Edith Bolling Wilson’s 1904 Automobile Operator's Permit Listed on Virginia’s 2017 Top 10 Endangered Artifacts List
The Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum owns one of Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts, according to the Virginia Association of Museums. Last year, the museum acquired First Lady Edith Bolling [Galt] Wilson’s original Automobile Operator's Permit, and is seeking funds for conservation of the object through the program.
The museum’s document is one of ten unique artifacts from across the state and spanning Virginia’s extensive history from the 1700s to the 20th century that was chosen following a thorough review process by an independent selection committee of collections professionals from partner organizations, such as the Library of Virginia, Preservation Virginia, Virginia Conservation Association, and Virginia Department of Historic Resources. The complete list of artifacts and contact information for each honoree can be found at Virginia's Top 10 Endangered Artifacts webpage.
In 1904, Edith Bolling Galt became the first woman licensed to operate an electric car in Washington, D.C. Like many other early women drivers with independent methods of transportation, Edith questioned gender roles and societal expectations. Edith’s recollections of driving her Columbia Elberon Victoria Mark XXXI are relayed in her 1939 autobiography, "My Memoir." Wilson scholars note that when police officers in Washington recognized the future First Lady driving, they would stop traffic and obligingly wave her through street intersections.
The Operator’s Permit was issued on September 7, 1904 by the Office of the Commissioners in Washington, D.C. At that time Edith was married to her first husband, Norman Galt, owner of Galt & Bro. Jewelers, a prominent business in Washington D.C. The document indicates that Mrs. Galt was authorized to operate a vehicle of the “electric type.” The cost of the vehicle amounted to $1600 in 1904 (equivalent to about $44,000 in 2017). This particular model was marketed to women and advertised as a carriage for “light pleasure service,” ”park riding,” and “social functions.” It would reach speeds of up to thirteen miles per hour and run for forty miles on a single charge.
The artifact, measuring 5.25 x 8.125,” is fragile and in poor condition with separation, staining, and yellowing due to increasing levels of acidity. The object has been adhered with scotch tape for many years, causing more damage to the document. Its current condition prevents it from being on display. With conservation, the museum hopes to permanently display the object and create educational and exhibition content focusing on early women drivers and electric cars.
Shiloh Holley, Executive Director of the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum, states that she is thrilled about the designation. “This object not only speaks to the legacy of Edith Bolling Wilson as a forward-looking individual who, despite of her gender, embraced the world around her, but also relates to early twentieth century women's history, technology, and environmental issues.”
After Norman Galt’s death in 1908, Edith Bolling Galt married President Woodrow Wilson in December 1915. She served as First Lady until 1921. Her birthplace home in Wytheville, Virginia now operates as a museum. As one of only eight historic sites across the country dedicated to the interpretation of a First Lady, the museum tells the story of the overlooked, yet vitally important role that Edith Bolling Wilson played in the White House at a pivotal moment during World War I. Museum hours are Tuesday - Friday 10:00 am - 4:00 pm and Saturdays 10:00 am. - 2:00 pm. For more information visit edithbollingwilson.org.
Starting January 15, the public is invited to vote for Edith Bolling [Galt] Wilson’s Automobile Operator's Permit as their favorite artifact to help support its conservation efforts. Thanks to a generous donation from the Blandford Rees Foundation, the Virginia Association of Museum’s renowned program will for the first time provide conservation awards totaling nearly $19,000 to the honorees, which will be granted by the Selection Committee or through the outcome of the online public voting competition taking place January 15-24, 2018. The public is invited to help bestow $9,000 of these conservation awards by voting for their favorite endangered artifact. The two artifacts receiving the most votes will be recognized as the People’s Choice Awards and receive $5,000 and $4,000 respectfully to conserve their artifacts and care for its continued preservation. Those wishing to make a lasting impact on preserving Virginia’s history are encouraged to vote for their favorite artifacts during the online public voting competition.
December 28 marks President Woodrow Wilson’s birthday, who was born in Staunton, Virginia in 1856. The date is also the anniversary of the death of Edith Bolling Wilson, his beloved second wife. Mrs. Wilson died in 1961, at the age of 89. On that day, she had planned to be the guest of honor at the dedication of the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge, connecting Virginia with Maryland over the Potomac River.
