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tv   Woodrow Wilsons Boyhood Home  CSPAN  August 25, 2016 3:40pm-3:55pm EDT

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>> 100 years ago today, president woodrow wilson signed legislation created the national park service. in recognition of the cente centennial, we're featuring national park service sites throughout the country as recorded by "american history tv" and the c-span cities tour staff. this is "american history tv" only on c-span3. >> today, we are in the boyhood home of president woodrow wilson in augusta, georgia. president wilson moved to augusta as a child when he was just a year old. lived in another house, and then moved to this house when he was 3. dr. wilson, the father of president wilson, was originally from steubenville, ohio. and had gone into the
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presbyterian ministry. when he first came to augusta, he was making $2,500 a year and was provided a home on green street, but in 1860, they liked him so much and they wanted him to stay, so they sweetened the pot, so to speak, and raised his salary to $3,000 a year. and bought a new house which is the one we're in today. where the family moved in 1860. to give you an idea of what $3,000 was in those days, most families in the united states depending on where they lived and their certain circumstances, but most families lived on between $300 and $800 a year, so he was making first $2,500 and then $3,000 a year, which was a large income. and we today own exactly the same property that the wilsons occupied in 1860s.
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this is the pass through study that joseph wilson would have spent a lot of his time during his congregational work, preparing sermons, meeting with parishioners, keeping congregational records. but it was remembered by woodrow wilson's younger brother joseph wilson jr. as being lined with books and smelling of tobacco. the father smoked a clay bowl pipe, and we have a humidor here on the table behind us. now, woodrow wilson when he was a boy, did not learn his letters until he was 9, and he didn't learn to read until he was 11. they believe he had dyslexia, but of course, in the 1860s, they didn't know what dyslexia was. but he did have trouble reading and was a slow, deliberate reader for the rest of his life. when wilson, when young tommy wilson didn't know the name of a
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word, his father would send him to the dictionary to look it up. and he often admonished him to use his properly structured sentences as he could possibly come up with, as a minister, of course, that was an oart for hi. but he would say, now, when you're framing a sentence and picking your words, do it as if you're shooting a rifle, and with the rifle with that one bullet, you hit straight on with the word that you intend to use. don't do it as if you're shooting a shotgun and you kind of spray all around the word that you mean, but it doesn't exactly hit the mark. and i think that's good advice for us even today when we're trying to write or speak. president wilson's very first memory was in november of 1860 before he was four years old. he was standing on the front gate out in front of the house, and two men came by in a hurry with very excited tones of
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voice. they said, abraham lincoln has just been elected president. and there's going to be a war. so young tommy ran inside to ask his father what was war, what did that mean, why were they so excited. we think it's remarkable that his very first memory was about another president, abraham lincoln, and about another war, the civil war. and of course, wilson would have to lead the country through world war i. this family is representative of what we often hear about the house divided. because the wilsons were from ohio, the wood rows, the mother's family, were also living in ohio, although they had immigrated from england and scotland. but the wilsons that lived here in augusta, joseph wilson and his family, were the only ones on his side of the family who were in the south and took the south side of the conflict.
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all of his brothers and sisters and his father's dead, his mother was all up north at the time. it created a bit of a division. the civil war affected the wilsons like it did most people. we often hear during the latter part of the civil war, the south was subject to a huge inflationary situation with money because of course the confederate currency was getting more and more worthless. and we see that demonstrated in the church records. president wilson's father's salary was $3,000 a year. when the war started, and that was given to him quarterly in $750 installments. the latter part of 1864, the first part of 1865, they paid him his regular installment and then they just started shoving money at him in the thousands of dollars at a time.
