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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Happy Flag Day!

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Postcard from WWPL Postcard Collection

In 1916, Woodrow Wilson proclaimed June 14 as “Flag Day.” Then, in 1917 he argued the case for the United States to join World War One.

Those facts make the following document in the WWPL Pamphlet collection even more curious. The library’s archive contains the transcript of a sermon given on June 23, 1918 by Reverend A. M. Fraser, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Staunton. The title of the sermon was, “Shall Flags Be Displayed In The Church? The Church ‘a Place of Prayer’.”

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Rev. Fraser addressed his congregation regarding why the American flag was not displayed in the church. Rev. Fraser enumerated multiple reasons, the first being that the flag is a “secular symbol.” In addition, his third reason was that, “… when you put a civic flag in the house of divine worship you incur the risk of a confusion of Church and State and of creating an unauthorized and dangerous alliance between the two.” However, it was his second reason for not displaying the flag that directly referenced President Wilson. Rev. Fraser spoke,

A few years ago the President in a Flag Day address spoke of the meaning and importance of flags as emblems and of the emblematic significance of our national flag. An emblem represents a sentiment, and sentiment largely rules the world. Of what sentiment is the flag an emblem? It represents our pride, our boast, our challenge to the world. Now it is not proper to bring any pride or boast into the house of God that is not directly connected with the atonement of Christ…

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The amazing paradox of Rev. Fraser’s sermon includes the facts that he was the minister of the same church as Woodrow Wilson’s father, Joseph Ruggles Wilson. The sermon was given in Woodrow Wilson’s town of birth, during the height of American involvement in the first World War and just eight days after the celebration of Flag Day that was officially promulgated by Wilson two years earlier.

History can be surprising. Exploring the pamphlet collection of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library allows visitors to see in-print the complexities that history holds.

Written by WWPL volunteer Tim French

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Teddy Roosevelt’s Bully Flag

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The 1912 presidential election saw three candidates eager to lead America into the second decade of the twentieth century. A former governor from New Jersey, a former two term President and a republican incumbent debated issues of monopolies and implementation of a federal income tax across the nation only to have the victor, 28th President Woodrow Wilson, hail 42% of the popular vote. Winning less than half the popular vote yet 435 electoral votes, Woodrow Wilson was viewed as the only legitimate southern democrat to run for office and indisputably won the southern United States. His closest competitor ran not for the republicans, but rather a new political party founded on the principles of progressive social reform to benefit the working men and women of the country. The Progressive Party, later nicknamed the Bull Moose Party in reference to comments made by the party’s founder Theodore Roosevelt, was created in 1912 to offer a farther left perspective on social issues including social insurance for the elderly and disabled and the registration of lobbyist to insure political transparency throughout Washington. Roosevelt with support of his newly formed party would win 88 electoral votes including California for a total of 4,119,207 popular votes

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A relic of the Bull Moose Party can be found in archives of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum. Roughly two feet by two feet, a flag donning the grin of Theodore Roosevelt stands testament to a man’s dream of a more progressive America particularly in the workforce. Red in color with a white diamond pattern, the flag was nicknamed a “battle flag” for Roosevelt and would be seen as support rallies and other election events hosted by the progressive party. The flag was purchased by the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library at auction at the Green Valley Auction.

Written by WWPL Brendan Dodson

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Staunton’s Son Comes Home

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Woodrow and Ellen Wilson arrive at the Staunton, Virginia train depot. Courtesy of WWPL

Once Woodrow Wilson was elected president in 1912, numerous cities and towns in the United States wanted to meet him. Having received countless offers, he found that there was one town he had to make the journey to: his birthplace of Staunton, VA.  As a result of the decision, the town anticipated and celebrated his arrival. The town became fully decorated and a number of events were planned for Wilson and his guests. In our library, we have a copy of the official program of events that were created by the Authority Central Committee.

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There were two events that began the on the night of Friday, December 27.  At 7:50 pm, the President-elect and party arrived followed by a torchlight procession through the town. Shortly after at 8:45 pm the town band appeared for a serenade and there was a public speaking event by distinguished speaks at the Virginia Hotel.

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On Saturday, December 28, also the president’s birthday there were five main events. The day began at 10:00 am with a reception at the Manse of the First Presbyterian Church to the State, County and City Officials that included official guests of the city and members of the Wilson Celebration committee. At 12:00 noon, there was a review of the parade at Main Street Public School Building. Followed by this at 2:30 pm was an address of welcome by Doctor Fraser and a response by Wilson at Mary Baldwin Seminary. Shortly after at 3:00 pm was a public reception at Mary Baldwin Seminary.   At 4:00 pm, a reception to Mrs. Wilson and Mrs. Mann by Ladies of the City and County was held at Stuart Hall.

While this was the official program of events, it was indicated that various other events would take place later as well. However, just from the events on this program it is clear how honored, and how special, this event was for the town of Staunton. Despite it being over 100 years since the event, it is still a moment in time the town holds in high regard.

Written by WWPL intern Hayley Moore

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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. “

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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.

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Post written by WWPL volunteer Tim French

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