9 William Henry Harrison

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9 William Henry Harrison

Editado: Jun 14, 2012, 4:29pm

William Henry Harrison : A Biography by Dorothy Burne Goebel
Old Tippecanoe; William Henry Harrison and his time by Freeman Cleaves
William Henry Harrison: America's 9th President by Steven Otfinoski

1840 Election WH Harrison (234 electoral votes) vs. Van Buren (60)

While trying to track down a good book for this president's biography I found out a few bits of trivia. thought I'd share.
William Henry Harrison was the first president to die in office, about 32 days after he was elected.
Boxer Jack Dempsey was named after President William Henry Harrison. His full name was William Harrison Dempsey.
Harrison was the first President to study medicine.
When Harrison was elected President in 1840, the Indian leader Tecumseh placed a curse on him, saying that every president elected in a year that ends with a 0 will die while in office. Harrison died while in office, as did Lincoln, elected in 1860, Garfield, elected in 1880, Mckinley, elected in 1900, Harding, elected in 1920, Roosevelt, elected in 1940, and Kennedy, elected in 1960. Reagan, elected in 1980, broke the curse, but was almost assassinated while in office.
Harrison was one of two presidents to have double letters in his first and last names.
He was the only President to have been born in the same county as his Vice President, Charles City County.
Harrison had a pet goat named "His Whiskers."
Harrison was the first president to recieve over one million popular votes.

Editado: Jan 22, 2009, 2:22am

I have heard of the presidential "curse", but had never heard of it being associated with Tecumseh. If true, I suppose the motivation would be Harrison's defeat of Tecumseh at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. However, Wikipedia says the curse was supposedly issued by Tecumseh's brother, Tenskwatawa.

More interesting trivia on President William Henry Harrison:

Harrison ran on his military record, using the slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler too". Although Harrison came from a wealthy and aristocratic family in Virginia, the Whigs portrayed Harrison as a rustic man of the people, and his opponent James Van Buren as a wealthy elitist. (Apparently this tactic worked so well in 1840 that the Whigs, and their successors the Republicans, have continued it - with varying results - to this day.)

Harrison was 68 years old when he became President in 1841 (the oldest until Reagan took office in 1981, just before his 70th birthday), and he had the shortest tenure of any President - only 31 days.

Inauguration day, March 4, 1841 was very cold and wet. Against all advice, Harrison insisted on appearing without an overcoat or hat. He gave the longest inaugural address ever (8444 words and 2 hours), then rode in the inaugural parade.

Harrison became ill with a cold on March 26. Viruses were unknown at the time, and his illness was blamed on his lengthy exposure to severe weather on inauguration day. The doctors' "cures" (opium, castor oil, Virginia snakeweed, snakes, etc.) did not help and Harrison died on April 4.

Harrison's death caused a constitutional crisis. It was was uncertain whether vice president John Tyler should become president or acting president, and whether Tyler could serve the balance of the term or would have to run in an emergency election. Chief Justice Roger B Taney (who would later become infamous for the 1857 Dred Scott decision) decided that Tyler could become president.

Harrison's grandson Benjamin Harrison became the 23rd president, serving from 1889 to 1893, the only time (so far) a grandparent and his grandchild have both become president.

Jan 22, 2009, 1:38pm

Wow, if you two keep adding such interesting write-ups, I won't have to read any books! LOL

Set 23, 2009, 8:11pm

I read the Freeman Cleaves book. My copy is the 1969 Kennikat Press issue.
There is a disconcerting tendency for Americans (then and now) to be enamored with their Generals and with the prowess they have at fighting wars and killing people. I say disconcerting because the military systems can often promote people past their competency levels, or to their individual levels of incompetency. Having spent 22 years in uniform I have seen it in as many cases as there were cases of supreme merit.
The impression I get from this book is that William Henry Harrison, like George Washington and Andrew Jackson, possessed a high degree of personal honesty. I'm not convinced, though, that he would have been able to steer the country "towards a more perfect union". He had too many family difficulties, too many sycophant political advisors and too many hair-brained personal standards that would have precluded any possibility of his being able to bank on his "General-ness" for very long. Three examples: his sons William Jr. and Symmes were constantly manufacturing financial difficulties; his politicos forced him into a circus-like election campaign which portrayed him as a log-cabin-dwelling, hard-cider-drinking frontiersman and a major military hero (the Tippecanoe Creek campaign proved to be indecisive with heavy military losses); and he refused to wear a hat or coat in the cold, stormy weather as he road his horse to his inauguration at the Capitol where he gave a 1 hour and 45 minute address.
I was interested, however, in the very short period he spent as John Quincy Adams' Minister to Colombia before his appointment was rescinded by Andrew Jackson. The difficulties he experienced with Simon Bolivar's functionaries (Bolivar was quelling an uprising in Equador) and with Jackson's minister, Thomas Patrick Moore, are documented in the book.
A fairly interesting man but not, in my opinion, as interesting as his Vice President, John Tyler.

