tv American Artifacts World War I Tour of Woodrow Wilson House CSPAN December 25, 2018 9:40pm-10:16pm EST
public policy events and washington, d.c. and run the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. each week, american artifacts takes you to museums and historic places. we visited woodrow wilson's house and washington, d.c., where the 28th president retired in 1921 after leading the nation through world war i and its diplomatic aftermath. he died here 3 years later. executive director robert leads us through the house, and highlights objects that provide a window into world war i as he experienced it. united states entered the war on april 6, 1917 as an ally of written, france, and russia. 2 million american soldiers saw combat in france. >> i am robert holmes, the executive director the woodrow wilson house.
we are here and washington, d.c. this home is the home to which president and mrs. wilson moved, the day they left the white house in 1921. the home was built in 1916 and the wilson's acquired it in december 1920, knowing they would be leaving the white house and decided to remain in washington, d.c. this home is a time capsule. it takes us back about 100 years ago, and allows us to see how the world was then. we have the illusion that people in history were very much like us, only they were different clothing. actually, the wilson's lived in an era when americans felt differently about themselves and their role in the world. when society was very different, and the artifacts in this house open a door into that world. i would like us to do that today, by looking at the
artifacts in this home. they tell a story of america's involvement with world war i. we are almost 100 year from the date when the united states entered the war in 1917. i do observe often that history is studied in eras and epics. it is lived in hours and days. this is very true with the wilson's and world war i. we often associate the syncing with the lusitania with the united states entering the war. they are linked. the lusitania was sunk in may 1915, we did not enter the war until almost 2 years later in april 1917. president wilson had to get up every day and those 2 years and deal with the fact that we were going to be in the war or not be in the war, and all of the reactions of his constituents, other nations, and the political figures he dealt with. some of them felt we should have entered the war at the beginning in europe, and others felt strongly that we never should have entered the war.
wilson had to navigate that period of time and those decisions as our president. it's fair to say that woodrow wilson is the most consequential president from the time of abraham lincoln until the time of franklin roosevelt. i do say that because he was our president during this remarkable event in world history. he was at a flexion point in world history and american history. he did not only deal with world war i, but the rise of the united states as a force in the world. by 1900, the united states had the largest economy in the world. the consequences of that were not fully appreciated by the end of world war i when our role as a military power and a diplomatic power were understood and acknowledged. it was woodrow wilson who was our president during that entire time, and brought that change in america's role to the front of -- forefront. he was a great person to execute this activity.
he was a deeply religious person. as a religious man, he felt we had a duty to do better than to collapse into war in every generation. he was a political scientist. he was one of the founders of that discipline of thought. he was one of the first presidents of the american political science association. he felt we could do better. he believed we could govern ourselves better as a world. the combination of those two things in his mind and heart led him to conclude, as world war i progressed that there ought to be a better solution that would result, not only this war, but the results of wars in the future and prevent war in the future. from that came his idea of the league of nations to which he devoted, not only his political career, but his life, and his place in history. the artifacts we have in the house can tell us the story of
woodrow wilson's involvement with world war i. if i had picked one artifact, to explain the story it would be this. it looks like a brass base. it is an artillery shell casing. this is the artillery case shot by the american troops in world war i. there are a few things about this. it was fired in october 1917. general persian, who was the commander in europe, had the thought that he should save this and send it to president wilson as memento of america's involvement in the war. it is interesting that we declared war in april, and the first shot was fired in october. it took us six months to go from the idea of engaging to actually being on the ground and engaging with the enemy. the most remarkable of this, not only is this an artillery
shell casing from the first shot fired in from american troops, the first shot fired by american troops in europe,., ever. in my lifetime, america has always had an army in europe. in his lifetime, the exact opposite was true. we had never had an army in europe. at the beginning of world war i, the united states was tied for the 13th largest military in the world with serbia and grace. by the end of world war i, we had 4 million men in uniform, having gone from 200,000 up to 4 million. 2 million service personnel were in europe at the end of world war i. just the logistics of that are astounding. you have to realize that when world war i erupted, the combatants were not concerned about america's role peer today, we think of america as an indispensable power in world politics. at the beginning of world war
