President Wilson's Obituary

[From page 1 of The New York Times, February 4, 1924]

[With grateful thanks to Michael Elsner for transcription!]


War President's End Came Peacefully
His Life Ebbed Away While He Slept And His Heart Action Became Fainter Until It Finally Ceased
Wife At The Dying Man's Bedside Until The End
Her Name Was The Last Word to Pass His Lips And His Last Sentence Was 'I Am Ready' Spoken Friday

Special to the New York Times.

     WASHINGTON, Feb. 3 -- Woodrow Wilson, twenty-eighth President of the United States, a commanding world figure and chief advocate of the League of Nations, is dead. He died at 11:15 o'clock this morning, after being unconscious for nearly twelve hours.
     Mrs. Wilson, Miss Margaret Wilson, Joseph Wilson, a brother, and Admiral Grayson, his physician, were at the bedside.
     Just before death the war President opened his eyes. His wife and daughter spoke to him, but he did not respond. Ten minutes later he passed quietly away. No word was uttered.
     All day yesterday and last night he had been sinking rapidly, his pulse becoming fainter and fainter, until finally it ceased to beat. His "broken machinery" had collapsed.
     Washington and the nation were prepared for death. The morning papers carried the news that he had been "profoundly prostrated." The waiting groups, numbering many hundreds, outside of the Wilson home were silent when Admiral Grayson, five minutes after his patient and friend had expired, opened the door and made the announcement.

Text of the Death Bulletin

     Dr. Grayson read the following bulletin:
     11:20 A. M. Feb 3, 1924
     Mr. Wilson died at 11:15 o'clock this morning. His heart action became feebler and feebler, and the heart muscle became so fatigued that it refused to act any longer. The end came peacefully. The remote causes of death lie in his ill-health which began more than four years ago, namely, arteriosclerosis and hemiplegia. The immediate cause of death was exhaustion following a digestive disturbance which began in the early part of last week, but did not reach an acute stage until the early morning hours of Feb. 1
     Arteriosclerosis is a thickening and hardening of the walls of the arteries, and hemiphlegia is a paralysis of one side of the body, the limbs on that side losing the power of voluntary motion. Mr. Wilson's left side was so stricken, the outward manifestation being the helpless drop of his left arm and the dragging of the left foot.

Died While Wife Held His Hand

     Mr. Wilson died in a room on the third floor of his home, where for so many months, since his retirement, he sat and looked over Washington, the scene of his greatest achievement. He expired on a large four-poster bed, a replica of the Lincoln bed in the White House.
     Mr. Wilson's last word was "Edith," his wife's name. In a faint voice he called for her yesterday afternoon when she had left his bedside for a moment. His last sentence was spoken on Friday, when he said: "I am a broken piece of machinery. When the machinery is broken -- I am ready"
     Mrs. Wilson held his right hand as his life slowly ebbed away. Admiral Grayson remained in the death room for a few minutes and then went down stairs leaving Mrs. Wilson and Margaret the only mourners at the bedside.
     There had been signs during the morning that the end was a matter of minutes. The first bulletin issued by Dr. Grayson at 8:55 o'clock said: "Mr. Wilson is unconscious and his pulse is very weak." His 10:30 o'clock bulletin read: "After a quiet night Mr. Wilson is very low and the end may be expected at any time."
     When, therefore, Dr. Grayson appeared on the steps of the house at 11:20 it was realized that he was probably there to announce the end.

