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Collection Woodrow Wilson Papers

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 online: Volume 1: A-F; Volume 2: G-O; and Volume 3: P-Z. 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.

A current finding aid (PDF and HTML) to the Woodrow Wilson Papers is also available online with links to the digital content on this site.

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, 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: