February 28, 1822 and Jessie Wilson’s birth in Carlisle, England on December 20, 1830. Their marriage was also recorded as being June 7, 1849. One death was put into the bible as well being the death of James Wilson, Joseph’s father and Woodrow’s grandfather on October 17, 1850.

Marriage Record

Joseph Ruggles Wilson and Jessie E. Woodrow were married on June 7, 1849.

Without this inscription, we would not have the birth dates of the Wilson Family. There would be no proof that Woodrow Wilson was born the day he was in Staunton, since a Rev. and Mrs. Wilson did not go to the Augusta County Courthouse to officially file the birth of their new son. This bible is the only record of his birth and as a result it’s the reason that Staunton can take pride in the fact that a Untied States President was born here.

Written by WWPL intern Hayley Moore

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A Most Precious Book

Bible 1 - Copy

The Wilson family Bible is one of the most prized possessions at the WWPL. Not only is it an artifact that belonged to the family of Woodrow Wilson, but it also includes a record of the president’s date of birth in Staunton.  By 2003, the bible originally published in 1846 was over 150 years old. Having been on display for the public in the parlor of the birthplace for a number of years, the book’s age was starting to show. Many of the bible’s pages were torn and both the middle binding and front leather covers were falling off. Knowing its importance to the life and legacy of Wilson, the library knew that the bible needed to be preserved the bible for future generations. As a result, Deer Leap Book and Paper Conservation in Orange, VA were commissioned to rebind the bible.

Birth Records - Copy

In order to begin the process, both original bible covers were removed. The ink inside of the bible had to be tested in a mixture that was one part alcohol and three parts water to determine if the ink was still stable and would not deteriorate any of the original pages. It was found that the ink was stable and in order to preserve the writing, the pages were washed in three baths of a distilled water and a fourth bath with calcium carbonate. This allowed for the de-acidification of any lingering acid that could deteriorate the bible further. There were also a number of missing pages that included page 11 and pages 1199 to 1201. They were replaced with hand-made paper and new end pages of hand-made paper and sewn into the book using thread that would not damage the book as time went on. Torn pages were repaired with Japanese tissue page at the ends and were mended using water-based colored pencils to replicate the color of the original pages.

The original inside of the bible included an inscription about the ownership and origin of the book. In order to keep the history conserved, these cover pages were attached at the inside and front back covers in order so that the inscription of the original bible could still be seen. Then, the spine was stamped with “Holy Bible” written in gold leather with the leather treated with leather strengthener. Lastly, the original covers and binds of the bible were placed in separate acid-free envelopes in order for them to continue to be preserved.

Inside Cover Description - Copy

The conservation project of the Wilson Family Bible was completed on January 30, 2004 and is still housed in our library for researchers and those interested in the life of Woodrow Wilson. Thanks to this conservation process, it is hoped that the bible will continue to be in our library for years to come.

Written by WWPL intern Hayley Moore

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Wilson According to Hollywood

It was 1944 and President Wilson’s idea for a League of Nations with American participation was being considered in a more sympathetic light than had been seen in 1919. Many felt that America’s isolationist turn after the First World War had been one of the reasons that the Second World War was not averted. It was in the light of these new sympathies for Wilson’s idea that a movie was born.


“Wilson”- the movie – was produced by Darryl Zanuck and released by Twentieth Century Fox. The movie was directed by Henry King and starred Alexander Knox in the role as President Woodrow Wilson. The WWPL Pamphlet Collection holds a 1944 promotional booklet for the movie. (The promotional material was published by The Woodrow Wilson Foundation.) The booklet describes reactions to the movie from all sorts of media, including newspapers, magazines and radio commentators.

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The New York Post movie reviewer wrote;

“… A lot of us are too young to remember the fight between Wilson and the isolationist Senators. But those who are too young to remember Wilson are young enough to be fighting in Guam and Britanny. [sic] The history of Wilson’s failure has been the history of their lives. They are giving their lives to find the answers to questions that haunted Wilson. They are fighting to rewrite the end of Wilson’s story into lasting peace.”