Editado: Dez 10, 2009, 11:53pm

William Henry Harrison : A Biography
Author: Dorothy Burne Goebel
Read: Nov 29 - Dec 9
Source: Public Library - ILL
Pages: 380

William Henry Harrison was the man who held that office for the shortest period of time, just one month. This is what most people know about this man. Because of this fact, there are few books about this man's life, he is, it seems just a mere mention in other histories.

Most people, besides his short term in office, also remember that he was the "hero" of the battle of Tippecanoe (the presidential campaign slogan was "Tippecanoe and Tyler too"). He served as the governor of the Indiana Territory due to partisanship appointment during the Madison administration which led to this battle. The Battle of Tippecanoe truly didn't have much of an impact on the War of 1812 but did bring Harrison to the forefront since he was so arrogant when he refused to serve under General Winchester and insisted on command. "As a soldier, he was never taken off his guard, and his nerve never failed him; the victories of Tippecanoe and the Thames will always stand to his credit." However, "he was prone to rest content with a single victory when he should have pressed on toward the successful conclusion of the war."

As a legislator, Harrison worked in the House of Representatives and Senate for the betterment of the lot of army officers and enlisted to prevent the amount of men who deserted. He disliked the political process but it was not beyond him to use political connections to better his own standing. "He desired public offices and frankly sought them, in office he did his best, but he lacked the powers of a Calhoun, a Clay, or a Webster."

After his election, his one month in office was spent in a round of celebratory parties and ranglings over Cabinet positions.

This book was detailed with the events of Harrison's life but lack details on the issues of the times which led to his election. It mainly dealt with the political process.

This book is "a true picture of a man as he was - kindly, courteous, brave and cheerful, endeared to his family and his friends."

Fev 3, 2010, 2:54pm

Can you believe that our local library did not have a book on William Henry Harrison? I really did not want to spend money on a biography of President Harrison so I took another approach. I used google books to find a "biography" of WHH.

What I found and read was, "The Life of William Henry Harrison, (Of Ohio), The People's Candidate For The Presidency With A History Of The Wars With the BRITISH And INDIANS On Our North-Western Frontier," by I.R. Jackson and published in 1840. Great title huh?

This 212 page biography is essentially a campaign bio. It is completely slanted to demonstrate the greatness of WHH. In the bio he is called our greatest military hero, second only to George Washington. The bio contained some good information but I got tired of all the comparisons to Washington, Madison and Jefferson.

I did find a kids book in our library and read that for high level look at the man. The book also had some good picture and maps. It was titled, William Henry Harrison: America's 9th President by Steven Otfinoski. And that's about all the time I am going to spend with WHH.

Editado: Fev 3, 2010, 4:16pm

Vic, that is why it is so important to research the non-fiction books you read somewhat thoroughly before you read them. I read a lot, but I only have so much time and only so many books will fit into my lifetime. It is a shame to waste 212 pages like that. If you don't want to pay full price for books, haunt used book stores -- I do -- it's fun and you never know what might turn up, but you can also go with a specific goal in mind. Most used bookstores have Presidents sections. Also, if you are going to read only one book on a subject try to get the most recent bio there is that has had a good review so you can get the most balanced info

Fev 4, 2010, 8:18am

Garp83, I run in to the "too many books, too little time" dilemma a lot. Once I start a book, I have a hard time putting it down even if it is not that good. Then after reading the last page, I think I could have been spending that time reading a good book.

