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tv   American History TV  CSPAN  September 28, 2014 5:44pm-6:01pm EDT

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's favorite son at the time, john j pershing who happened to be german, i believe. spun at thethat time, that american expeditionary forces was being led by a german-american? >> it was possible for you to be a german-american. you could admit being a german-american, but you had to stop speaking german. you had to buy liberty bonds and serve your country. ultimately, what did he do? the ultimate service. he served in the military. he was the leader of the american expeditionary forces over there in france and in eur ope. so, he really served as an example, as a german-american. this is what every german-american was supposed to do. ok, so definitely, absolutely. >> let's thank her again. >> thank hyou.
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i enjoyed it. thank you for participating. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] eastern, the 8:00 author explores the evolution of first lady fashion trichet chronicles the impact fashion had on the public image of the women living in the white house and what their wardrobe choices reveal about the times in which they lived. that is on "the presidency," our weekly look at the policies and legacies of the president and the first lady's. this year, c-span is touring cities across the country exploring american history. next, a look at our recent visit to st. paul, minnesota. you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span 3.
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>> james hill was only james till when he would born and raised. he added the middle name because he thought important people had a middle name. i find that amusing. why would he do that? what would make them want to do that? i think it is funny. >> we're at the james j hill house in minnesota. took three years to build it. 36,000 square feet. where you are standing right now is the most spec tech interview in the house. -- the most spectacular view in the house. that is saying something because this entire building is pretty gorgeous and pretty impressive. but right here is where he wanted the public to be just blown away. it is all concentrated right here. most of this would work was done by a team of 13 incredibly talented men.
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they were led by a man who was a germany immigrant who came here with control of their men to do this carving. the detail is absolutely amazing. i do not know that you could find artists to do this kind of work nowadays. it took 30,000 hours to do all of the carving you see throughout the building. this building uses a lot of rugged stone. it has take, squat pillars, and it has a very a blunt, forceful, masculine appearance. it is imposing and impressive. he was not looking for something pretty, he was looking for something that said he was a serious man with a great deal of money and a great deal of power. the appearance of this building is very powerful. it is a very commanding presence. >> james j hill was board outside of rockwood ontario
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canada. he was a farm kid, and that 14 his father died. he had to quit school, get a job, and support his family. he had to do that rest of his life. he started working his way west after a couple of years on the east coast. he sent they letter to his grandmother saying that i have an opportunity to look at st. paul. by riverboat came up to st. paul, got a job on the waterfront. at that time this was a very primitive community. he got a job working as a clerk on the waterfront, inventorying goods coming on and off the steamship. after a few years he stayed there on the waterfront, but soon met his wife. she was a waitress at the hotel where he took his meals.
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they kind of connected. when she was 17 he proposed to her and she accepted. he borrowed some money from a couple of friends, shipped her off to milwaukee, wisconsin for three years to go to finishing schools. she needed to be ready for his lifestyle some day. three years later, she got back, they got married, and had children and live half only ever after -- happily ever after. how did he afford to build a house like this? he hooked up with some friends who became lifelong partners. he got into shipping, he got into warehousing, in fact he built his own warehouse on the water front, closer to the water, so there was no cost of living the goods off the ships into the warehouse. he was always ahead of the game.
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he also got into mining. what really started the ball rolling was he and three friends bought a railroad, it was kind of defunct, and he and his three partners turned it around and made it into a very profitable railroad. that gave him the impetus to build the great northern. that whole thing is kind of interesting because he had this fantasy as a young man of going to the orient. he kept thinking about going west, going west. but this railroad gave him the opportunity to do that. in 1880, he started can ring that great northern railroad which ran from here, and ended up eventually in seattle, washington. and it took 13 years to build that.
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st. paul was pretty much a frontier little town. once that railroad was built, and it was not just the railroad, the mailing industry in indianapolis he had his hand in that -- minneapolis, he had his hand in that. the banking industry as well. it opened up the whole country to west coast shipping here and there. it would have connections to the east coast via train. st. paul, they had a three-day celebration in his honor when that railroad was finished as they knew the impact it was going to have on this part of the world.