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$5,000 here, $3,000 there, $10,000 there. of course, it was practically worthless, and then when the war is over, there was really no payment for a time until the u.s. currency started coming into play in the south and they kind of got back on their feet. as he grew older, president wilson certainly remembered the war and reflected back on it from time to time. his father's church was turned into a stockade of sorts with union and confederate wounded that came here after the battle of chickamauga. he would have seen the wounded and dying soldiers right in his father's church and surrounding it in the yard. so that would have had a profound impact. he thought of war as truly as hell, and not a good thing. so when the world war i began to
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escalate, and there was an effort to get america allied with one side or the other, wilson being president resisted because he remembered war, and he knew of its misery and what misery it could bring to the american people. he wanted to avoid that if at all possible. all that goes right back to his experiences as a child during the civil war. this is the best room. the best room was the best space in the house, reserved for your guests. and therefore, you have a bed and the bed chamber in here, but it would also double as a sitting room for more of the informal visits that the family might have had with more intimate neighbors and friends that they did not need to take them to the formal parlor for. one of the things in this room that's really interesting is this panel, this glass pane, which includes a scratch of the
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word "tom" t-o-m that was done by the president himself when he was a child. he must have gotten his mother's diamond ring and scratched his name in the glass, which was something that you often find in many old houses. but the signature that's on the glass actually matches some of his earliest signatures. so we're very certain that that is him. his name was thomas woodrow wilson. he only dropped his first name after he started to law school at the university of virginia because he felt that one day he would become an important political figure. he thought at that time he would be a senator. but he didn't think that tommy wilson sounded dignified enough. with his family's permission, he dropped his first name and went by woodrow wilson, woodrow being his mother's maiden name. back here are pictures of his maternal grandparents, thomas
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woodrow, for whom he was named, his grandfather and his grandmother, marion williamson woodrow. wilson was a great reformer. he was interested in even from childhood, translating into his career at princeton university as president of princeton and then as governor of new jersey and then as president of the united states, he was always examining the rules, the bylaws of the constitution, and trying to improve it. as president, some of the first things he did were had economic impact, he established the under his administration, the federal reserve act was established, setting up a system of national banking. the clayton trust act, which took the antitrust laws a little farther than they had gone in
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previous acts. he enacted under his watch, there were enacted labor laws, child labor laws.laws. and also railroad worker laws. eight-hour day was established. the child labor laws had to do with age limits on children working in factories. which previously had almost no, no effect. there was no checks and balances on that. it actually had been coming along before, but the amendment that made senators elected directly by the people rather than by their state legislatures was ratified by wilson in 1913. one thing that's important to us as historic preservationist in 1916 he established the national park service, which the parks had existed before that but he
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established what we now know as the national park service, again organized it all into a systematic way of administering the parks. one thing that people probably don't appreciate that he did, in the financial realm, is the act that toledo the establishment of the federal income tax, which is still with us. so, there's so many things today that we take granted. we're used to. we hear about all the time but don't connect them to the wilson administration and i had time period. in november of 1911 when president wilson was still governor of new jersey, he was considering a run for the presidency so he was going around the country talking to various politically well connected people, including newspaper editors and press folks. so he came to augusta, spent a
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weekend here, had tours of the city, actually watched tycobb who lived here at the time in a play downtown. there was a reception. on sun he went to church at his father's old church as he always did. attended church on sunday and the pastor then invited him to dome sunday dinner, which de. which occurred here in this room. and as he was having dinner, he sat at the table and said this is the very table i sat at as a child. he got up under the table and showed them some scuff marks that he thought he made with his feet. while he was here he had a photograph taken in the yard and this is, was taken during that visit. you can see that he is here on the right.
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and the ladies and children are the severe family, mrs. severe and her father virginia and her son john and a friend sadie fields who was here at the time. so we treasure this photograph. it's actually the only one that we have of him here at the site that was taken here at our site. here in augusta we like to refer to certain quotes that wilson used from time to time. one of those is that a boy never gets over his boyhood and can never change those subtle ininfluences that became a part of him that were formed in him as a child. when people dome visit the wilson house in augusta we hope they leave with a number of ideas about the man, woodrow wilson. for instance, that his later life was affected by his childhood here during the civil war and reconstruction.
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how the federal government played an important role in people's lives as he experienced as a child. his education, his religion, and also here in augusta. and also his leadership. his leadership abilities started here in augusta with the life of the baseball club and eventually led to more and more organizations with more and more responsibility and grandeur and grander ideas until he was organizing the entire world. and we think that's a very important thing that can be told here in augusta that started right here in this house. >> 100 years ago today president woodrow wilson signed legislation creating the national park service. join american history tv tonight at 7

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