The New York Times had these words about the movie;

“…one may confidently inquire whether this is not truly a picture with an importance far beyond the theater… And that takes us on to the question whether here, for perhaps the first time, the screen may not do a concrete service befitting its large public scope. For the fact is too plain for disputation that there is heady special pleading in this film – special pleading for an international ideal envisioning permanent peace. From watching the patrons at the Roxy… it is evident that this film is firing a warm enthusiasm for a league of nations ideal. “


Visitors to the Wilson Library archive can access this document in the WWPL Pamphlet Collection and see dozens more movie reviews contained within the promotional booklet. Reviewers included Life, Look and Redbook magazines and the words of NBC radio commentator Lowell Thomas.



Post written by WWPL volunteer Tim French

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Motorists Helping Motorists: Wilson and AAA


Gifted to the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library by his widow Edith Wilson, the Pierce Arrow limousine reflects how this man tasked with guiding a nation through a world war spent his leisure time. The Pierce Arrow was only the 120th of the Series 51 model manufactured by the Pierce Arrow Motor Car Company of Buffalo New York in the summer of 1919. Woodrow Wilson instantly became attached to the car, so much so that upon his departure from the White House in 1921 friends of the former president purchased the car so that Wilson could continue to use it until his death in 1924. Unique to Woodrow Wilson’s presidential transportation was an emblem proudly bolted to the front of the car never before used by a president. Metallic in color and dawning three large A’s, the ornament attached to the front of the car was the symbol for membership to the American Automobile Association. Woodrow Wilson was the first president to be a member to the now 54 million person automotive association.

P1050026 P1050023Established in 1902, the American Automotive Association or AAA began as a loosely networked organization of automobile clubs. Unlike the roadside assistance by telephone and monthly magazine of today, AAA humbly began as an association of drivers dedicated to assisting each other in need. With no hotline to call nor phone to call it, an emblem on the front of one’s car indicated a dedication toward preserving the safety of roadway travel, a new frontier for the time. AAA also played a crucial role in the transition of roads in the United States from being designed for horses to automobiles. In 1916, AAA and Woodrow Wilson made a major stride for motorists with the passing of a bill providing federal aid to highways around the country. Proudly displaying the AAA emblem on the front of his favorite car, Woodrow Wilson provided the executive endorsement needed to transcend the transportation network in America into an automotive age.

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Liberty Loan Posters

When the United States entered World War I formally in 1917, the government recognized the need to raise money for the war effort. Already about $3,500,000,000 in debt to foreign creditors, the nation would need a significant amount of capital to loan funds and equipment to the Allies, as well as to supply and send troops overseas. To motivate Americans to loan money to the government, William Gibbs McAdoo, Secretary of the Treasury and Woodrow Wilson’s son-in-law, created the Liberty Loan Bonds in 1917. Over the course of the war, the government issued four series of these war bonds. Five months after Armistice, the Treasury authorized a fifth and final series, the Victory Liberty Loan, on April 21, 1919. According to one pamphlet from the time, the money raised from this series would bring soldiers home from overseas, assist wounded veterans, and pay for wartime munitions.


Those in charge of Victory Liberty Loans needed to convince Americans to keep giving to a war that had already been won. This would require a dramatic change in marketing. Both pre- and post-war propaganda appealed to the public’s sense of patriotism, but where wartime advertisements had pressured people to buy bonds from support for democratic ideals or from fear of German domination, the Victory Liberty Loan campaign celebrated American valor, gumption, and solidarity.

Three posters in the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library collection show how Victory Liberty Loan propaganda used faith in American values to persuade the people to continue buying war bonds.

One poster, a vibrant portrayal of victory at sea by L.A. Shafer, inspires confidence in a legacy of heroism. This artwork depicts a damaged German U-boat surrendering to an American destroyer that protects a US troop transport ship. The dynamic contrast of the three ships, along with the message “They Kept the Sea Lanes Open: Invest in the Victory Liberty Loan,” encourage viewers to celebrate victory by investing in the continued cause of national defense.


Courtesy of WWPL

In contrast, a poster by Gerrit A. Beneker honors the role of the common man at the home front. Next to a heading that declares, “Sure! We’ll Finish the Job,” stands a worker with campaign buttons representing the four previous Liberty Loan series pinned to his overalls. The man’s plucky grin suggests American persistence, as the poster hints that just a little old-fashioned elbow grease will pay off the war debt.