Yesterday, representatives from the museum stood alongside Bolling Family members and staff of the Woodrow Wilson House gathered to witness the annual wreath laying and prayer service in honor of Woodrow Wilson at the National Cathedral. The ceremony was presided by Reverend Doctor Olivia Hilton, who included a prayer written by President Wilson as the Nation was entering World War I:
"Almighty God, ruler of all the peoples of the earth, forgive, we pray, our shortcomings as a nation; purify our hearts to see and love truth; give wisdom to our counselors, and steadfastness to our people; and bring us at last to the fair city of peace, whose foundations are mercy, justice, and goodwill, and whose builder and maker you are. AMEN."
The United States Armed Forces commemorated President Woodrow Wilson's 161st birthday with a Presidential Armed Forces Full Honor wreath-laying ceremony. The wreath was placed by Brig. Gen. Douglas A. Sims II, director of operations readiness and mobilization, Department of the U.S. Army. Ambassador Hovhannissian of the Embassy of Armenia to the United States also honored President Wilson with a floral tribute sporting the Armenian flag. President Wilson played a special role in the history of Armenia. Through his leadership, Wilson arbitrated the boundary between the First Armenian Republic and Turkey as determined by the treaty of Sevres in 1920. He is also remembered for his efforts to save hundreds of thousands refugees and orphans after the Armenian Genocide.
A special orchid tribute to First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson was provided by Chadwick & Son Orchids Inc of Richmond, Virginia.
President Woodrow Wilson and Edith Bolling Wilson are the only presidential couple buried in Washington, D.C., and they are both interred at the National Cathedral.
You can watch a live feed of the ceremony provided by the U.S. Army here.
Photos courtesy of Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Foundation, Woodrow Wilson House, Sarah Andrews, and the Embassy of Armenia to the United States.
This past weekend, we celebrated Edith Bolling Wilson’s 145th Birthday by hosting two very special events.
On Saturday, the museum welcomed eighty guests to the opening of the new exhibition, "World War I: From Wytheville to the White House...and Abroad.” This exhibition serves to present the First Lady in a scholarly-light by detailing her participation in and contributions to America’s effort in World War I. Throughout the day, special VIP tours were given, including a talk by exhibition advisor Dr. Lynn Rainville, a historian who specializes in Virginia’s role in World War I.
An Orchid Blooms
The following day over 175 guests gathered at Loretto, one of Wytheville’s finest historic homes, to honor the life and legacy of First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson. The event served as the official release party for a new hybrid Cattleya propagated by Chadwick and Son and named after the First Lady. On display at Loretto, was a pop-up exhibit of twenty-five watercolor paintings of local historic homes, created by local artist Beth Pendleton over the past thirty years. The distillery A. Smith Bowman sponsored a bourbon tasting bar (Mrs. Wilson was known to occasionally partake of Bowman’s). The President and Mrs. Wilson were also in attendance (portrayed by Betsy Ely and Jim Gearhart).
We thank everyone involved for making Edith Bolling Wilson’s 145th birthday so special!
Please note that the Run For Peace has been cancelled.
To commemorate the centennial of the United States’s involvement in World War I and to recognize our veterans, the Edith Bolling Wilson Museum will host a Run for Peace on November 11, 2017.
One hundred years ago, while Edith Bolling Wilson was serving as First Lady, the United States entered World War I. Edith Bolling Wilson promoted her husband’s vision for peace, set an example for homefront conservation movements, and supported Allied troops. Through this work, Edith Bolling Wilson became the mother of modern First Ladies as she focused more on politics and social issues rather than serving as a traditional White House hostess.
The Run for Peace is a part of the museum's programming for the current exhibition “World War I: From Wytheville to the White House... and Abroad,” which focuses on the leadership and contributions of First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson during the war.
The Run for Peace 5K Run/Walk will be held in Rural Retreat, Virginia at 9:00 am starting at the Emergency Services Building, adjacent to the Rural Retreat Wall of Honor. The event is open to all ages. Veterans will receive free registration and will be recognized for their service during a short program after the race. President and Mrs. Wilson, portrayed by Jim Gearhart and Betsy Ely, will be special guests and will greet runners as they cross the finish line.
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11th as a holiday to commemorate the Armistice signed the year before. Wilson stated: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations." Today, Veterans Day honors all of those who served in the Armed Forces.
The Run for Peace supports the Edith Bolling Wilson Museum’s educational programs and future restoration of the Bolling Home. Registration is open to the public. For more information or to register, visit edithbollingwilson.org/runforpeace.
