When Jessie Wilson, daughter of President Woodrow Wilson, became engaged to Francis Bowes Sayre in 1913, Washington was aflutter with excitement. Washington society had not had such an occasion to anticipate since the marriage of Alice Roosevelt to Nicholas Longworth set extravagant expectations for what a Washington wedding could be. In the early 20th century, it was common practice for the president’s cabinet, world leaders, diplomats, and Members of Congress to present often lavish gifts to the daughter of the president on the occasion of her marriage.
Early in the afternoon on Saturday, July 20, 1912, more than 100 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, all of them Democrats, got off the train in Sea Girt, New Jersey, and walked down the dusty road toward Woodrow Wilson’s summer cottage. Wilson had recently accepted the Democratic presidential nomination, and he’d been entertaining political visits at his seaside home ever since.