Dr. Grayson Deeply Moved

     Dr. Grayson was making a strong effort to keep himself under control. In his hand he held some of the yellow slips on which the bulletins were typewritten. He came toward the newspaper men, who quickly gathered about him near the steps of the house.
     "The end came at 11:15," he said in a low tone. Immediately there was a commotion in the crowd as the newspaper men assigned to flash the news of death which would speed all over the world, broke through their comrades and rushed off.
     The crowd across the street, now grown to large proportions, surged forward in an effort to hear Dr. Grayson, but the police lines held and there was nothing for them to do but to listen with strained attention.
     Meanwhile Dr. Grayson had begun to read the bulletin. This was the climax of the emotional strain he has been under, and it was only with difficulty that he could force himself to go ahead.
     He read slowly. His voice trembled, but did not break. But as he read, very slowly, tears kept rolling down his cheeks and he used his handkerchief.
     This action, more than what they could hear, showed the spectators across the street that he was actually announcing Mr. Wilson's death. Here and there in the crowd men began to take off their hats. Soon almost all were uncovered. The women stood with lowered heads, many of them weeping.
     Finally, Dr. Grayson finished reading the bulletin. The newspaper men expressed a few words of sympathy and then hurried off to send the detailed news. Dr. Grayson was left standing with only one or two before him.
     The physician and friend of the former President, who has been the only link between the sick room and the outside world, was asked whether, now that Mr. Wilson was dead, he would not give a detailed account of his last hours. He demurred, saying he did not believe there was anything more to be added to what had been said.
     He was urged to undertake the task as a duty to the memory of his friend and patient. On this ground he assented. He said he would take an automobile ride for the purpose of resting, and that during its course he would endeavor to get his mind together. Then he turned slowly and went indoors.

President and Mrs. Coolidge Call

     In ten minutes after the death bulletin had been issued the news was flashed around the world.
     The radios which were sending sermons suddenly ceased and then announced: "Mr. Wilson died at 11:15." The news was read from many pulpits. It was read from the pulpit of the First Congregational Church, where President and Mrs. Coolidge were attending the service. Almost immediately Mr. and Mrs. Coolidge left the service and called at the Wilson home.
     The President and Mrs. Coolidge expressed sympathy for Mrs. Wilson and the members of the family and told Joseph Wilson, a brother, and John Randolph Bolling that the Government wished to be advised as to the desires of the family with respect to the funeral.
     President Coolidge told the family that the Administration would be guided entirely by the family's desires as to whether there should be an official funeral or simple private ceremonies. President Coolidge issued a proclamation announcing Mr. Wilson's death. This was sent to all American embassies and legations in foreign countries.

White House Flag at Half-Mast

     The White House flag, which had been flying all night, was lowered to half-mast, and this was the signal which told downtown Washington that the former occupant of the historic home had passed away. The flags of other Government buildings were lowered. Foreign embassies showed the same respect for the dead, and the gloom of death settled over Washington.
     Washington tonight is in mourning for the only President in recent history who has made this city his home upon retiring from public life. Mr. Wilson was always popular in Washington, but after retiring, broken in health, he seemed to touch their hearts more than ever. Everywhere Mr. Wilson went he was cheered by the Washington people, and this seemed to give him courage to keep up the fight for the League of Nations.
     Tonight a hush of affectionate respect rested over S Street and about his home. Traffic moved along other ways, but automobiles by hundreds stopped in nearby streets as passengers descended to walk past the home which would show no light tonight in the third-floor room at the south.
     This home, which thousands of his countrymen had looked upon in the last several years as a shrine of world idealism, was visited tonight by the people of Washington who loved him.

Mrs. McAdoo is Notified

     Mrs. McAdoo was notified of her father's death while traveling with her husband to Washington, for which they started Thursday from the Pacific Coast. They will arrive Wednesday morning, and the funeral will probably not be held until that day. Mrs. Francis B. Sayre, another daughter of Mr. Wilson's, is in Siam, and will not be here for the funeral.
     Official Washington, including Chief Justice Taft, Senators and Cabinet members, called at the Wilson home and left cards.
     Tomorrow the House and Senate will adjourn, and may remain in adjournment until after the funeral. When the Senate meets, Senator Robinson, Democratic leader, will offer a motion that the Senate adjourn out of respect for Mr. Wilson. This will be seconded by Senator Lodge, who is expected to pay respect to the dead President on the floor tomorrow.