In this case I wanted to read something from the period. WHH was the first president to be elected on publicity rather than on merit. I was curious as to how he was portrayed in the media of the time. This election time biography was a good example. Although it highlighted his postives and skipped over his negatives, it still was a factual account of his military career and often referenced other historical documents of the times.

Fev 4, 2010, 8:37am

Ah, well if that was your intent (which I didn't glean from your earlier post" then reading period piece like that was right on the money.

Editado: Abr 29, 2010, 9:14pm

William Henry Harrison: America's 9th President by Steven Otfinoski ***½ 3/26/10

The Presidencies of William Henry Harrison and John Tyler by Norma Lois Peterson **** 4/29/10

I read two books on Harrison, although even together I feel they left me fairly ignorant. I'll probably read the American Presidents series volume on Harrison when it's released, but for now I'm counting him as done.

Otfinoski's book is a juvenile biography accompanied by many pictures. Peterson's is a detailed history of the month of Harrison's administration and the almost 4 years of Tyler's. There is little personal information in the latter. After 50 pages, Harrison is history (couldn't resist). There are copious primary and secondary source footnotes, a bibliographical essay, and an index.

Abr 30, 2010, 5:00pm

Yesterday I picked up Mr Jefferson's Hammer: William Henry Harrison and the Origins of American Indian Policy by Robert M Owens. It hasn't been mentioned here yet, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but at first glance it seems to be a fairly complete biography of the man and the times. Of course, the chapter covering his presidency will probably be the really short one at the end of the book, but I'm looking forward to it all the same.

Abr 30, 2010, 5:17pm

Sandy....that looks really interested. Can't wait to see your comments when you're done.

Jul 21, 2010, 11:28am

For Harrison, I made an exception to my three books rule because The American Presidents Series did not have a book on him and he only served for about a month, and I'm more interested in the men as Presidents.

I read The Presidencies of William Henry Harrison & John Tyler by Norma Lois Peterson. It captured what America was like during that time, and it showed that the Whigs thought that Harrison was going to be a puppet for them, especially for Henry Clay. It became clear early on that Harrison was his own man and would do no such thing, so if he would have lived, he definitely would have butted heads with Clay.

Jul 22, 2010, 8:17pm

I think most of the Presidents of the time butted heads with Henry Clay. I wondered as I read about all these guys, whether or not Clay himself would have made a good President or whether he would have had to fight with someone like John C. Calhoun or Daniel Webster or he who would not have been President in his stead. I think he was an effective and astute politician and, when I've finished reading about all the Presidents, I'm going to go back and read some stuff specifically about him.

Jul 25, 2010, 12:29am

I've thought about reading about some of these other characters as well when the USPC is finished for me. I've already put down Daniel Webster and Henry Clay on my list.

Set 12, 2010, 8:51pm

Old Tippecanoe
by Freeman Cleaves

When it came to read about the 9th U.S. President, my choice was Inter-library Loan, or this 1939 volume. (not counting the juvenile biographies, of course.) Old Tippecanoe was not quite the propaganda piece I envisioned, but it certainly was not written for 21st Century sensibilities. William Henry Harrison was a man of the frontier, living most of his life in Indiana and Ohio. As Mr. Cleaves described the events of Harrison's life, he did mention the shortcomings of the European settlers, but never questioned their right to be in territory that belonged to other people. Nor did he hesitate to call the Native Americans "savages" while at the same time reporting how American soldiers were also collecting enemy scalps during the War of 1812. On the other hand, every era has its own bias, and it does me good to read an author that might call our modern beliefs into question. But, cultural biases aside, this wasn't a satisfying book. I would have preferred a volume with more analysis of the motivations and settings of our forebears, rather than one that focused so closely on the details of Harrison's life. It might have made the book more interesting and informative. Of course, one can hardly blame a biographer for focusing on his subject. Ah, well. I suppose if I insist on reading a bio for every president, I'll have to accept a few disappointments. (The books, I mean, not the presidents. The presidents I can always hope to vote out of office.)

Set 13, 2010, 5:55pm

Still not sure what to do with William Henry Harrison. Any word on when the Gail Collins biography of Harrison is due?

For now, I am thinking I'll go with Mr Jefferson's Hammer by Robert M. Owens and then move on to Norma Lois Peterson's book, Presidencies of William Henry Harrison and John Tyler. When the Collins book comes out, I will read that.

