Biography and History

The Papers of Woodrow Wilson Project, co-sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and Princeton University, was a successful project to publish material generated by and influencing Woodrow Wilson; the 35 year project resulted in an acclaimed 69 volume set.

In 1957, the New York-based Woodrow Wilson Foundation (organized in 1922 by a group of Wilson admirers who desired to disseminate Wilson's ideals throughout America) decided to devote its entire financial resources to the collection and publication of Woodrow Wilson's papers. The idea for the project originated in 1956 with a Congressional Centennial Celebration Commission appointed in recognition of the 100th anniversary of Wilson's birth; the commission hired Dr. David Hirst to make survey of Wilson materials scattered in repositories throughout country. Based on the survey, the commission determined a need to publish the papers. The Woodrow Wilson Foundation assumed responsibility for sponsoring and funding the complete scholarly edition of Wilson Papers. Historian and Wilson biographer Arthur S. Link was invited to be director of project in 1958; the associate editors included David W. Hirst, John E. Little, and John Wells Davidson. In 1959, co-sponsorship of the project was divided between the Foundation and Princeton University. The project was initially headquartered at the Library of Congress, but moved to Princeton in 1963.

The Papers of Woodrow Wilson Project initiated a new style of historical editing. Rather than just using the official Wilson Papers from housed at the Library of Congress (which formed the basis for the six-volume Public Papers of Woodrow Wilson, edited by Ray Stannard Baker and William E. Dodd and published between 1925 and 1927), Link and his associates decided to publish all documents that had an important impact on Wilson's thought. They searched for and published documents that Wilson himself generated (although Wilson kept no copies of his personal letters and few copies of official letters written by hand or typewriter), but also decided to include all important incoming materials, the memoranda, letters, and reports that Wilson read, that had an impact on him and helped shape his policies. The editorial team also included speeches and "third party records," for example, diary entries reporting conversations with Wilson. Despite the project running through 1994, the staff never used computers, instead gathering and sorting photocopied documents (the editorial team never worked directly with original documents) and index cards into four large loose-leaf binders delivered to Princeton University Press twice a year for copy editing and typesetting. Arthur Link remained chief editor for the entire length of the project; the last volume was published in 1994.

Source: From the finding aid for MC178

  • Papers of Woodrow Wilson Project Records. 1761-1992 (inclusive), 1850s-1920s (bulk).

    Call Number: MC178

    The Papers of Woodrow Wilson Project, co-sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and Princeton University, was a successful project to publish material generated by and influencing Woodrow Wilson; the 35 year project resulted in an acclaimed 69 volume set. The records of the Papers of Woodrow Wilson Project, compiled by chief editor Arthur S. Link and his staff, document the life and times of the former Princeton University president, governor of New Jersey, and president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, as well as the project to bring together documentation by and about Wilson.