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The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, adjacent to the childhood home and birthplace of Woodrow Wilson, was opened to the public in 1990. The Library is open to anyone interested in learning about the life and times of Woodrow Wilson as it holds periodicals, artifacts, and archival documents from the period. The adjacent building, known as the Manse, is a museum with period furniture and seven exhibitions on Wilson and his time as president. The grounds also hold a 1919 Series 51 Pierce-Arrow limousine that Wilson used frequently for business travel.

  • Woodrow Wilson Birthplace
  • Woodrow Wilson Museum

Woodrow Wilson was born in Staunton, Virginia into a family of four children. His grandfather was a big pro-tariff and anti-slavery person even creating a newspaper to reflect those views called The Western Herald and Gazette. His grandparents are immigrants from Ireland and they moved to the United States in 1807 as they settled down in the state of Ohio. Wilson’s fondest memory is standing in his yard hearing a passerby with a disgusting tone say Lincoln was elected President and a war was coming. Wilson’s parents were supporters for the confederate side during the American Civil War.

For his education, Wilson attended Davidson College in North Carolina, but transferred over to the College of New Jersey as a freshman. He mainly majored in political philosophy and history, joined a fraternity, became secretary of the school’s football association, elected president of the school’s baseball association, studied Whig literature, and became a managing editor for the school’s newspaper. After graduating from college, Wilson went to the University of Virginia School of Law, but poor health conditions forced him to drop out and continue his studies elsewhere. In 1883, Wilson attended John Hopkins University for his doctoral studies and PhD. He would obtain it and became a professor at Bryn Mawr College, an all women’s college, from 1885 to 1888.

He would then move on to teach at Princeton University and soon, in 1902, he became President of the University. New Jersey Democrats scouted Wilson as a potential candidate for the upcoming gubernatorial election and Wilson decided to run for the position. Wilson would win his election and become the new Governor of New Jersey serving from 1911-1913. During his tenure, Wilson mainly vetoed bills he didn’t agree with, restricted labor by women and children, increased standards for factory working conditions, signed antitrust laws into effect that was called the “Seven Sisters,” and restricted the selection of juries from local sheriffs.

Wilson had presidential aspirations in the upcoming 1912 election and became a potential candidate for the Democratic Party. His main opponent in the primaries was Speaker of the House Champ Clark of Missouri, but despite some losses, Wilson would win the nomination for his party. During the general election, it became a four-way race between Wilson, incumbent President William Howard Taft, Bull Moose Party nominee Theodore Roosevelt, and Socialist Party nominee Eugene V. Debs. Governor Wilson received 435 electoral votes and even won the popular vote becoming the President of the United States. He served in the Oval Office until 1921.

President Wilson had four main areas he wanted to look at for his presidency which were the conservation of national resources, banking reform, reducing tariffs, and equal access to raw materials. Wilson became a wartime president as World War I would break out so foreign affairs quickly became his central focus. Wilson remained neutral during WWI until his re-election in 1916 when Germany and their allies attacked American ships. Wilson held a cabinet meeting and all agreed to a declaration of war which became America’s entry point into the war. After the war ended, Wilson lead American delegation at the Paris Peace Conference. Besides dealing with the war, one of the major pieces of legislation Wilson would sign is the Revenue Act of 1913 which reduced tariffs and replaced the lost revenue with a federal income tax. Wilson was also opposed to the women’s suffrage movement.

Despite growing health issues, Wilson wanted to run for a third term, but the convention refused to nominate him shuffling him aside for Ohio Governor James M. Cox for the 1920 presidential election. Ohio Senator Warren G. Harding would defeat Cox in the general election becoming the successor to Woodrow Wilson. Wilson did not attend Harding’s inauguration due to his declining health. He finally died on February 3, 1924 and was buried in the Washington National Cathedral becoming the only president to be buried in the nation’s capital.

The Woodrow Wilson Library was opened in 1990 as an additional education space for the life of Woodrow Wilson. Researchers are able to access all archival materials at no cost. The Library has an extensive collection of manuscripts, periodicals, and photographs available for view in person and digitized online. The Manse, another name for a Presbyterian minister's house, was Wilson's birth place and childhood home. The house, including what is now called "the Birthing Room,” are open to the public. 

Some exhibits of the museum are: Wilson's Family, Wilson's time at Princeton, The Governorship of New Jersey, The Presidential Years, World War I, The Treaty of Versailles, and The League of Nations. Also, found on the grounds are a garden and the Pierce-Arrow limosuine used by Wilson during his presidency. Originally, the space where the garden sits on the grounds was used for livestock grazing and outbuildings. In 2008, The Garden Club of Virginia refurbished the garden area adding additional plants and restoring the fencing.

“Woodrow Wilson: The 28th President of the United States “, Accessed May 13th 2021.

Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library. Accessed May 13th 2021.