i, we were an afterthought. it was woodrow wilson that achieved that transition. i have heard presidents of both political parties say in my lifetime that the united states does not go to war to build an empire were to acquire territory, we go to war for principal. it was woodrow wilson that was the first american president to annunciate that proposition. i need only guide you back 20 years earlier to the beginnings of the spanish-american war, which was about taking over the colonies of the dwindling spanish empire. wilson thought the war was about enduring peace. the artillery shell casing right here on the mantle in his bedroom, was where he had it. it's fair to say it was not a trophy, it was reminder to him of the work left undone. the
creation of the league of nations had occurred. he was there and was awarded the nobel peace prize for 1915 for his work to establish the league of nations. as americans, we should remember our country never joined the league of nations. the senate declined to ratify the treaty. wilson went on a trip across the country hoping to appeal to the american public to override the will of the senators. that never happened. league of nations failed in a series of votes in late 1919 and early 1920. united states never joined. interestingly, late in life, wilson had a state of grace about this. he told one of his daughters, who wrote in her memoirs, he said great ideas do not rely on advocates. they have a logic of their own. it would be only 25 years later when the united nations was founded. it's fair to say, no nation in the world was more intent on founding the united nations at the end of world war ii than
the united states. in 1945, when the united nations charter was signed in san francisco, in a way that was the conclusion of a conversation that woodrow wilson began in politics in 1918. another artifact that is remarkable in this room, there are so many. this is related to world war i, is this culture. this was a gift from a young artist. he was a philippine artist in his 20s, that was studying in the united states. he had a day job, as most artists do, as a waiter. one of his regular patrons was a secretary to the first lady. the artist had done this project as an art project as a grad student. he told the woman he knew who
was associated with the white house, that he had done this in 1919, inspired by the president's efforts to bring peace to the world. it has the word for peace in spanish inscribed here. he was invited to meet with the president. i've read his rendition of the story of coming to me the president. the artist was announced and went into the oval office where he spent time with the president and presented this gift that was warmly received. when he was in the house, he had it here or on a shelf in his library. who was recognized and a supporter of president wilson .
>> the 28th president had an extensive career of the artist until the 1970s or 80s to have an impact in his own country, it's an amazing work with the draping of a gun on the woman and the child off in the distance, looking for peace, standing on a rock under which you can see chains and a crown and a world war i helmet. symbolism and a favorite piece of president wilson . >> wilson passed away in this house in this room in 1924. his widow lived here until 1961 , seven years after he passed he left the house to the national trust for historic preservation, to be a memorial.
over his bed we can see a work of art it's a textile painted wood frame and was presented to wilson during world war i by an italian artist when wilson was visiting new york city. it was a favorite piece and he had it hanging over his bed in the white house and over his bed at the house and there's also an interesting artifact. pillowcases woven into the likeness were a little unusual but, during world war i, the united states undertook food aid to belgium, partially occupied during the war this came in the substance of flour in cotton sax but belgium's who have a tradition of weaving didn't
have the fine threads to leave during the war so they would take the flour sacks and undo them and relieve them into designs. this was a gift to president wilson with the likeness of wilson cuffs around the edge to decorate. it's an amazing example of what people will do when they are limited to the materials available to them. and they have a skill and want to exercise that skill >> of this is the drawing room in the house. is home tells so many stories. every room has stories to tell but one of the important stories is the high regard with which the american president was held by the leaders of the world, certainly by the end of world war i. there are many gifts of state in this room and we try to acknowledge wilson's
important role at the end of world war i and securing the peace and verse i treaty. today, we probably rightly think so much more of world war ii than world war i. world war ii was closer to us in time, my own father was in the navy in world war ii. it was also a more disastrous war. more damage, more casualties but 18 million people died in world war i and 65 million people died in world war ii. but, for the contemporaries they were on a scale that no one had endured. it's hard for us today to put ourselves back in the minds and passions of people in the early 20th century to realize what a tragedy world war i was to them. how hopeless things must have seemed in the middle of the war, from 1914 until november 1918.
