The Present Task of Ministry

The early 20th Century was a time of great technological change and scientific discovery; the airplane, radio and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis was entering the mainstream, as well. In light of these developments, Woodrow Wilson had concerns about the direction of humankind’s spiritual life.

1918_task_ministry_cover1918_task_ministry_2Published in 1918, this pamphlet contains the transcription of a 1908 speech given by Wilson to the Hartford Theological Seminary. During his speech, “The Present Task of the Ministry,” Wilson said,

…I sometimes think that men in our age are either losing their spirits or thinking that they have lost them. It is a very confusing age for a man of conscience. In the modern organization of economic society, for example, no man is a complete whole, every man is a fraction…


Wilson goes on to tell the graduating seminarians of the importance of their role as a “mediator between our souls and our knowledge” and of the importance of their calling to the ministry.

Wilson was a spiritual man and one of America’s most deeply religious presidents. A visit to the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library can be combined with a tour of Wilson’s birthplace located on the same site; the Presbyterian Church manse. The visitor can then experience Wilson’s religious influences from birth to presidency.

Post written by library volunteer Tim French

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Using Every Part: Meat Preparation in the 1850s

P1040993Located in the downstairs kitchen of the Manse, a square wooden box with an upward turning handle and two metal hinges sits adjacent to the large cooking stove. This object is a replica of a meat grinder possibly used in the Wilson household during their duration in the house from 1855 to 1857. The primitive design was invented in the early 19th century by German inventor Karl Drais. The machine worked by lifting the top of the box and inserting meat, most likely beef, in the entanglement of blades and nails. Once inside, the operator of the machine began turning the foot long crank on top of the main compartment to move the meat causing the meat to slowly shred and ground down.

P1040995Performing the task of operating the meat grinder was most likely done by one of three servants leased by the Presbyterian Church in Staunton. The presence of a meat grinder indicates two inferences about the Wilson family during their stay in Staunton. First, the presence of a meat grinder indicates obviously the presence of meat. In a world before refrigeration, meat was rarely transported. Historians infer then that the Wilson family possibly owned a cow or other large livestock of their own or had a regular supply available possibly sold from downtown Staunton. The second inference made from the presence of the meat grinder speaks for the economy of the time. The invention of the meat grinder provided an alternative option for the consumption of the non-glamorous cuts of beef. Though this indicated a variety in meal preparations, one can infer still that the Wilson’s and many Americans at the time worked to consume the entirety foods harvested or grown, allowing little to go to waste.

Post written by WWPL intern Brendan Dodson

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wilson’s First Presidency

Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated as President of the United States in 1913. However, over a decade earlier, Wilson was part of another inauguration ceremony. That time, his inauguration celebrated his ascendancy to the presidency of Princeton University.


In the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library’s archive, one can find an original inauguration program and coronation calendar from October 24th and 25th, 1902. 1902_Princeton_inaug_cover

The contents include;

  • announcement for the Tournament on the Links at the Princeton Golf Club,


  • the menu (in French) for the inauguration dinner,
  • a ‘smoker’ at the headquarters,


  • a march to the athletic field for a football game between Princeton and Columbia (with the names of the probable starting line-up listed),


  • and of course, the order of events for the inauguration ceremony itself.

The images of the program’s pages provide a look into life at Princeton University in 1902. A visit to the WWPL archive will provide an opportunity to experience the artifacts firsthand, while affording time for in-depth reading and exploration of this and other documents.

Post written by library volunteer Tim French

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Wilson’s Musical Mother

Born in Carlisle, England in December of 1830, Janet “Jessie” Woodrow was the daughter of a Presbyterian minister. After spending a brief time in England until the age of six, the Woodrow family immigrated to New York in 1836. From New York, Jessie’s father would feel called to take his ministry briefly to Canada before finally settling in Ohio in the latter half of 1837.


It was in Ohio as a young woman Jessie Woodrow developed her passion for music. Having regularly attended her father’s sermons and church events, Jessie would feel that her greatest contribution to her father’s ministry would be through the expression of music. Considered very gifted, she would learn to play both the harpsicord and guitar in addition to already being a talented singer.


Her French six string guitar is now on display in the Manse of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library (WWPL). The guitar is constructed of a maple wooden outlie with spruce used as the surrounding top. In laid on the face of the guitar, a mother of pearl ring. Her guitar was presented to her as a gift of affection from either Joseph Wilson or her father and is known to of been made in France in 1850. Commonly used in the parlor, leading to the commonly used nickname of a parlor guitar, the guitar and its music would provide nightly entertainment to visiting guests as well as the entire Wilson family. In addition to entertainment, Jessie and her guitar could offer both comfort and celebration when used for funerals, weddings and other church gatherings hosted in the Wilson’s parlor and dining room.P1050008

A key characteristic of guitars found in America and Europe of the time is the presence of the sixth string which was not widely used until the early seventeen century in Europe. Having derived from the Renaissance era four string guitar, six double string guitars gave way to the six single string guitars in the early eighteen hundreds. This guitar is considered the transition instrument toward the modern day guitar.

Visitors to the WWPL can view this beautiful instrument on a tour of the Manse. For tours and information, visit our website:

Post written by WWPL intern Brendan Dodson

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

An Auspicious Beginning – “Graduation Day, 1879”

Of the many interesting documents to be discovered in the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library’s Pamphlet Collection, a good place to start exploring is at the beginning with the oldest artifact in the collection; the 1879 commencement announcement for the College of New Jersey, now known as Princeton University.


Looking at the two-page pamphlet, one side announces, “Appointments for Commencement”, including Valedictory and Latin and English Salutatory. The other page displays the final grades for the class of 1879. Not only was Princeton University called by a different name then, but so was Woodrow Wilson. Wilson was born Thomas Woodrow Wilson, as can be seen in the final grades page of the pamphlet. In fact, Wilson was referred to as “Tommy” in the early part of his life, before assuming the title of “Woodrow.”


The pamphlet also reveals more than Wilson’s highly respectable 90.3 final grade point average. Wilson’s name shares the page with other Princeton graduates who would make their own mark in government. Mahlon Pitney would go on to become a member of the Supreme Court and Charles Talcott was later a U.S. Congressman from New York. However, even a random search of the names of Wilson’s classmates in this pamphlet reveals peers of Wilson who would influence many aspects of society beyond politics. Daniel Barringer became a noted geologist. Fletcher Durell, who gave the honorary oration on behalf of the mathematics department, would later write an algebra book used by school children.


It was from this milieu that the 28th President would come. The 1879 commencement pamphlet at the Woodrow Wilson President Library serves as a reminder of that.

Post written by library volunteer Tim French.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Collections Blog at WWPL

As the world’s only museum dedicated to showcasing Woodrow Wilson’s life and career, we at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library are pleased to welcome over 20,000 visitors each year to view our museum and tour the home where our 28th President was born in 1856. However, only a small fraction of our collection is currently on display.  Our new blog will allow us to showcase the hidden treasures of our object and archival collections. From an antique meat-grinder to old children’s toys, or a military outfit from World War I to propaganda posters from that time period, we have many great objects to share with you. Join us to read about some pretty cool stuff and bring history to life one artifact at a time. We will be posting regularly on some of our favorite items and documents and look forward to interacting with you here and on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

World War I Poster1975.001.041 2013.003.066     1975.032.022

Posted in News and Events | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Preservation Week, April 21 – 27, 2013

 ImageThe collections staff of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library (WWPL) announced they will be participating in Preservation Week sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA), the Association of Library Collections and Services (ALCTS), and partner organizations. Preservation Week was created to inspire actions to preserve personal, family and community collections of all kinds, as well as library, museum and archival collections. Utilizing social networks Twitter and Facebook, the WWPL will share ways to preserve family treasures and memories during Preservation Week, running this year from Sunday, April 21 through Saturday, April 27.

As spring cleaning is underway, many in the community may find a need to preserve new-found treasures. From April 21–27, area residents can turn to the archivist and curator at the WWPL to celebrate Preservation Week, a time when libraries, museums and archives across the country will provide information and expertise on ways to preserve treasures such as documents, photographs, books, textiles, audiovisual and digital materials and collectibles.

The library and archives at the WWPL is open to the public by appointment only. Researchers can make an appointment to access books, maps, photographs and other materials.  During the week, the WWPL will offer a series of communications through their Facebook page that will include tips on preserving information and cultural heritage in all collections.

For more information on “Preservation Week: Pass It On” please contact the WWPL Archives at:

Phone: 540.885.0897 x105


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment