Meeting Royalty

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Woodrow and Edith Wilson with the British Royal Family, 1918: Cary T. Grayson Papers, WWPL: Staunton, VA

After the end of World War I, President Wilson traveled to Europe in order to be involved in the negotiations of the Paris Peace Conference, ultimately producing the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. However, he first traveled to London, England and met with the British Royal family.

Along with Mrs. Wilson, the President met with King George V, Queen Mary, and the Princess Royal . Together they discussed the upcoming conference and celebrated the holiday season together.On December 31, 1918, the King and Queen accompanied the President and Mrs. Wilson to the train station to go to Dover. Before they left, the Wilson’s and the British Royal Family took a picture together and our library has an exact copy of it.

From left to right stands Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, Queen Elizabeth, President Wilson, King George VI, and Princess Mary with each of their signatures underneath their pictures.

One of the most interesting parts of this picture is of Wilson’s trousers. In the hurry of getting ready to depart and take the picture, the bottom of one of the president’s trousers was failed to be turned down. The picture shows of the pant leg having a cuff turned up and the other one turned down. Another picture was taken of just Wilson and the King and it too showed the amusing incident.

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Woodrow Wilson and King George V, 1918: Cary T. Grayson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library: Staunton, VA.

Dr. Cary T. Grayson, who also accompanied the Wilson’s on the trip, wrote of the picture being taken and the pant incident in diary. Grayson wrote that the “British people, once the picture was published, felt very kindly towards the President and there were a number of editorial comments that this little freak of dress showed how little the president cared for personal appearances , and it strengthened him with people generally when the picture was printed. It made a particular hit with the men in the street.”

Dr. Grayson’s account and other documents can be viewed in the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library’s Digital Library here.

Post written by WWPL intern Hayley Moore.

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Morgenthau & Grayson

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Courtesy of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library

After returning from the Paris Peace Conference, Woodrow Wilson was determined to see the United States join the League of Nations. Still, many in Congress were unsure of whether entry into the League of Nations would be good for the Unites States. Thus, Wilson began a public speaking tour of the country in order to convince the American people of his plan.  He suffered a collapse in Pueblo, Colorado and was forced to return to Washington D.C. after only completing part of his speaking tour. Shortly after returning to the White House, he had a stroke that debilitated him for the remainder of his life.

Born out of concern for Wilson’s recovery and the morale of the country, a decision was made to hide the severity of the president’s condition. Both Dr. Cary T. Grayson and Edith Bolling Wilson thought that it would be best for the government and for the people to be kept in the dark. In keeping with normal treatment at the time, they insisted on rest and isolation thinking it would help the president recover more quickly.

On February 24, 1920, Ambassador Henry Morgenthau sent a telegram to the ailing president asking if he would attend and speak at a citizens meeting to protest against the Turks being left in control of Constantinople. While the telegram seems like a simple request, there is something unusual about it. Underneath the telegram is the handwriting of Mrs. Wilson with the sentence “Thinks it well to postpone speaking on such subjects.”

Dr. Grayson personally replied to Morgenthau’s telegram on February 27, 1920. Grayson explained simply that he had “taken up matter referred to in your message. [Woodrow Wilson] believes it would be well to postpone speaking on subjects of this kind for the present.” His second and final sentence was eerily similar to what Mrs. Wilson wrote on the original message from Morgenthau.

Now whether or not Wilson was consulted on the matter remains a mystery. Edith is nicknamed “The First Female President” as she was heavily involved in Wilson’s work before and after the stroke.  It is also a known fact that there were times where she would let only certain people speak to the president. It is possible that she had taken charge of the president’s messages and made the decision for him. Many would use Grayson to get information or the request to the President as well and this telegram could be an example of just that.

There is no supporting evidence to prove that they discussed Morgenthau’s telegram with the president. It is possible that they did, but it is also possible that both Mrs. Wilson and Dr. Grayson believed Wilson’s health was too poor to be bothered.

These telegrams and many other documents can be viewed in the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library’s Digital Library here.

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A Death and Burial Abroad

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Courtesy of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library

Margaret Wilson, the oldest daughter of Woodrow Wilson spent the final years of her life as a part of the Hindu mystic Sri Aurobindo’s ashram in the Pondicherry, French India. She died there on February 12, 1944 from a uremia, and her family was notified by a letter that is now housed in the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library’s archival collection.

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Margaret Wilson (Second from Left) with members of the ashram in Pondicherry, India. Courtesy of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library.

Sri Aurobindo wrote to Eleanor Wilson McAdoo, Margaret’s sister on March 18, 1944 regarding her death and our library has a copy of the very letter. Postmarked from Pondicherry, French India, the letter details Margaret’s declining health, her death, and the decision not to return her body to the USA.

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Regarding Margaret’s health, Aurobindo explained to Eleanor “there were always ups and downs in her health and some years ago she had a strong attack of uremia rising to I.9 and the doctors hardly expected her to recover, or if she did, to live more than two years at the very best.” However, Margaret was able to recover and the uremia shrunk, putting her back into good health. Her good health would not last, and in July 1943, she had another and while she recovered, in January 1944 she took a turn for the worst. She was treated by a Dr. Andre, who was in charge of the Government Hospital and a Dr. Bassett, the chief medical officer of French India who though that Margaret would pull through as her heart was strong and there were no grave symptoms or complications. However, congestion in her lungs and kidney trouble caused her heart to become affected. It was only a matter of time before she became quiet and it was clear that she had passed.

In regards to the burial decision, Eleanor was informed that her sister had already been buried in Pondicherry.  It is noted that there was no arrangement for Christian cremation and that French colonial law did not allow a body to be disinterred until a full year. Aurobindo explained that Margaret had “never expressed any idea or wish for her body being sent back to America” and how “she had been firmly determined to not leave Poindicherry under any circumstances.” Margaret’s personal effects were to kept at the ashram until arrangements could be made for railway transit.

The letter ends with his expressing his condolences and sympathy for the death of Margaret and how “she was always as if one of the family” to him.

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Margaret Wilson: A Spiritual Journey

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Margaret Wilson. Courtesy of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library

While many know that Woodrow Wilson had three daughters and his oldest daughter, Margaret Wilson served as First Lady after the death of her mother, Ellen Wilson in 1914, few know that Margaret lived and died in India after her father’s death. Going from her Presbyterian roots, to practicing Christian Science, and then later becoming a devotee of the guru Sri Aurobindo, Margaret’s life was a spiritual journey.

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Courtesy of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library

The eldest daughter of Woodrow and Ellen Axson Wilson, Margaret Woodrow Wilson was born on April 16, 1886 in Gainesville, Georgia. Her mother, a native of Georgia, had traveled from their home in Pennsylvania where Woodrow was teaching at Bryn Mawr College to be near her family for the birth of her first child. Margaret enjoyed a happy childhood with her sisters growing up, and after completing her education, she set out to be a trained singer even recording a rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” in 1915 that was sold as a fundraiser for the Red Cross.

While her sisters married and moved away from the White House, Margaret remained with her parents until her mother’s death in 1914, and served as her father’s social hostess until he married Edith Bolling Galt in December 1915. After her father’s death in 1924, Margaret continued to search for a place where she could live and be happy, and she finally decided to join the Ashram of Hindu mystic Sri Aurobindo in Pondicherry, French India. In letters back to friends and her sister, Margaret remarked that she was happier in India than she had even been in her life.

With the help of Swami Nikilananda, a scholar and founder of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center in New York, Margaret edited the English translation of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.  The work was published by the Center in 1942. She would never return to the United States, and she died in India from uremia in 1944.

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Margaret Wilson, bottom right, in Pondicherry, India. Courtesy of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library.

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Presidential Health and Protection

Dr. Cary T. Grayson, Woodrow Wilson’s physician and friend, believed that outdoor exercise was a key to keeping the President healthy. Among the thousands of documents generously donated to the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library by the Grayson family in 2005 are two letters that highlight the tension that existed between Grayson’s desire for the President to get adequate physical exercise and the need to keep him safe.

“Daily moderate exercise in the open air can be put down as a distinct asset and a health-giving procedure,” Grayson wrote in an article titled “The Secret of Longevity,” published in the Atlantic Monthly in May, 1928. In particular, Grayson urged Woodrow Wilson to walk and play golf as often as his schedule allowed.

Although Wilson wasn’t particularly fond of taking walks, he apparently did heed his doctor’s advice now and again. In a letter from Oliver Peck Newman, President of the Board of Commissioners of the District of Columbia, written to Dr. Grayson on September 16, 1913 (just six months after Wilson took office), Newman expresses “apprehension over the fact that the President occasionally goes about the street without…adequate protection.” Newman asks Grayson to “notify the Superintendent or Acting Superintendent of Police in advance, whenever the President contemplates moving about the street on foot, in order that we may have one or two plain clothes men accompany him…”

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O. P. Newman to Cary T. Grayson, 16 Sep. 1913. Cary T. Grayson Papers, WWPL

As for golf, “President Wilson played golf regularly… I had recommended it to him as a means of relaxation during his particularly arduous term of office,” Grayson was quoted as saying in The Washington Herald, May 11, 1930. Wilson managed to get out on the greens more than 1,000 times during his presidency.

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Courtesy of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library

In a letter addressed to Dr. Grayson in April, 1914, Albert Mann, a plant morphologist for the United States Department of Agriculture, communicates his worries over “the dangerous situation of parts of the [golf] course.” While he doesn’t identify the course, the writer describes the 4th tee as “on the edge of a dense and extensive woods with considerable underbrush. I do not think it can be properly safeguarded. It seems to me the 3d, 4th, 5th, and perhaps the 9th holes are unsafe during these troubled times.”

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Albert Mann to Cary T. Grayson, 23 Apr. 1914. Cary T. Grayson Papers, WWPL.

 

Exactly what he meant by “these troubled times” isn’t known, but tensions between the United States and Mexico were high in April, 1914―all the more reason for the President to seek relaxation on the links. We don’t know if Grayson responded to the writer, or if security was increased at the course in question, but Woodrow Wilson continued to be an avid golfer, often accompanied by Dr. Grayson, even playing a few rounds in France during the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.

Written by WWPL volunteer Danna Fauldshttp

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Woodrow Wilson: An Intimate Memoir

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Dr. Grayson with Woodrow Wilson during the voyage to the Paris Peace Conference after World War 1.

Cary T. Grayson, known as Woodrow Wilson’s personal physician throughout his time in the White House, was by Wilson’s side throughout many important events such as the death of Ellen Wilson. He is also the person who introduced the president to Edith Bolling Galt, who would later become Wilson’s second wife.

Grayson was by Wilson’s side when he trekked overseas to be a part of the negotiations for the Treaty of Versailles was present and cared for him during his stroke in 1919. Grayson continued to serve as Woodrow Wilson’s doctor after he left the White House until the 28th President died in February 1924. Until his own death in 1939, Grayson spoke about his friendship with Woodrow Wilson and supported efforts to permanently memorialize him.

The legacy of their friendship was permanently preserved when Cary T. Grayson’s Woodrow Wilson: An Intimate Memoir was released in 1960. The memoir was originally a collection of essays titled The Religion of Woodrow Wilson.  The memoir gives an in-depth look at the friendship between these two men and shares Grayson’s and Wilson’s views on many of the events they experienced throughout Wilson’s administration.

A gift of the Grayson family, this and other photographs and documents in the Cary T. Grayson Papers are housed in the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library’s archives. A Selection of these papers can be viewed in the WWPL’s digital library available here.

 

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Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

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Woodrow Wilson gives a few words at Mary Baldwin College during his birthday visit in 1912.

After being elected President, Woodrow Wilson returned to his birthplace of Staunton on December 28, 1912. His decision to return home caused excitement throughout the town. The town’s people dedicated themselves to making sure that Wilson’s trip back to the place of his birth would be memorable. One of the highlights of the trip would be his birthday dinner in honor of the 56th anniversary of his birth. The dinner was held at the Staunton Military Academy, which is now part of Mary Baldwin College, on the night of his birthday. The library holds two copies of the menu and the food that was served at this historic event.

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The program for Woodrow Wilson’s birthday dinner.

On the left inside cover of the menu is a poem believed to by Wilson about returning to his roots. It reads:

“After long following of stranger faces

By untried hills and overfretful foam

After long wandering in alien places

To-night, I sleep at home

 

To-night the old house opens tender arms

To draw me in, aweary, to its breast

While slow, a throng of scarce-remembered charms

Weaves me a spell of rest”

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Given by his friends, the dinner in Woodrow Wilson’s honor was sumptuous.

The meal was catered by Chas. Rauscher and was a lavish meal. Guests were served a sauterne with a portion of Feuille á la Russe Tartines. It was followed by Consommé Royale (a consommé garnished with a savory egg custard), Salted Nights, Terrapin á la Baltimore (terrapin cooked in a white stock, eggs and cayenne pepper), and Saddle of South Down Mutton Soubise (mutton saddle that is larded and stuffed with minced game and braised). Guests were then served champagne with a Vol au vent á La Reine (puff pastry filled with chicken, mushrooms, veal sweetbreads and veal in a sauce made out of butter, eggs, and cream). It was followed by Aspic of Foie Gras Strsabourgeoise (foie gras cooked in truffles, butter, and Madeira and chilled into aspic) with Chiffonade Salad. For desert there was an assortment of ices and fruits and flowers of Marron Bombe (chestnut marzipan formed into a ball shape), fancy cakes, macaroons, wafers, and coffee. Guests were also offered apollinaris as well as cigars and cigarettes throughout the meal.

While many of these items are now archaic for the present day, it is clear that the town of Staunton made sure to make the birthday meal of the newly elected president quite special.

Written by WWPL intern Hayley Moore

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