Biography of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson Part 11 Little-Known Facts

About the United States President Woodrow Wilson, biography and a collection of little-known facts.


28th President



When Wilson was an undergraduate at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), he wrote out on visiting cards: "Thomas Woodrow Wilson, Senator from Virginia." It was another 25 years, however, before he ran for public office and began to realize his political ambitions.

Wilson's first wife, Ellen, an accomplished artist, prepared crayon portraits of five of the men he most admired for her husband's study. Included were Daniel Webster, the American orator and lawyer; William Gladstone, the British statesman; Edmund Burke, British essayist and statesman; Walter Bagehot, British economist; and, of course, the Reverend Joseph Ruggles Wilson, Woodrow's father.

Washington etiquette was of little importance to Wilson. According to tradition, a president always walked ahead of his companions, even if those companions happened to be ladies. But Wilson refused to enter rooms before his wife, saying "a man who is a gentleman before becoming president should remain one afterwards."

In the White House, Wilson's daily breakfast was a glass of grapefruit juice and two raw eggs; his favorite lunch was chicken salad.

Wilson's second wife, Edith, was a Virginia aristocrat who claimed direct descent from Jamestown planter John Rolfe and the celebrated Indian princess Pocahontas.

In 1915 a typographical error in The Washington Post made President Wilson the unhappy subject of lewd laughter. Describing an evening at the theater enhanced by the attendance of the President and his new fiancee, a reporter wrote that instead of watching the performance, "the President spent most of his time entertaining Mrs. Galt." The word entertaining came out entering in the newspaper's earliest edition. Although this edition was hastily retrieved from newsstands--after a White House aide detected the error and placed a desperate phone call to the managing editor--enough copies had been sold to convulse innumerable readers.

In the same vein was a riddle that made the rounds in Washington about the time of Wilson's second marriage:

"What did Mrs. Galt do when the President proposed to her?"

"She fell out of bed."

During the grim period following his stroke, Wilson enjoyed few amusements in the White House. Some of his happiest hours were those he spent watching motion pictures, a form of entertainment he loved. One of his special favorites was D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation, which described Reconstruction with a pro-Southern bias that Wilson shared.

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