Last week the staff of the President Woodrow Wilson House had the pleasure of going to the Library of Congress for a special tour focusing on Wilson related objects. The highly knowledgeable staff at the library was kind enough to show us materials from the sound recordings, prints and photographs, and manuscript collections, as well as letting us see the Wilson reading room where much of Wilson’s personal library is displayed. Among the highlights of the exhibitions were: a certificate from the city of Rome giving Wilson honorary Roman citizenship, Wilson’s handwritten draft of the armistice announcement, and Wilson’s personal library.
|Woodrow Wilson's Certificate of Roman Citizenship|
Photo: John Pucher
The city of Rome presented Wilson with the certificate of citizenship in January 1919 when he visited the city and was allowed to declare, “Civis Romanus sum” (I am a citizen of Rome). The certificate has three main sections: an image at the top of the document, a central area of text, and a signature section with a smaller image at the bottom. The upper illustration shows a winged feminine figure (probably the Roman goddess Victoria) standing in front of eagles and a group of fasces (bundles of wooden rods with an axe blade), both symbols of the Roman Empire. The text, which is interspersed with golden representations of the pine trees surrounding Rome, translates to: “The Commune of Rome, / From the Capitoline Hill, / Sacred Citadel for the City and / For the Right of the People / Proclaims / Woodrow Wilson / President of the United States of America / a Roman Citizen / equal to the ancient and great men that long ago founded, in their wisdom the indestructible foundations of the liberty and civilization of the world.” In the lower section are the signatures of various members of the city government and another image, this one depicting the Roman goddess Bellona (goddess of war) holding a statue of Victoria, goddess of victory. This certificate was one of the many tokens of appreciation that Wilson received while he was in Europe.
|Wilson's Handwritten Armistice Message|
Photo: John Pucher
Wilson’s short, visibly edited armistice announcement displays a snapshot of Wilson’s thoughts on the end of the war and what America’s role in the world should be at this critical juncture. The armistice went into effect on November 11th, 1918 following the collapse of the German government and the retreat of the German army. The message reads, “My fellow Countrymen, The armistice / was signed this morning. Everything / for which America fought has been / accomplished. It will now be / our fortunate duty to assist by / example by sober friendly counsel and by / material aid in the establishment / of democracy throughout / the world. / Woodrow Wilson” Written on a small piece of White House stationary this item presents Wilson’s desire for an idealistic peace along the lines of his Fourteen Points. Sadly, the Treaty of Versailles, which formally ended the war, strayed significantly from these ideas.
The Wilson reading room in the Library of Congress displays some of Wilson’s personal library which was donated by Edith Wilson in 1946. Numbering over seven thousand titles the collection demonstrates Wilson’s well-read, academic nature, as well as the large variety in his tastes and interests. Topics range from politics, to history, to literature, to golf. Unfortunately, not all of his library can be displayed and the reading room is closed to the general public. Nevertheless, the reading room gives great insight what works influenced Wilson’s thought and personality.
|Books in the Woodrow Wilson Reading Room|
Photo: John Pucher
The staff of the President Woodrow Wilson House had a great time at the Library of Congress and intend to return in the not so distant future. Further, we want to extend our thanks to the numerous people at the Library of Congress who took time to show us their Wilson collections.