About this Collection
The papers of Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), scholar, president of Princeton University, governor of New Jersey, and president of the United States (1913-1921), consist of approximately 280,000 documents, comprising approximately 620,000 images, most of which were digitized from 540 reels of previously produced microfilm. Held in the Library of Congress Manuscript Division, these papers constitute the largest collection of original Wilson documents in the world. The collection contains personal, family, and official correspondence, White House executive office files, drafts and proofs of books, articles, speeches, academic lectures, scrapbooks, shorthand notes, and memorabilia dating from 1786 to 1957 with the bulk of material falling in the period between 1876 and 1924.
Wilson's papers provide extensive documentation of his presidential administration and the issues it confronted, including tariff policy, the establishment of the Federal Reserve Banks, antimonopoly policies in regulating corporations, and contentious relations with Mexico. In particular, Wilson's leadership of the country during World War I and his diplomacy during that conflict and at the Paris Peace Conference are richly documented. The collection contains substantial material on his personal and family life, including correspondence with his second wife Edith Bolling Galt Wilson. Likewise, considerable correspondence and other materials document Wilson's final years after he left the White House. To a lesser extent, the Wilson Papers offer material on his youth, his work at Princeton University, and his governorship of New Jersey.
The Index to the Woodrow Wilson Papers, created by the Manuscript Division in 1973 after the bulk of the collection was microfilmed, provides a full list of the correspondents and notes the series number and dates of the items indexed. It spans three volumes, each of which is available in searchable PDF and HTML versions: Volume 1: A-F (PDF and HTML), Volume 2: G-O (PDF and HTML), and Volume 3: P-Z (PDF and HTML). The information in these volumes is helpful in finding individual letters or documents in the online version. Materials from the Additions series (Series 20) of the collection, which did not come to the Library until after 1973, are not listed in the index.
Brief History of the Wilson Papers
The Woodrow Wilson Papers were acquired by the Library of Congress through gift and purchase during the years 1938-2008. In 1924, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson selected Ray Stannard Baker as her late husband's authorized biographer. With her approval, Baker had Wilson's papers shipped from Washington, D.C., to Amherst, Massachusetts, on March 6, 1925, where they remained while he wrote his multivolume biography. Before the relocation, part of the papers had been stored in the Wilsons' home on S Street; part had been housed in sealed storage rooms in a Washington, D.C., warehouse; and part had remained in the White House. The papers sent to Amherst consisted of Wilson's presidential papers, what he had unsystematically saved from the other periods of his life, and what Edith Wilson had gathered in her attempts to document her late husband's life as completely as possible. In 1929, Edith Wilson agreed to deposit papers with the Library of Congress as Baker finished with them. The first boxes arrived at the Library the following year. The bulk of the papers was shipped to the Library of Congress in 1939 and became a permanent gift from Edith Wilson in 1954. She added new material to the papers as it was uncovered at the S Street house. Other additions, primarily of letters sent by Woodrow Wilson, were collected by the Manuscript Division up until 1961 and form Series 14 of the papers. Further additions to the papers from 1978 to 2015 include extensive correspondence between Woodrow Wilson and Edith Wilson.
This online edition includes all documents from the microfilm edition of the Woodrow Wilson Papers plus the 1978-2015 additions (Series 20) to the collection which had not been microfilmed.
A fuller history of the provenance of the collection was prepared for the Index to the Woodrow Wilson Papers, pp. v-xv (PDF and HTML) and subsequently reproduced in the finding aid (PDF and HTML). A version appears on this website as the essay Provenance of the Woodrow Wilson Papers.
Description of Series
The Woodrow Wilson Papers are arranged in 20 series:
- Series 1, Diaries and Diary Material, 1876-1924 (Reels 1-3)
In three main groups, "diaries," pocket notebooks, and White House appointment books.
