U.S. President Woodrow Wilson visits Seattle on September 13, 1919.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 2/10/1999
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 879
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On Saturday September 13, 1919, at 1:30 p.m., President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) arrives by train at King Street Station in Seattle. Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States (1913-1921), is the fifth President to visit Seattle. The President participates in a parade held in his honor that proceeds north on 2nd Avenue to Stewart Street, west one block, then south on 1st Avenue to Yesler Way. The President stands in the open automobile for the entire parade acknowledging people with a wave or a nod.

The Largest Fleet

The President then went down to Elliott Bay to review the 51 U.S. Navy vessels with 5,000 sailors, the largest fleet ever assembled on the Pacific Coast. The fleet included seven battleships, the Oregon, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Vermont, Wyoming, New Mexico, Mississippi, and the Idaho. Later in the day Woodrow Wilson, accompanied by Secretary of Navy Josephus Daniels (1862-1948) and seven U.S. Navy admirals, attended dinner at The Hippodrome (500 University Street).

Wilson's League of Nations

The President's main purpose in visiting Seattle was to gain public support for the World War I peace treaty and for the establishment of the League of Nations. Democrat Wilson presented the Treaty of Versailles to the Republican dominated U.S. Senate on July 10, 1919. The treaty would strip Germany of her colonies, require Germany to pay reparations for damage done during the war, and create the League of Nations to execute the treaty and to prevent future wars. The Senate objected to the League of Nations as an invasion of U.S. sovereignty and refused to approve it. The President decided to take his message directly to U.S. citizens to gain public support and to force the Senate to ratify the treaty.

Stumping the Nation

He first headed West on his national speaking tour. In Seattle, he gave a speech in support of the Peace Treaty and the League of Nations to a crowd of 7,000 at The Arena (east side of 5th Avenue between Seneca and University streets). The League to Enforce Peace upon the League of Nations sponsored the event.

After spending the night at the New Washington Hotel (renamed Josephinum) at 1902 2nd Avenue, he attended church and the Sunday sermon by Pastor Mark A. Matthews (1876-1940) at the First Presbyterian Church on Spring Street and 7th Avenue. President Wilson then took an automobile tour of Seattle before boarding the train at King Street Station at 10 a.m.


President Wilson was on a grueling schedule, traveling 8,000 miles and delivering 40 addresses. On September 25, 1919, he would nearly collapse following a speech at Pueblo, Colorado and on October 2, 1919, Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke that incapacitated him for many months. Wilson's attempt to form the League of Nations failed.

Previous Presidents to visit Seattle were Rutherford Hayes in 1880, Benjamin Harrison in 1891, President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903, and William Taft in 1909.


J. Willis Sayre, This City of Ours (Seattle: Seattle School District No. 1, 1936), 161; Barbara E. Lind, "Hail to the Chiefs: Seattle's Presidential Visitors," Portage; The Magazine of the Museum of History and Industry, Vol. 9, No, 3 (Fall/Winter 1988), 6-7; The Seattle Daily Times, September 13, 1919, p. 1, 4, 5, 12; September 14, 1919, p. 1, 12, 18.

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