The Woodrow Wilson House, the only Presidential museum in Washington, D.C., is hosting a poignant exhibition, "Images of the Great War", to honor this year's centennial of World War One, 1914-1919.
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President Wilson, who served as the 28th President from 1913 to 1921, proclaimed America's entry into World War One (Dec. 7, 1917) as a crusade to make the world "safe for democracy".
These haunting "Images of the Great War" vividly bring to life the "war to end all wars". It left more than 10 million dead, and millions more wounded and missing.
Some of the most striking works in the moving exhibit include:"The Fall of Ostend" by Gerald Spencer Pryse is heart-breaking. Belgian refugee women and children show fear and anxiety alongside bodies on stretchers and dejected, retreating troops as British warships sail away in the background.
"French prisoners of war" by Louis Raemaekers show despair and boredom as they sprawl behind a barbed wire fence. Raemaekers was one of the better known propaganda cartoonists of the First World War. His cartoons were syndicated widely in the U.S. as well as in Europe.
In "Good-bye, Old Man", a soldier nestles the head of his dying horse. London's Blue Cross Animal Welfare Society commissioned Fortunino Matavia to depict this actual scene. To raise funds, it was printed both as a post card and also as a poster with the slogan, "Help the Horse, Save the Soldier." The exhibit's wall text notes estimates of more than eight million horses, donkeys, and mules died on the Western Front.
Another image by Fortunino Matavia is "The Strongest". A little boy sticks his tongue out at an arrogant, spike-helmeted German soldier in the occupied town.
"Preserve Thy Body and Soul" by William Holt Yates Titcomb shows soldiers at a makeshift altar on a battlefield. They're taking holy communion from a chaplain whose spurs show below his cassock. All but one of the dozen soldiers were killed in later battles.
In "British stretcher bearer" by Maurice Greiffenhagen, a soldier aids a wounded colleague still clutching his rifle while blood trickles down his face. A town burns in the background.
"The First Tank" by Walter Monkton Keesey. Britain introduced tanks to end the stalemate on the Western Front during the Somme offensive in 1916. "The New York Times" described them as "the huge, leviathan creatures waddle over the battlefields..always spitting showers of machine-gun bullets and often adding terror..."
President Wilson helped negotiate an end to the terror of World War One in 1919. He won the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his renowned Fourteen Points peace program and getting the final point, proposing a "League of Nations", included in the Versailles Treaty to end the war.
President Wilson wrote presciently in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, "In the indefinite course of [the] years before us there will be abundant opportunity for others to distinguish themselves in the crusade against hate and fear and war."
The selection of prints, drawings and watercolors from the Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection at Brown University is on display at the Woodrow Wilson House through Aug. 10.
In 1921, Wilson moved from the White House a few blocks away to this stately house, now a National Trust for Historic Preservation site. The Staunton, Virginia native lived here until his death in 1924.
The house is maintained as it was in Wilson's time, with the library, mementos, silent films, sound recordings, and even flapper dresses.
Some prime times to see this Presidential house museum and the exhibition are:The monthly Vintage Game Night and happy hour May 7, with croquet, lawn bowling, mah-jongg (First Lady Edith Bolling Galt Wilson loved it and had four mah-jongg sets).The Annual Garden Party May 14, with prizes for the best ladies' and gentlemen's hats, live music, and specialty cocktails. Proceeds benefit the Woodrow Wilson House.
Speaking of cocktails and happy hours, President Wilson vetoed the National Prohibition Act, a.k.a. the Volstead Act, because he thought it would be unenforceable! But one day later, Congress voted to override his veto. An amendment to the infamous act allowed liquor to be transported from the White House to the Wilson House, a spokeswoman told me.
This year is also a far happier centennial -- President Wilson proclaimed a national holiday, Mother's Day, in 1914. The Mother's Day Centennial Luncheon May 11, at Washington's Willard InterContinental Hotel, is a benefit for the Woodrow Wilson House.
For more info and tickets: "Images of the Great War", Woodrow Wilson House, www.woodrowwilsonhouse.org, 2340 S Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., 202-387-4062. Exhibit continues through Aug. 10. Events, www.woodrowwilsonhouse.org/events for Vintage Game Night May 7, Mother's Day Centennial Luncheon May 11, and Annual Garden Party May 14.
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