Happy Birthday William Henry Harrison

I don’t think a musical will be written about you.

William Henry Harrison was our shortest term in office president.  During the two hour inaugural address, the new President wore no coat or hat. When he followed the address with a round of receptions in his wet clothing, it resulted in pneumonia. He spent 31 days in office and died.


Biographical Facts

Harrison was born in Virginia, well educated, but instead of becoming a doctor he became a soldier, fighting the native Americans in the Ohio and Indiana territories. This is where he got his nickname “Old Tip” at the Battle of Tippecanoe against Tecumseh. After serving as a soldier, he served in both the Ohio House of Representatives and Senate.  He was very opposed to General Andrew Jackson.

 The New Party of the Whigs

Opponents of Andrew Jackson formed a new party called the “Whigs”.  Whigs was the name of the British party opposed to the monarchy.  The Whigs ran four candidates in the 1836 election against Martin Van Buren, trying to deny a majority of votes in the electoral collage, which would throw the presidential election into the House of Representatives (just like Thomas Jefferson election of 1800.)    Van Buren still won.

Election Tactics

The Whig Party changed tactics for the 1840 campaign. Van Buren was seen as a dandy aristrocrat.

The Whigs wanted to contrast to this.  Even though Harrison was well educated and a son of the planter aristocracy of the south, he was advertised as “man of the west”, a common man. The Whig handlers simply portrayed him differently.  Harrison’s handlers made a common man out of Virginia aristocracy.

This was the first of the political campaigns.  It was a race filled with songs, advertising, slogans, and organized rallies. In the election campaign of 1840, the Whigs handed out free hard cider in little bottles shaped like log cabins at barbecues and bonfires—and they used the slogan “Old Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too” to promote Harrison’s candidacy.



More people voted in the presidential election than ever before, 80 percent. His legacy does not lie in his brief tenure in the White House, but rather how the party organizers learned how to craft a candidate for public display.

“One bitter pro-Van Buren paper lamented after his defeat, “We have been sung down, lied down and drunk down.” In one sentence, this described the new American political process.”   Which continues to this day!


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