In the summer of 1902, Woodrow Wilson 1879 — a popular professor who’d recently been selected as Princeton’s 13th president — wrote a four-page letter to his wife, Ellen, reflecting on his new appointment.
“[M]y election to the presidency has done a very helpful thing for me,” he wrote. “It has settled the future for me and given me a sense of position and of definite, tangible tasks, which takes the flutter and restlessness from my spirits.”
The letter is on display in “The Election for Woodrow Wilson’s America,” an exhibit at Firestone Library’s Milberg Gallery through the end of December, and it serves as one of several interesting mileposts on Wilson’s road to the White House.
Wilson, of course, could only hold his restlessness at bay for so long: He spent eight years in Nassau Hall, the shortest stay for a Princeton president in the post-Colonial era, before winning the New Jersey gubernatorial election of 1910. By August 1912, exactly a decade after his letter to Ellen, Wilson was the Democratic nominee for president, campaigning against a Republican incumbent, President William H. Taft, and a third-party challenger, former President Theodore Roosevelt. Socialist candidate Eugene V. Debs also played a significant role in the race.
The exhibit captures the flavor of the election, drawing heavily from the University’s Woodrow Wilson collections and a colorful array of memorabilia on loan from collector Anthony Atkiss ’61. Images of Wilson span from his undergraduate days, when he posed with the Princetonian’s editorial board, through the early days of his presidency. One display case even includes his iconic pince-nez eyeglasses and a top hat worn during his time as the New Jersey governor.
The exhibit is open from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays until Dec. 28. A curator’s tour will be held Oct. 28 at 3 p.m.