One hundred years ago, Edith Bolling Wilson accepted an invitation to become the first Honorary President of the Girl Scouts. She was given this title by Girl Scout founder, Juliette Gordon Low, who started the scouting group five years earlier in Savannah, Georgia. Both Wilson and Low worked to support scouting service efforts nationwide in support of World War I. Girl Scouts tended to Victory Gardens, sold Liberty Bonds, worked alongside the US Food Administration, and volunteered for the American Red Cross.
The Girl Scouts of America was established on March 12, 1912, by Juliette Gordon Low during the Progressive Era, a time when women in the United States could not vote. Low's first troop of 18 girls took part in a new outdoor and educational program for youth, which blazed trails and redefined what was possible for themselves and for girls everywhere.
This week, the Girl Scouts of America will host a three day conference in Columbus, Ohio. ‘G.I.R.L. 2017’ offers sessions for every G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ who wants to stand up, take charge, and change the world, for her and for all of us.
As a part of the new G.I.R.L. initiative, the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace will revise program offerings for Girl Scouts, with a new jewelry badge program for Juniors launching this month. Check out more programs for every G.I.R.L. at our Girl Scouts Program Page.
This week, we began a process to revamp and reconfigure the downstairs storefront museum to make room for a new exhibition. Opening as a part of First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson’s 145th Birthday celebrations, “World War I: From the White House…and Abroad” is the first comprehensive exhibition presented by the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Foundation.
The exhibition focuses on the leadership and contributions of Wytheville-native First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson during World War I and how her involvement in international and domestic affairs affected the home front. On view from October 14, 2017 - February 28, 2019, the exhibition corresponds to centennial of World War I.
Frequently cited as one of the most controversial women of the twentieth century, Edith Bolling Wilson’s role as First Lady has been heavily scrutinized, particularly in the aftermath of President Wilson’s debilitating stroke in 1919. During the last seventeen months of Wilson’s presidency, Edith assumed the “stewardship” of the executive office, acting as the gatekeeper of the west wing and protector of her husband’s health and political legacy.
Edith Bolling Wilson’s role as “presidentress” frequently overshadows her work as First Lady during the Great War. During this time, she functioned as President Wilson’s personal assistant, advisor, and confidante. Like few First Ladies before her, she became active in political causes to support and advance her husband’s policies. Heavily involved in domestic conservation efforts, Edith Bolling Wilson served as a model of wartime sacrifice at an important time in American history.
President and Mrs. Wilson with wounded soldiers on board the U.S.S. George Washington, July 7, 1919. Courtesy of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, Staunton, Virginia.
Along with narrative text panels, the exhibition will feature a selection of photographs and artifacts on view from various private and public collections, including the President Woodrow Wilson House in Washington, D.C.
The exhibition will be on view to the public during museum open hours, Tuesday - Friday 10:00 am - 4:00 pm and Saturday 10:00 am - 2:00 pm. A special opening reception will be held on Saturday, October 14th starting at 9:00 am. The event will include a tour of the exhibition by Executive Director, Shiloh Holley, and complimentary donuts and coffee (an homage to the Salvation Army’s "doughnut girls," who in 1917 distributed fresh doughnuts to homesick soldiers in France).
“World War I: From the White House…and Abroad” is funded in part by a grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Additional promotional support is provided by the Virginia Tourism Corporation, Virginia World War I Centennial Commemoration Commission, Bolling Wilson Hotel, the Wytheville Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Virginia Region of the American Red Cross.
Lc Edith Bolling Wilson
Written by Art Chadwick
A version of this article was published in the September issue of Orchids Magazine.
There was controversy in Washington, D.C. in the spring of 1915. It was rumored that President Woodrow Wilson had a love interest. The nation was still in mourning from the unexpected death of First Lady Ellen Wilson just eight months earlier. The President was also in mourning — until he met the widowed Edith Bolling Galt by a chance encounter in a White House stairwell. In order to woo his new sweetheart, he gave her a fresh orchid every day.
Their whirlwind courtship included a highly publicized appearance at the World Series in which she wore a quadruple cattleya corsage. On Dec 28, 1915, Wilson married Edith and she became the new First Lady of the United States.
During her tenure in the White House, Edith Bolling Wilson stood by her husband’s side, supporting his efforts for world peace, and eventually aiding in the nation’s conservation efforts during the First World War. Like everyone else, the Wilson’s observed “Gasless Sundays,” “Meatless Mondays,” and “Wheatless Wednesdays.”
