The Election for Woodrow Wilson’s America

The 1912 U.S. presidential election was a turning point for progressivism, both for the nation and for Woodrow Wilson.  An exhibition now open at the Princeton University Library illustrates this remarkable election and the life of the man who won it.

Drawn from the University Archives and the Public Policy Collection at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, the exhibition follows Wilson’s career as scholar, university president, governor of New Jersey, and newly elected president of the United States to tell the story of how his ideas were formed and changed in service of the nation. In addition, the exhibition features rare Wilson memorabilia loaned by Anthony W. Atkiss, a member of Princeton’s class of 1961.

“The Election for Woodrow Wilson’s America”  is free and open to the public, and is on display in Firestone Library’s Milberg Gallery now through the end of December 2012.

The 1912 election was a four-way race between a conservative incumbent, William Howard Taft, a socialist, Eugene Debs, and two progressives, former president Theodore Roosevelt and Wilson. Growing concern about the concentration of wealth and influence among the power elite and pressing questions about taxation, the welfare of farmers, banking regulation, and labor rights made it almost inevitable that a progressive candidate would take the White House.

“The exhibition is filled with some exceptional items, including love letters Wilson wrote to his first wife, the complete text of Wilson’s first inaugural address, the top hat he wore while campaigning for the presidency, a good number of original political cartoons from the era, and a tremendous variety of pins, buttons, pennants, and other campaign memorabilia, generously loaned to us by Mr. Atkiss,” said Dan Linke, the head of Mudd Library, who co-curated the exhibition with Maureen Callahan, a project archivist at Mudd.

According to Callahan, Wilson represented the model citizen-scholar that Princeton strove to produce throughout the 20th century. Cosmopolitan, serious, and reformist, he had studied the structures that make political change happen and was willing to leverage his influence to affect them. As Princeton’s president from 1902 to 1910, Wilson transformed the university into a far more scholarly place than it had been when he was a student. Motivated by ambition and a sincere desire to serve, Wilson took on the political party system and local monopolies as governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913, and this work helped catapult him to the presidency.

“The Election for Woodrow Wilson’s America” is currently open from 8:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Monday through Friday.  Starting Sept. 4, it will be open from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday until Dec. 28, 2012.  The exhibition is open from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. A curator’s tour of the exhibition will be held Oct. 28, 2012, at 3 p.m.

The Milberg Gallery is located within Firestone Library at 1 Washington Road (#5 on map). For more information, call 609-258-6345 or email mudd@princeton.edu.

 

Past, present and future US presidents at Princeton’s bicentennial, 1947

Princeton University celebrated its 200th anniversary with a year-long series of events, starting on September 22, 1946 and ending with a convocation on June 14-17, 1947. The newsreel posted here was shot during the conclusion of the bicentennial celebrations on June 17th, when thirty-six notables received honorary degrees, including US President Harry Truman, who gave the convocation address.

The newsreel opens with footage of Harry Truman, posing with former president Herbert Hoover (already a recipient of an honorary degree) and the widows of US presidents Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson, who were special guests. The first recipients featured are General Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower, who would succeed Harry Truman as US President in 1953, and Admiral Chester Nimitz (0:37). Both were honored for their leadership during the war, Eisenhower as Supreme Allied Commander, and Nimitz as commander of the Pacific Fleet. Other recipients shown are Dr. Vannevar Bush, wartime director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (organizer of the Manhattan Project) and Bernard Baruch, presidential adviser during both world wars. They are followed by Warren Austin, US representative of the United Nations, and Viscount Harold Alexander, governor general of Canada (0:43-0:51). Albert Einstein, based at the Institute of Advanced Studies, but an honored guest on campus, also participates in the procession (0:31). The film ends with President Harry Truman’s rallying address, in which he urges the adoption of universal military training (1:28).

The newsreel is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (part of item no. 1344).

Exhibition celebrates 50th anniversary of University Archives

The richness and depth of the collections of the Princeton University Archives are the focus of “‘The Best Old Place of All’: Treasures From the Princeton University Archives,” a new exhibition at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library opening Friday, Feb. 20.

The exhibition coincides with the yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the University Archives and features some of the most historically significant documents and objects from the collection alongside seldom-seen treasures. It will run through Friday, Jan. 29.

“The goal of this exhibition is to illustrate the University’s long and impressive history and, in doing so, to celebrate and reflect upon the vital role of the University Archives in preserving and documenting that record,” said University Archivist Dan Linke.

Featured in the exhibition are documents, photographs and objects from the University Archives covering the time of the institution’s founding to the modern era. A page from the 1783 minutes of the Board of Trustees contains the trustees’ request that George Washington sit for a portrait so that they might replace the work of King George that was destroyed in the Battle of Princeton. Nearby, a draft of then-University President Woodrow Wilson’s vehement argument on the matter of the location of the Graduate College hints at another battle fought on campus more than a century later.

Many of the objects capture the ever-changing nature of student life and academics at Princeton. Early course examinations, class schedules and a set of handwritten student lecture notes from the time of John Witherspoon (who was University president from 1768 to 1794) exemplify how, though times may have changed, the purpose of the typical Princeton student has remained largely the same. One notable exception to that credo can be seen in the form of a so-called “cheating cuff,” which hearkens back to the days before the Honor Code. Early 20th-century football programs and photographs from Triangle Club shows point to extracurricular pursuits.

In addition to paper documents and photographs, “‘The Best Old Place of All'” draws upon the extensive memorabilia collection of the University Archives. Items such as canes, clay pipes and the Reunion jacket of Adlai Stevenson — the influential politician and diplomat who graduated from Princeton in 1922 — are all a part of the University’s heritage. Other objects such as the discus that 1897 alumnus Robert Garrett threw in the 1896 Athens Olympics and a blackball box used during eating club “bicker” selections represent some of many curiosities that have found their way into the archives in the last 50 years.

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Newly acquired photo album contains heretofore unknown photos of Woodrow Wilson and Mark Twain

Wilson1_325wA wonderful end of the year gift came to the Princeton University Archives through the generosity of four alumni who serve on the Princetoniana Committee. The item, a photo album from a Class of 1904 graduate, was for sale on eBay. Donald Farren ’58 noted its availability and joined by Dave Cleaves ’78, Scott Clemons ’90, and Sev Onyshkevych ’83, saw that it made its way to the Archives.

The seller had advertised the Woodrow Wilson image (right) but had made no mention of the image of Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain whose photograph was on the same page (below). The images were taken during Wilson’s inauguration as Princeton president in October 1902, and another image of Wilson taken that day is also found within the book.

Twain_325w

The volume, compiled by William Alsop Bours, also contains numerous candid shots of undergraduate student life, including Princeton buildings, snow scenes, students, dormitories, sporting and social events, as well as a set of pictures from a trip to Rome. The volume has been added to the Historical Photgraph Collection, Student Album series.