so, into that, president wilson brought the united states and not only did american troops need to a victory for the parties at the end of the war but also annunciation of the 13 points which you may remember from high school. but they said this work could be terminated and ended on principle. it didn't have to be a fight to the death. this was an innovation coming from the senior leader of an important country. additionally, this can be seen as a response to the bolshevik revolution in russia that occurred much earlier in october 1917 announced in january 1918. we can maintain western europe in the world we know that we can still have the forms of government were comfortable
with and we can end this war without a fight to the death. it would take another nine or 10 months until the german empire except to the 14 points as a basis for negotiated peace the date of that acceptance was known as armistice day and today we call it veterans day that's how important the day was, we still honor it as a national holiday, even 100 years later. in that time, wilson was the world leader who was bringing hope for peace to the world. we went to work to negotiate the treaty that ended up staying for six months . >> it wasn't that hard to travel to it took them 10 days to go across the atlantic but there was nothing more important than ending the great war. he stayed to do whatever it took to do. while he was there he had time to visit for countries paris
france, italy, belgium, and great britain. while he was in italy he went to rome and met with the pope, this is a gift from the pope to president wilson. it's a fine mosaic if you think from a distance it's an oil painting. scholars of art will recognize it's a detail from a painting by a renaissance painter, an italian painter. this is a work of the vatican workshop and a gift that the pope presented to president wilson as a way to wish him well in bringing peace to the world. >> here is another amazingly beautiful work of art. this is a painting, by an armenian and later armenian-american. one of the consequences of world war i is that the empire that had governed , turkey in
that region, the empire collapsed after having controlled the area for eight or nine centuries. in the transition, the armenian people suffered grievously. our president was woodrow wilson and he responded to the crisis by sending free aid to armenia in the first example of international humanitarian relief. when we think of the role today is the precursor to that. the armenian people were grateful and a group of armenian women toward the united states raising money for charities. here, in 1917, just after we declared war and presented this painting to president wilson the artists wife was among the women it depicts them wearing
traditional armenian costume holding the armenian national flower which symbolizes hope. that is the title of the work, the hope in french. it shows humanitarian relief in america and being a player on the international stage. another gift we have in the home are three plates, these point out the gold hand-painted plates three of 15 plates that were gift to president wilson from the king and queen of belgium, carl and elizabeth who wilson visited in europe. then they reciprocated by coming to the united states in the fall of 1919. this is the first trip to america by reigning monarchs from europe. to think we've been a country for all this time but because of travel british kings and
queens and french kings and queens have not visited the united states but the belgian king came to the united states and presented 15 plate with a shelf for each plate. wilson had about a month before suffered a stroke that devastated his health. one could hardly say to european monarchs that it's not a convenient time to come but wilson had an audience with him. he was in bed recuperating from a stroke. and the first lady took the king and queen on a tour of the white house. for they left they return to wilson's bedroom and found him with a magnifying glass looking at the plates. wilson had quickly realize that each plate depict did a building in belgium that had been destroyed in world war i. so, these plates were in some way a reflection of the damage that had been done in europe and i think you two wilson for
bringing the war to conclusion and reestablishing the normal society from world war i. >> when president wilson went to paris for the paris peace conference, he became the first american president to go to europe on office. while he was in europe he went to great britain and was at a reception hosted by the king and queen of england. wilson then became the first american president to ever meet the king of england. he said the portraits and photographs that the king and queen, that were represented to wilson in silver flames with their initials. these are original portraits autographed by the royal family. i think if you look closely, there's quite a resemblance to her grandmother .
>> outside the library is a statue that deserves no. woodrow and edith wilson were great supporters of the red cross and this is one way the united states was involved in world war i even before we had war and became involved militarily. the red cross did great work in world war i and was supported by many americans including the president and first lady. this sculpture was based on a popular poster of the time called the greatest mother in the world and depicts the red cross nurse and in her arms what you might think is a baby but it's actually a small soldier whose been grievously wounded. it's an amazingly empathetic work and i can imagine why the
american public was so taken with this image , idea of the nurses tending to the soldiers who were wounded in this conflagration sweeping europe and the rest of the world. not to speak to the impulsive americans to be involved and you write and do well so, the wilson's presented this to wilson by the artist during world war i. >> hearing woodrow wilson's library were not expecting a 100-year-old home, we have a whole range of artifacts that tell the story. this cabinet is full of gifts and mementos of wilson's presence. may be the most amazing and the one that really relates us to world war i is this pin and pin stand. the pin is the pin that woodrow wilson used to sign the declaration of war in april
1917. the way this would've worked, wilson earlier this week give a speech before a session of congress, the house brought him the declaration at the residence in the white house and he and his wife were having lunch and it's like, where's the pin this is in an era before ballpoint pens and she said here use mine, it's a pearl handled pin, a gift from president wilson pickett sits on a pin stand . >> over here is a statue that was a gift to the first lady,
