Jul 23

Benjamin Harrison

by in American Presidents

23rd President: 1889-1893


Just the Facts:

 

  •  The White House got electricity during his term.
  •  He kept pet goats at the White House – they would even pull his grandchildren around in a cart.
  •  His nickname was “The Iceberg,” because people thought he was cold, formal and snooty.
  •  Grover Cleveland was president before AND after him.
  •  His favorite foods were oysters, corn, and soup.
  •  He had more brothers and sisters than any other president.

 


Life:  

Benjamin was from a famous political family – his great-grandfather signed the Declaration of Independence, his grandfather was the 9th president, and his father was a Senator.  He was born in Ohio and grew up, with his 11 siblings, on a farm that was purchased by his famous grandfather.  He spent many of his childhood days outside fishing and hunting.

 

Benjamin was a good student – he attended a country one-room schoolhouse before going on to college.  After graduating, he studied law and opened his own practice in Indianapolis.  He was a rising star and was elected to the Indiana Supreme Court.  But then the Civil War started and he enlisted.  He was a brave soldier and rose to the ranks of General.  He decided to enter politics and ran for governor of Indiana – he lost two times.  Finally, he represented Indiana in Congress before running for president.

Presidency:  

President Harrison didn’t stand out as a president, but he did get quite a bit accomplished.  For example, he signed the Sherman Antitrust Act, which basically said that “honest competition is good” – corporations shouldn’t get so big that they control an entire industry and the consumer looses the benefit of competition.  The Sherman Act is still an important part of corporate law today.

 

In addition, the Oklahoma Territory opened to white settlers during his term, which resulted in a great rush to claim free land under the Homestead Act.  In addition, 6 states were added during his presidency – Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Idaho and Wyoming.  The story goes that there was such a rivalry between North and South Dakota, that he shuffled the papers on his desk before signing, so no one knows which was admitted as a state first.

 

Family: 

Benjamin met his wife, Caroline, in school.  They had [two] [three] three children – Russell, Mary and Elizabeth.  While First Lady, Caroline designed the first official presidential china and started collecting china for the White House.  She also liked to paint, play the piano and grow orchids.  She also raised money for Johns Hopkins Medical School after they promised to admit women to their classes.  Unfortunately, Caroline died while Harrison was president.

 

Even though he spent time in bustling cities throughout his life, Harrison always claimed to love the slower life of small towns.  Benjamin died of pneumonia in his home when he was 68 years old.


Famous Quotes 

 

“Great lives never go out; they go on.”

“Unlike many other people less happy, we give our devotion to a government, to its Constitution, to its flag, and not to men.”

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