I'm just not that inclined to read the Freeman Cleaves bio of Harrison.

Mar 30, 2011, 9:50pm

Not really much more to add - finally finished Old Tippecanoe which for some reason took me over a year to finish. Interesting book, though at times a bit over my head or maybe the book just had too many details for me to sift through. I wonder what his presidency would have been like if it had lasted longer than a month.

Set 12, 2011, 12:39pm

I was pleased to read, yesterday, that the Gail Collins bio of Harrison will be released in January of 2012. Yay!!

Collins is a New York Times columnist.

Jan 17, 2012, 12:03pm

If you need a book for William Henry Harrison, the American Presidents series entry is now available. This is the one by NY Times columnist Gail Colllins.

Fev 26, 2012, 10:39pm

I bought Gail Collins' William Henry Harrison: American Presidents Series and read it. Well-written, interesting, although short with no pictures (I really like pictures). Not a lot to say about his presidency. Even as a person, he didn't bowl me over, but there it is.

Fev 26, 2012, 11:10pm

>2 oregonobsessionz: I know I'm late to the party, and at the risk of pedantry, I feel compelled to point out that President Van Buren deserves to have his first name recalled correctly. Martin.

Mar 1, 2012, 7:34am

A Big Day’s Coming
Published: February 29, 2012
March 4 is just a few days away. Just want to wish everybody a very happy William Henry Harrison Inauguration Memorial Day!


Editado: Set 25, 2013, 3:41pm

Just finished The Life and Times of William Henry Harrison by S. J. Burr

I do not recommend this book. While the author did not state that William Henry Harrison walked on water, it is implied that he could have, if he had just thought to try to.

Here is an extract, judge the writing for yourselves:

"In our appendix will be found several specimens of Mr. Harrison's writings, and we refer to them with a conscious pride in the talent they display. They are variously selected, that the reader may make himself prefectly acquainted with the sentiments of this distinguished man in the many and important situations he occupied. The whole tenor of his official comunications exhibit the cultivated intellect, the reflecting mind, and the feeling heart. His constant anxiety to forward the interests of all who came under his jurisdiction, and his unremitted exertions to ameliorate the condition of the savage tribes, will forever redound to his honor and hand down his name to posterity with love and veneration" (Pg 85-86)

That was chosen almost at random, there are many more such examples I could have chosen from.

Will look to read a more "balanced" account if one can be found.


Bill Masom

Set 25, 2013, 3:49pm

Oh, and I have a nit to pick with the "facts" presented above, in particular this one:

"When Harrison was elected President in 1840, the Indian leader Tecumseh placed a curse on him, saying that every president elected in a year that ends with a 0 will die while in office. Harrison died while in office, as did Lincoln, elected in 1860, Garfield, elected in 1880, Mckinley, elected in 1900, Harding, elected in 1920, Roosevelt, elected in 1940, and Kennedy, elected in 1960. Reagan, elected in 1980, broke the curse, but was almost assassinated while in office."

Tecumseh was killed while fighting on the side of the British in the War of 1812. So it is a little hard to believe he made this statement when Harrison was elected president.

Just saying ~shrug~


Bill Masom

Jan 29, 2014, 11:01pm

William Henry Harrison by Gail Collins. Wasn't thrilled with this After the wait. Seemed to be more about other people and the politics of the times than about Harrison. But since there wasn't really a presidency to speak of, not much to write about and needed fillers.

Maio 16, 2019, 1:52pm

I also read Gail Collins biography of William Henry Harrison; it actually took me a long to get a copy of it and I finally bought a used library edition online (Danbury Public Library).

For a 31-day president, I didn't expect that much, but it did exceed my expectations. I felt like I got a sense of the man. I also don't think he would've been very successful. What resonated the most was how he was constantly begging people for jobs and how he wasn't very good at managing his money. He also seemed very generous and a gracious host, even though he was always short on money. Also interesting that he said he was going to follow the lead of congress (and essentially be a weak president), but some of his actions and statements towards the end seemed to belie that. And we'll never know.

Abr 10, 2020, 1:22pm

I just finished The Presidencies of William Henry Harrison and John Tyler; while only 45 pages covered Harrison's presidency, it did provide a bit more detail than the short bio I read above. Didn't learn that much more though!