May 15, 2018 Papers of President Woodrow Wilson Now Online

Collection Includes Draft of Covenant for League of Nations, Peace Conference Correspondence Ending World War I, Correspondence on Legislative Priorities, Speeches and Personal Writings

Press Contact: Brett Zongker (202) 707-1639
Website: Woodrow Wilson Papers

President Woodrow Wilson served in the White House from 1913 to 1921. (Photograph by Harris & Ewing, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress)

The papers of President Woodrow Wilson, from his time in the White House and as a scholar and governor of New Jersey, have been digitized and are now available online from the Library of Congress 100 years after his presidency. Documents from Wilson also are featured in the Library’s exhibition “Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I.”

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced the digitization today at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, which is the nation’s living memorial to the 28th president and is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

The Wilson papers are one of the largest presidential collections held by the Library, consisting of approximately 280,000 documents and comprising about 620,000 images. The collection reflects Wilson’s innovative efforts and accomplishments and the enduring controversies he engendered. Wilson strengthened the presidency during his two terms in office by pushing a robust legislative agenda. He also sought to transform international politics in an interconnected world by forging a peace settlement after World War I and creating the League of Nations, the world’s first global forum for diplomacy.

From a time when the scope of the federal government was growing between 1913 and 1921, Wilson’s papers document his leadership during World War I, his diplomacy during the Paris Peace Conference and his administration’s policies and economic reforms, including the income tax, tariff reform, the creation of the Federal Reserve Banks and anti-monopoly policies to regulate corporations. The papers also include material on his personal and family life, his youth during the Civil War era in the South, his leadership of Princeton University and his time as governor of New Jersey.

The collection is online at: loc.gov/collections/woodrow-wilson-papers/about-this-collection.

“Woodrow Wilson remains a consequential and complicated figure in American history,” Hayden said. “Americans continue to debate Wilson’s legacy, and the Wilson papers at the Library of Congress provided the basis for a substantial portion of our knowledge of the 28th president. Making these primary-source materials available online means students and scholars anywhere can dive in, learn more and form their own opinions.”

Wilson continues to be a controversial figure today with his domestic reforms, his ideas about the United States’ global role and especially his legacy on race relations after his administration instituted segregation in federal agencies.

The Wilson papers have been used extensively by researchers over the years, including A. Scott Berg and Patricia O’Toole for their recent biographies. Many of the Wilson papers have been published, though some are now being made widely available for the first time.

Highlights of the Wilson papers include:

  • A shorthand draft of Wilson’s Fourteen Points address from 1918, providing the basis for peace negotiations to end World War I;
  • Wilson’s draft of the covenant for the League of Nations that would define its purpose and structure;
  • Significant material documenting the Paris Peace Conference, including a map of the Middle East with proposed new borders after World War I;
  • A love letter Wilson wrote to Edith Bolling Galt, who in 1915 would become his second wife, along with extensive correspondence between the two;
  • A letter from activist Carrie Chapman Catt urging Wilson to support national women’s suffrage;
  • Correspondence with military leaders, lawmakers and cabinet officials.

The Wilson papers have been at the Library of Congress since Edith Wilson deposited the materials at the Library in 1939, including the bulk of his presidential papers, and made them a permanent gift in 1954. Documents were added to the collection through 2015. Additional Wilson papers are held by Princeton University.

The digitization of the Wilson papers is part of a larger effort to make historical materials available online. Other newly digitized collections include the papers of U.S. Presidents James Buchanan, Ulysses S. Grant, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James K. Polk, and the papers of Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov; access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov; and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.

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PR 18-071
2018-05-15
ISSN 0731-3527