edith wilson, from the city of rome. mentioned earlier that he was the first american president to going to europe while in office. wilson was the first american first lady to go to europe while in office. she had to answer a bunch of questions about how the first lady conducts herself and all sorts of formalities being the wife of the head of state and going to another country. so when wilson visited italy, he was in rome and was given honorary citizenship by the city of rome but, edith was given this statue. on it are the initials sp qr the stand for the people of rome it's a touching gift and fits into the theme of the era of the growing
role of women in society. wilson raised the question that were in the minds of americans of what role were women's to have it would be about the same time that the 19th amendment was confirmed and that women receive a constitutional right to vote in the united states in their own way edith was forging a path for women as they continued to this day of the first lady accompanying the president on state visits and having a formal role . >> this is a radeon microphone from the 1920s. it was from this room that wilson that president wilson made the first nationwide radio broadcast in the fifth anniversary of armistice they. wilson used to give a four-
minute speech on this occasion and was quite anxious about it and spent the day fretting and napping, no one had ever spoken on radio and having endured a stroke and somewhat recovering the person who had spoken as much is wilson felt some anxiety about going on radio. so, he gave his speech at about eight p.m. it was well received, so we have this microphone here to commemorate that remarkable event. wilson used the occasion to appeal to the american people to reconsider the united states rejection of the league of nation and they never did join the league of nations. wilson appeared to americans remembering both that it was consistent with the principles of our nation's founding and also consistent with the sacrifices made by our troops in world war i that we join the
league of nations. wilson passed away about three months later in his house, this was his last public address. to his last days wilson was appealing to america to conclude world war i by joining the league of nations, a final step that we never took. >> now on the first floor and what wilson called the dugout, he was a big fan of baseball which became popular in america when he was a teenager. this was the room in which his secretary we do correspondence. one of the world were related artifacts is this it looks like dryer vent that was collected and in a funny way it is. it's wall but before it's been woven into clothing. at the other end of the clothing cycle as the united states gets more involved in world war i, they free the work
were otherwise doing landscaping at the white house, free them to support the war effort. the wilson's got a flock of sheep, six or eight sheet and they would munch on the grass and every spring, the sheep would be shorn in the wilson's would divide the sheep wall into 50 different parcels, one for each of the 48 states and one for the district of columbia and one for puerto rico . then these are auctioned to raise money for the american red cross. >> another artifact in this room is this platter, it's a pewter platter let me put on my gloves so i can handle it.,
this is a gift to president wilson from the people of belgium and, as you can see it's in horrible condition, not because we neglect the platter but because it was pulled from the rubble of a burned building in belgium. this was presented to wilson at the end of the negotiations of the paris peace conference signed a treaty. in a way i think this artifact is so pointed and tells the story of the beginning of the war and also the end of the war, so i'd like to read what's inscribed on it. to the imminent president of the usa, woodrow wilson. i will read it exactly as it is in the person who wrote this probably spoke french as their first language and not english but in any event, it says, in remembrance of his visit in belgium june, 1919.
this dish has been drawn out of the ruins of hotel data renaissance belgium. entirely destroyed by the fire which has been systematically explained in the town by the german soldiers on fourãfive, september 1914. this is an artifact of the german invasion of belgium that started world war i. in terms of history, germany's plan was to sweep through the low lands of belgium, take paris before anyone could respond and then return to russia and defeat them. that plan didn't work because in large part belgium resisted the german invasion so the fire september 4 and fifth was about a month after germany invaded i don't remember details but they
had the german are going through belgium in about a week, not a month, so, the hostility of the time in the violation of neutrality these were intense issues in woodrow wilson's time. in a way, the belgians were presenting this to wilson to demonstrate the passions felt in that time, the intensity of the negotiations that he had conduct did in verse five. there were 26 combatant nations that participated in this world conference , nations including india, japan, they were also involved in hostilities during the war. they had lost 18 million people among them, think how excruciating the negotiations must've been compared to the international negotiations we have today with things like
climate change trade treaties. wilson but all of those parties together to sign that verse i treaty the versailles treaty to establish the league of nations important to peace. this almost takes on the dimensions of a greek tragedy. if political finders new what ought to be done, he brought the treaty back to the united states and their his political opponents were not of the same view as he and they had a legitimate view and we can certainly debate in fact we do debate today, but 100 years ago, wilson saw beyond history and imagine that the world would need something like the united nations and he founded it in 1919. while it doesn't work perfectly it's an amazing legacy of the 28th president to have seen so clearly what the world would need , to minimize
the risk of war in the future. >> you can watch this and other american artifacts programs anytime by visiting our website c-span.org/history. >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television company. and today, we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington d.c. and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider . >> on october 8, 1918, fighting in the offensive and single- handedly killed 25 men and helped capture over 130. he received a medal of honor for his actions and was one of
the most decorated soldiers of world war i. a film called sergeant york about a man from tennessee, his life in wartime actions. ♪ >> i'm not going to war, war is killing in the books against killing >> wonder the poor and to caesar the things which are caesar's and unto god the things that are god's