Update: Hmm, so it looks like I may have gotten out ahead of the details on this one. See the comments, where fellow Wikipedian Graham87 points out that the current Wikipedia database does not in fact include edits from the early months of Wikipedia. As he points out, here is an earlier version of the Bill Clinton article. And what does that mean for this particular series? Well… at least I will have to select articles from approximately 2002 on.
The 42nd president is enjoying a pretty good week, having returned this morning from North Korea with American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee free upon his successful negotiations with Kim Jong-Il. This seems as good a moment as any for the second installment in a series on the first versions of major Wikipedia articles.
Bill Clinton left office just five days after Wikipedia was founded in January 2001. Although one might think this would make him a strong candidate for being one of the first articles created, it so happens that no such article was created until November 17 that year. And even then another editor would not contribute again for nearly another month — coincidentally the same day a Wikipedia article was created for his successor.
The first version of the Bill Clinton article was fairly substantial: 979 words excluding the Table of Contents. This is less than a tenth of the 9,900-some words of the Bill Clinton article today — to say nothing of all the articles about the many peripheral articles such as Electoral history of Bill Clinton — but it’s still pretty good.
Here is the first paragraph (of a much longer intro) today:
William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton (born William Jefferson Blythe III, August 19, 1946) served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. He was the third-youngest president; only Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy were younger when entering office. He became president at the end of the Cold War, and as he was born in the period after World War II, he is known as the first Baby Boomer president. His wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is currently the United States Secretary of State. She was previously a United States Senator from New York, and also candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. Both are graduates of Yale Law School.
Here is the first paragraph (of a much longer intro) then:
William Jefferson Clinton (Democrat) was the 42nd President of the United States, from 1993-2001. He was born August 19, 1946 in Hope, Arkansas. He was named after his father, William Jefferson Blythe II, who had been killed in a car accident just three months before his son was born.
In the original version, the Lewinsky scandal is handled in two short paragraphs in the intro section; by now Lewinsky and the subsequent impeachment trial have two short sections which link away to very comprehensive sections of their own.
While Wikipedia today strives to be non-partisan and avoid self-references, these concepts were less-developed early on, and this can be seen in how the original version closed. The last proper article sentence concluded:
There’s a great deal more to be said about him — let’s try to keep it non-partisan and encyclopedic.
And a deprecated link to the Talk page, at the time included in the text of the article itself, said:
/Talk (go ahead and be partisan there)
Not to worry — eight years later, they still are.