Woodrow Wilson was a popular president and had three cattleyas named after him — 1916 C President Wilson (Fabia x labiata), 1917 Blc President Wilson (Bc Mrs. J, Leemann x Lc Lustre), and the rare yellow 1918 Lc President Wilson (Thyone x C dowiana). But Edith was the orchid lover in the family, and she had no namesakes. That all changed last year, when Chadwick & Son Orchids reached out to the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum to honor Mrs. Wilson with an orchid of her own.
On October 15th, the museum will host their annual fundraiser celebrating Mrs. Wilson’s 145th Birthday. The event will serve as the release party for Lc Edith Bolling Wilson (William Romanoff x C dowiana).
The new hybrid is a fall-blooming purple bred by A. A. Chadwick, who is known for his work with large flowered species and early hybrids. The seedlings, thus far, have yielded a broad spectrum of purple shades and are reminiscent of an earlier Chadwick cross, Lc Powhatan (Princess Margaret x C dowiana) which produced mostly lavenders as well as some stunning semi-albas and even a yellow. The Wilson cross is expected to produce some very dark seedlings and, maybe, some surprises.
One parent, Lc William Romanoff (Cabazon x Morning Star), was originally bred in 1962, and named after the owner of Romanoff Greenhouses in Canterbury, Conn. William and his wife, Sally, operated the nursery from 1947 until 1988.
Lc William Romanoff comes from a long line of dark breeding. The lineage is complex with 11 species being represented. Dark varieties of Cattleya warscewiczii, labiata, and lueddemanniana are prominent.
The other parent of Lc Edith Bolling Wilson is the familiar yellow species, Cattleya dowiana which has been used heavily in breeding for over a century. Hybridizers use C dowiana for a variety of reasons — hoping to pass along the intense lip color (gold veining on a velvety purple throat), the sweet fragrance, or the blooming time, among other things.
In September 1919, President Woodrow Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke that left him temporarily paralyzed. In the White House, the only two people with access to the President were his doctor and Edith. Scholars today debate the role of Edith Bolling Wilson in White House affairs during this period. In Edith’s autobiography, My Memoir, she referred to this time as her “stewardship” of the presidency, and decided which matters of state were important enough to bring to the bedridden president.
Mr. Wilson never fully recovered from his stroke and died a few years after leaving office. Edith outlived her husband by nearly four decades and did not remarry. Until the end, Edith Bolling Wilson continued to promote her husband’s legacy.
Arthur Chadwick is president of Chadwick & Son Orchids Inc.
About the ‘An Orchid Blooms’ Event
For this year’s annual Edith Bolling Wilson Birthday Celebration, the museum is partnering with Chadwick & Son Orchids of Richmond, Virginia, to release a special hybrid orchid named to honor First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson.
The event will be held at the newly-restored historic home, Loretto, and will feature a display of Cattleya Orchids, Mrs. Wilson’s Namesake Flowers; an exhibition of Beth Pendleton's watercolor paintings of historic homes; hors d’oeuvres, a punch and bourbon bar; and special guests President and Mrs. Wilson portrayed by Jim Gearhart and Betsy Ely. Tickets and information.
In August, the last brick was placed in front of the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum marking the completion of recent sidewalk renovations, one part of Downtown Wytheville’s Streetscape Improvement Project. The new brick sidewalk extends for several blocks along both sides of Main Street downtown.
The original renovation of the museum's sidewalk began in 2014 when the organization was awarded a $2,000 grant by Preservation Virginia. This seed money, provided through the “Preservation-Pitch” program, served as the initial funds to begin renovations on the sidewalk to create an attractive, accessible entrance for visitors to the national historic site.
Building on the success of "Preservation Pitch", the museum launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign raising an additional $5,000 for the “Buy-A-Brick” campaign. Personalized engraved bricks were offered to donors who supported the project. Over one hundred businesses and individuals secured bricks in the initial round.
The Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum continues to offer the “Buy-A-Brick” program to support the museum. Engraved bricks, in two sizes, can be personalized as a lasting tribute. This fundraising campaign offers the local community and museum visitors an opportunity to support the museum’s efforts to preserve the birthplace home of Edith Bolling Wilson.
For more information on how to purchase an engraved brick, contact the museum or download the Buy-A-Brick form.
Tuesdays – Fridays 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Saturdays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Closed on all major holidays.
145 E. Main St., Wytheville, VA 24382
The museum is located downtown across from the Bolling Wilson Hotel.
Free entry to the museum, $5 for a tour of the Bolling Family Home, available during museum hours.