Courtesy of WWPL

Finally, “Americans All!” by Howard Chandler Christy reminds the nation of unity in diversity. In this poster, a woman symbolizing America hangs a memorial wreath over the names of fallen soldiers. These surnames are ethnically diverse, honoring previously marginalized immigrant groups for their service during the war. In a time when an unprecedented influx of immigrants had caused controversies over what makes a true American, Christy’s poster memorializes American soldiers of every nationality. He implies that just as these soldiers united in death for the sake of their country, every citizen, regardless of ethnic background, should unite to help the nation recover from the war.


Courtesy of WWPL

Although the Victory Liberty Loan campaign was not as successful as its predecessors, the combined efforts of all five series of war bonds were vital to post-war financial recovery. The American people paid off about $21 billion of an approximately $32 billion debt simply by purchasing bonds, which allowed the United States to rally from the financial devastation of World War I.

Post written by WWPL intern Rachel Dark

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To Heal the Wounds of Battle: WWPL’s World War I Surgical Kit

P1050032Few events in the history of mankind have caused as much suffering and growth as the First World War. The Great War saw roughly 37 million men and women, trained soldiers and civilians, perish amidst the conflict that shook Europe and the world at its foundation; however, a figure unimaginable in size and immense in significance is the number of souls saved throughout the war by the newly established American Medical Corps. In a war of men organized to destroy, this division was developed to repair. Standing testament to their challenges and achievements is a World War I surgical kit found in the downstairs trenches of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Museum. This kit prominently displaced with an early 1900s photograph of a Medical Corp surgical team is on loan to the Museum from the World War I Museum in Kansas City, MO.

The kit, somewhat primitive in light of today’s medical knowledge, contained very basic metallic tools for emergency operations often performed only miles from the front line, easily within range of German artillery of the time. The scalpel would be the surgeon’s “go-to” tool and used most frequently. With the sharpest blade of the tools, the surgeon would use the scalpel to make incisions in patients to retrieve shrapnel and bullets. Rarely properly sterilized between surgeons, the blade meant to heal often attributed to the spread of infections and disease among patients. With the scalpel, the kit includes scissors, prongs and a force. Combined, the tools of the kit found at the museum would be used to stabilize patients long enough to be transported by medical train or ambulance further back from the front line to receive more intensive medical attention.


Recognition of the importance of sterilization among surgical tools would not occur until late in the war. This realization would lead to greater sanitation among doctors, nurses and their equipment which would immensely increase the likelihood of surviving amputations and surgery. Other medical advances of World War I would include the invention of the practice of using a Thomas Splint and X-Ray machines. The X-ray machine would revolutionize the method of extracting shrapnel and bullets from soldiers, particularly in the chest and head. The innovative Thomas Splint allowed doctors to set broken legs and then use the splint to hold the leg set in a still position. The splint allowed many soldiers with broken legs the opportunity of avoiding amputation, which saved many from bearing the risk of deadly infection.

Post written by WWPL intern Brendan Dodson

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Woolly Wilson, The Presidential Sheep


The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum Presents: Woolly Wilson, The Presidential Sheep

Children’s exhibit opening

The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum invites families and children of all ages to the unveiling of Woolly Wilson, The Presidential Sheep on March 5 from 11 AM- 3 PM. The permanent children’s exhibit which will be on display throughout the Museum, interprets the life and times of President Woodrow Wilson, Staunton’s Son.

The exhibit is a characterization of the sheep President Wilson used as the White House lawn maintenance during the War efforts in order to save money and man power; originally a flock of 12 sheep and 4 lambs, the flock grew to 48 at its peak. Endearingly named Woolly by WWPL Museum staff, Woolly will take children on an exploration of Wilson’s time as a young boy in Virginia, to the Governor of New Jersey, to ultimately his time as the 28th President of the United States. This will be the first exhibit specifically for children in the Woodrow Wilson Library Museum.

The event, which will run from 11 AM- 3 PM throughout the Museum grounds, is free. Games, Activities, and Sheep provided by Cross Creek Farm will round out this fun and educational filled day.

The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum is located at 20 N. Coalter Street in Staunton. Additional parking will be available in the Market Street parking lot. For more information and updates on the event, visit woodrowwilson.org or follow Woolly on Twitter and Instagram @woolly_wilson.

An inclement weather date is planned for March 12.

Contact Information:
Bob Robinson, Marketing Manager
540- 885- 0897
20 N. Coalter Street
Staunton, VA


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