Our 9th President: 1841-1841
Just the Facts:
- William Harrison gave the longest inauguration speech in history (he talked over 1 1/2 hours).
- He also had the shortest presidential term in history – only 32 days.
- His nickname was “Ol Tippecanoe.”
- His grandson, Benjamin, became the 23rd president.
- Harrison allowed his pet goats and cows to graze on the While House lawn.
- He was the first president to have his picture taken while in office.
William Harrison grew up in Virginia. His father was a wealthy plantation owner and signed the Declaration of Independence, as well as being governor of Virginia. William joined the army after his father died and spent most of his time on the frontier. He worked his way up, until he became governor of the Indiana Territory. He held that position for 12 years. He became famous for his military victories over the Native Americans, including the Battle of Tippecanoe River.
Harrison used his military experience to advance his career, and eventually served in the Ohio senate and represented Ohio in Congress.
Harrison tried to convince the American public that he was an ordinary person like them by saying that he was born in a log cabin. It was technically true, but only because his family was staying in the cabin while their mansion was being built! He wanted to disguise his family’s wealth and portray himself as a frontiersman. He was thrifty – he walked to the market every morning himself with a basket on his arm.
William Harrison was 68 years old when he became President (the second oldest ever, after Ronald Reagan). His inauguration took place on a cold and rainy day. Harrison gave his famously long inauguration speech without a hat or coat, and caught a chill. Eventually, that chill evolved into pneumonia and he died 32 days later.
It was because of the confusion after Harrison’s death that the 25th Amendment to the Constitution was passed. People realized that it needs to be clear what steps should be taken if a president dies while in office.
William married Anna when he was 22 years old – her father didn’t approve of the marriage so their eloped. Anna grew up with her grandparents on Long Island after her mother passed away (her father was a soldier during the Revolutionary War). William and Anna had 10 kids and 48 grandchildren!
“The only legitimate right to govern is an express grant of power from the governed.”
“I contend that the strongest of all governments is that which is most free.”
Want to learn more?
Take a virtual tour of his estate in Indiana at: http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/presidents/harrison_grouseland.html
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