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>> we're in what was probably his favorite room in the whole house. his art gallery. it is a room that has a modern and event and it, but it over my shoulder we have a painting that is original to the house. this is indeed typical of the type of art that he liked to collect. he collected mostly paintings by a french artist, and these walls were completely covered by paintings when they lived here. this historic photo gives you some idea of how it looked in the old days. over here is a door, and entrance from the outside. when they moved in here in 1891, they were not privy to museums. and if you work an art museum you could go down to his office
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building and get a little card of the mission -- admission, which would entitle you to come in and view the art collection. that was rather generous of mr. hill. the other thing he did was he was one of the people that contributed money to get the minneapolis institute of arts up and running. to get it built and to give full of ours. we did not just collect for some pressure -- for some pleasure. >> it is interesting that hill, of all of the rich man in the country at that time, he was the one that was least known for a number of reasons. he never put his name on anything that he had to do with, none of his enterprises, other with and the original warehouse but he bought and put on the water front.
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the shipping industry, the votes he owned -- boats he owned, he never did. the people on the east coast, the rockefellers, they were famous because they have their name on everything. he hung out with those guys. he had connections with powerful men. were they close friends? i do not think so. but they were business acquaintances. >> we are in the formal dining room of the house, and it is the fanciest. the ceiling is covered with gold leaf, the wall covering his hand tooled in boston other -- embossed leather. the table has eight leaves in it, but has a total of 17 leaves that they could extend the full length of the room. they entertained all kinds of roman people, but the most
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prominent was president william mckinley dined here one year before he was assassinated. there are a couple of hidden doors in the house. this is the first one. the gold doorknob is a giveaway. it used to be the there was no doorknob. if you see this little detail on the board work and there was a button in there. they would press the button and it would make the door spring open. it is a safe. there are two safes in the house but this one is called the silver ball and this is where they kept the $30,000 of tiffany silverwear. this is a brick lined closet, it is fireproof.
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when we do tours of the house, we have the opportunity to talk about his family. it is a fascinating family. we tried to give them a little bit of feedback on how did the family work? what were his kids like? i think the most fascinating thing is the whole thing, he had three sons. the eldest was the second child born, and lewis was the third, and walter was the last child and the youngest. and of course he was expected to be the air apparent, and he was for about 12 to 14 years. his dad writes about him, he put
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him in charge of the duluth office of the railroad. he talks about what a wonderful job you was doing and so forth. and then about 12 or 14 years after james gorman started working for his father, he left town, went to new york city, got into texaco oil, made another fortune on his own. so the question is, what happened? that is really hard to find out. there are just little hints in papers and documents and in some of the children's letters. they kind of indicates some perhaps -- james gorman perhaps got frustrated that his dad did not let it go and let him take over. perhaps there was animosity between he and his younger brother lewis. we do not know for sure. it is one of those we wish we knew more, but we do not.
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it is fascinating that all happened. then lewis ended up taking over all of the businesses and running thigs from then on -- running things from then on. it is one of those intriguing family things that you wish they were alive and you could begin and see what happened. >> this organ was a last-minute addition to the house. it was not in the original blueprints. the designers came and recommended that he put in a pie organ. -- a pipe organ. it was a high-end amenity that the wealthy were putting in his home in the east coast. this is the only room that was two-story high. this was not for just under $5,000. it has been lately restored, it still works great we bring in an organ player on saturdays and they do five minute
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demonstrations. when they play this thing, it is pretty amazing. there are 1006 pipes in the gallery overhead. it is a massive instrument for the private home. they ended up using it all the time. it was not in the original plans, but this family loves music. we know this because mrs. hill had season tickets to the metropolitan opera, they went to theater all the time, and they did so much entertaining here i think it was just a great thing to have when company was over. they could have live music. they had a couple of steinway pianos, but this is not just a little parlor pump organ, this is a huge impressive thing that can be heard practically all over the building. this was a lovely thing for them to put in, and they did love music here, so i think it was fabulous before any record player. >> how does a 16-year-old kid leave home on his own, travel up
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and down the east coast working, sending money home, and still looking for where my going to go and up by chance coming to st. paul, and decide this is my land of opportunity? it is intriguing. how did that happen? he was probably brilliant. he was certainly farsighted and he took advantage of opportunities. i think he hooked up with really good strong intelligent men. i think he chose widely in -- wisely in the partners that he involved himself with all through his life from the beginning to the end.

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