Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

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.

WW Menu 2
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”

WW Menu 1 1
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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