Standing on a quiet strip of S Street N.W. Tuesday, a group of onlookers heard the loud, honking noise of an antique car. The movies have made that sound familiar.
Soon, moving rather quickly into view, was a spotless, dark blue 1921 Milburn Electric car. It traveled up and down the block a couple of times and then turned into the garage at the Woodrow Wilson House. The Milburn is the same make and model Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president, and his secret service agents drove at the White House.
The car was borrowed from the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles to show how Wilson enjoyed and encouraged the American public to use the latest technology. Starting Thursday the historic house is opening a new exhibition--Woodrow Wilson, President Electric: Harnessing the Power of Innovation in the Progressive Era.
Our colleague John Kelly loved the car and its history.
The materials, covering a small room on the left side of the mansion, are divided into several subjects, including medicine, wartime technology and household technology. So that’s who to blame for the popularization of the vacuum cleaner.
“President Electric” took an acute interest in entertainment and culture. Margaret Woodrow Wilson, his daughter, had a record contract with Columbia Records and one kiosk allows the visitor to select her rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.” A reproduction of a 1920s Victrola plays 78 rpm records. The Wilsons bought one in 1913 for $200.
Historians have documented his interest in the movies, including the first movie ever shown at the White House and the uproar over a screening of “The Birth of a Nation.” Wilson received a graphoscope projector from his friend, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., and Wilson watched the 1916 Charlie Chaplin film “The Vagabond, “ among many others, the exhibit notes.
The exhibit will be on view through October 2012 and just enter the front door at 2340 S Street to see either the exhibit or the Milburn or both.