- Series 2, Family and General Correspondence, 1786-1924 (Reels 3-131)
Includes family correspondence of the Axson, Woodrow, and Wilson families, personal and professional correspondence from Wilson's academic career and New Jersey governorship, Personal and Confidential files from Wilson's presidential administration, and correspondence of his post-presidential period.
- Series 3, Letterbooks, 1913-1921 (Reels 132-159)
Copies of President Wilson's outgoing letters, organized in two sets, with volumes 1-59 containing general correspondence, 1913-1921, and volumes 60-62, social correspondence, 1913-1917.
- Series 4, Executive Office File, 1912-1921 (Reels 160-383)
The administrative file for federal government functions and actions. Organized in case files or subject files numbered 1-5519, as listed in Series 4 in the collection finding aid. An alphabetical list of the case files appears on pages xxxix-lxi of Volume 1 (HTML and PDF) of the Index to the Woodrow Wilson Papers.
- Series 5, Peace Conference Correspondence and Documents, 1914-1921 (Reels 383-448)
This series is arranged into four major subseries: Policy Documents, 1914-1919; Peace Conference Correspondence, 1918-1920; Wilson-House Correspondence, October 16-December 9, 1918; and Unofficial Correspondence, 1915-1919. The series also includes seven minor subseries: musical compositions; requests for an audience or transmittals of presents or poetry; requests for intervention in personal matters; requests for assistance; French school children's letters; British citizens' letters; and British labor organizations' letters.
- Series 6, Peace Conference Documents, 1898-1921 (Reels 448-473)
Minutes, reports, memoranda, treaty drafts, and related documents, in eighteen subseries.
- Series 7, Speeches, Writings, and Academic Material, 1873-1923 (Reels 473-495)
Divided into six subseries by types of material: Speeches, 1882-1923; Messages to Congress, 1913-1921; Books, 1885-1908; Academic Material, 1873-1912; Essays and Articles, 1874-1923; and Swem Transcripts, 1913-19.
- Series 8, Financial Material, 1864-1944 (Reels 495-502)
Various types of financial papers arranged in eight subseries.
- Series 9, Scrapbooks, 1873-1944 (Reels 503-520)
Scrapbooks 1-14 compiled by Edith Bolling Galt Wilson and John Randolph Bolling, containing a variety of material, including some manuscripts relating to Wilson, mainly 1916-1944. Volumes 15-18 include material from Wilson's early years as well as the presidential period.
- Series 10, Social Records, 1875-1924 (Reels 521-523)
White House guest lists and other materials.
- Series 11, Woodrow, Axson, and Wilson Family Material, 1835-1894 (Reels 523-524)
Includes Woodrow Wilson's 1870 geography book with his drawings and notes along with genealogical information and other family papers.
- Series 12, Miscellaneous Documents, 1826-1928 (Reels 524-528)
Miscellaneous letters, reports, diplomatic dispatches, and a post-presidential autograph book kept at the S Street house.
- Series 13, Oversize Material, 1876-1931 (Reels 528-531)
- Series 14, Supplement, 1880-1946 (Reels 531-536)
Chiefly recipients' copies of letters from Wilson donated to or purchased by the Library of Congress. Usually these letters represent the only extant copy.
- Series 15, Writings about Wilson, 1897-1961 (Reels 536-537)
- Series 16, Princeton Miscellany (Reel 538)
- Series 17, Miscellaneous Printed Matter (Reels 538-539)
- Series 18, Photographs, ca. 1875-1923 (Reel 539)
Photographs of Wilson and the Wilson family, vacation places, his presidential inaugural parade, Paris Peace Conference, contemporary members of Congress, and other subjects. Originals have been transferred to the Prints & Photographs Division.
- Series 19, Miscellaneous Shorthand (Reel 540)
- Series 20, Additions, 1881-1957 (not filmed; scanned from originals)
Correspondence, notably letters between Wilson and Edith Bolling Galt Wilson; legal documents; speech notes; and printed matter. Arranged in three major groups (1978-1980 Addition, 1998 Addition, and 2015 Addition) reflecting the years that additions to the collection were processed.