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.

movie6 movie2

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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Sheepish Business: World War One and Sheep on the White House Lawn

A flock of sheep grazed on the White House lawn for several years, beginning in the spring of 1918. With the American entry into World War I, the sheep saved manpower by keeping the grass trimmed, but their most valuable contribution to the country’s war effort was their wool.


Courtesy of the WWPL – This photograph is part of our archival collection, but it is not attributed to a particular studio or photographer. We think it was taken by Harris & Ewing.

Wool from the flock was sheared and two pounds given to each state. With governor’s acting as auctioneers, the wool was sold to the highest bidders and the proceeds donated to the Red Cross War Fund.

Dr. Cary T. Grayson, Woodrow Wilson’s physician and friend, wrote a letter to Mr. William Woodward on June 5, 1918 which states, “I feel quite guilty for not writing to you long before this to tell you how much pleasure the sheep from Belair Farm have given the President and Mrs. Wilson.”


Courtesy of the WWPL

While the final figures from the state auctions were not yet available when Grayson wrote, he continued, “From what I heard was bid, the cheapest was $100 per pound and the highest was $5,000 per pound. At any rate, I think it is safe to predict that Belair Farm sheep lead the world in the production of the most pricely wool.” According to the White House history website, the total raised for the Red Cross by the state wool auctions was $52,823. See full scan of letter here: D00754.

A partial list of bidders (also from the Grayson Collection) and the amount they contributed can be seen below.



Courtesy of the WWPL

Another document in the Grayson Collection donated to the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library in 2005 by the Grayson family is a certificate presented with blankets made with wool from the White House flock after they “retired” from the White House grounds in 1920 and went to live on a farm in Olney, Maryland.


Courtesy of the WWPL

Written by WWPL volunteer Danna Faulds



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Lightening the Cruel Strain – Mrs. Wilson’s Sewing Machine

P1050014Displayed proudly in the Manse’s front parlor looking out toward what was once the Valley Pike, a 1850s sewing machine stands – an example of formerly cutting edge home appliances and progressive marketing. The design for the sewing machine was patented in 1850 by creator Allen B. Wilson and sold by the Wilson & Wheeler Company out of Bridgeport, Connecticut. The treadle-powered sewing machine would revolutionize Allen Wilson’s company emerging from a small operation in 1850 to having over 1,000 employees by the 1900s.

P1050015The machine itself operates using a wooden foot pedals that when repeatedly pushed up and down would rotate the wheel atop the machine driving the pin through cloth. Revolutionary and state of the art for the time, purchasing the full set from a local business or traveling merchant would run in the range of $250 to $300; a price few in the area had the yearly salaries to afford.

P1050021Earning an annual salary of just over $1,000 dollars a year from the First Presbyterian Church of Staunton, Rev. Joseph Wilson certainly would not have had the finances to purchase such a luxury for his family. Instead, the Wilson’s could have been lucky enough to have had one given to them in exchange for free advertisement. Being a prominent member of the community with visitors passing through for church assemblies, the Wilson’s front parlor would be the ideal location to set up the newest model sewing machine for sale for all to admire. The First Presbyterian Church also could have likely purchased the sewing machine as a gift to their minister to reflect their prosperity through the luxuries of their minister. This practice was popularized during the 1800s and is the predecessor to modern day free sample marketing.

Post written by WWPL intern Brendan Dodson

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