Friday, April 20, 2012


President Wilson did not have any dogs while he was actually the president, but this did not mean he didn't like dogs, because he did.  When he was young, Mr. Wilson's family had a greyhound named Mountain Boy, and Mr. Wilson liked to draw pictures of him.  But he did not want a dog romping around inside the White House, for some reason, so instead he had sheep outside on the lawn.  But I will tell you about the sheep in a minute.

First I will start at the beginning, which was when Thomas Woodrow Wilson was born on December 28, 1856, in Staunton, Virginia.  His father was a Presbyterian minister.  He owned slaves, and started a Sunday School for them.  He used his church as a hospital for wounded soldiers, and he also served for a little while as a chaplain in the Confederate army.  Little Woodrow once got to meet General Robert E. Lee, and he remembered that occasion for the rest of his life.

The house where President Wilson was born
When he grew up, Mr. Wilson got a degree from Princeton and then later studied law.  In 1883, he started graduate school at Johns Hopkins University.  After studying for three years, he got a PhD in history and political science, and then he taught for several years.

Mr. Wilson got married in 1885 to Ellen Louise Axson, and they had three daughters named Margaret, Jessie, and Eleanor.

In 1902, Mr. Wilson became the president of Princeton University.  He had that job until 1910, and then he was the governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913.  In 1912, he ran for U.S. President against Teddy Roosevelt, who was trying to win another term as the "Bull Moose" party candidate, and William Howard Taft, who was the Republican party candidate.  Mr. Wilson ran as a Democrat, and he won the election.

The White House flock
President Wilson liked to have a flock of sheep grazing on the White House lawn, and this was because with the sheep munching on the grass, the cost of groundskeeping was less.  Which was especially important later on, during the war.  One of the rams was called Old Ike, and he liked to chew tobacco.

In 1914, Mrs. Ellen Wilson died.  This made President Wilson one of only three presidents to be widowed while in office.  The following year, the president married Edith Galt.

President Wilson's Pierce-Arrow
President Wilson was a big baseball fan, and he was the first sitting president to attend a World Series game.  Another thing that he liked was riding in automobiles, and his favorite car was a 1919 Pierce-Arrow, which he particularly enjoyed riding in with the top down.  The fact that President Wilson liked cars so much meant that he was always trying to get more funding for public highways.  And that was a good thing.

The president also liked to go cycling, and he went on several vacations to the Lake District in England, just so he could ride bicycles there.  But back in Washington, it wasn't safe for the president to go out cycling, so he started playing golf.  He really loved playing golf, even though he wasn't all that good at it.  He holds the record for the most rounds of golf played by any president, with over 1,000.  This averages out to almost one round every other day.  In the wintertime, President Wilson used to play golf in the snow on the White House lawn using balls that the Secret Service painted black for him.

Arriving in Paris for the 1918 Peace Conference
President Wilson just barely got re-elected in 1916.  His slogan was "He kept us out of war."  The war they were talking about was World War I, which was going on in Europe.  A lot of Americans did not want us to get into that war, but then the Germans started using their submarines to sink a whole bunch of ships, including an American ocean liner called the Lusitania.  So after that, President Wilson asked the Congress to declare war on Germany, and they did.

At the end of the war, President Wilson helped work out the armistice agreement.  He did not want the world to ever have another bad war like that, so he came up with some ideas about how such a thing could be avoided.  One idea was to make a group called the League of Nations.  President Wilson helped put the plans for this group together, and he also worked on the Treaty of Versailles, which drew a bunch of new boundaries for countries in Europe.

Sadly, when the president came home and tried to get all these ideas okayed by the Senate in 1919, he ended up in big fight with the Republicans, led by Henry Cabot Lodge.  In the end, the Senate never said yes to the League of Nations or even to the Treaty of Versailles.  But at least President Wilson got awarded the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize because he had sponsored the League of Nations.

In the early part of 1919, the president caught influenza, mainly because he wore himself out by traveling around the country, trying to talk people into supporting the League of Nations.  Then on October 2, he had a stroke, and he ended up paralyzed on his left side and blind in his left eye.  He stayed in bed for many weeks, and only his doctor and his wife got to visit him.  During this time, Mrs. Wilson mostly took care of doing all the presidential stuff, but nobody really knew she was doing that.  Many years later, in 1967, the 25th Amendment was passed, and it was all about how to handle things if a president got sick or whatever.

Sergeant Stubby
The Republicans won by a landslide in 1920, so the Wilsons retired and moved to a town house in the Embassy Row section of Washington, D.C.  Mr. Wilson still went for drives every day, and he still liked to attend vaudeville on Saturday nights.

During the war, President Wilson was the first president ever to shake hands with a decorated war dog.  This dog was Sergeant Stubby, the little pit bull terrier that I told you about in another blog entry.  Also, President Wilson said one time, "If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience."

Not long before he died, Mr. Wilson got a dog as a gift from a breeder.  This dog was a white bull terrier named Whitestock Service Man.  That was his registered name, but his call name was Bruce.  This dog was meant to be a companion to Mr. Wilson, and he had been trained to behave himself in the house.  The breeder wrote a note that said he admired Mr. Wilson "for his wonderful gameness under suffering and adverse circumstances, and above all for his natural inherent love for his fellow man."  And then he said, "I, with my little Scotch wife, could not conceive of a better gift, or a more appropriate one than a dog that showed the same characteristics."

On February 3, 1924, Mr. Wilson died at his home, and he was buried in Washington National Cathedral.  He is the only president who has been buried in Washington, D.C.  Mrs. Wilson lived for 37 more years in the same house before she died there on December 28, 1961.  Her favorite dog, Rooter, was beside her bed when she died.


  1. Very interesting. I hadn't realized that President Wilson was the only president buried in D.C.

    1. Dear Aunt LeeBeth,
      I did not know that about President Wilson and where he was buried either. Plus there were some other things I learned about him while doing my research for this blog. Mom told me she always felt sorry for President Wilson because he had that League of Nations idea, and then the Senate wouldn't even back him on it.
      Your friend, Piper

  2. Thanks for the interesting blog, in fact, I read it twice. There were lots of info I didn't know or just don't remember since I've turned 60 and now I'm old. I was also surprised to read Pres. Wilson had a greyhound as a boy. Not sure why that surprised me, but for some reason I thought greyhounds were probably introduced later. I won't comment on every bit of info I didn't know, but I sure enjoyed the blog. Thanks!!
    Love, AP

    1. Dear Aunt Patty,
      Greyhounds have been around for a long time, like at least many hundreds of years. Of course, the people who own greyhounds think that those dogs the pharaohs in Egypt had were greyhounds, but I know that they were basenjis!
      Love, Piper