Monument to brevity: William Henry Harrison


William Henry Harrison died on April 4, 1841, 31 days after his inauguration as president of the United States.

Perhaps during the cold and rainy inauguration, perhaps from a well-wisher, Harrison caught a cold. The cold developed into pneumonia. The pneumonia killed him.

William Henry Harrison, White House portrait Harrison, a Whig, was the first president to die in office. His vice president, John Tyler, was a converted Democrat who abandoned the Whig platform as president.

Harrison won fame pushing Indians off of lands coveted by white settlers in the Northwest Territories. Harrison defeated Tecumseh’s Shawnee tribe without Tecumseh at the Battle of Tippecanoe, then beat Tecumseh in a battle with the English in which Tecumseh died in the War of 1812.

Schoolchildren of my era learned Harrison’s election slogan: “Tippecanoe, and Tyler, too!”

Congress voted Harrison’s widow a payment of $25,000 since he had died nearly penniless. This may be the first example of a president or his survivors getting a payment from the government after leaving office.

In the annals of brief presidencies, there is likely to be none shorter than Harrison’s for a long time. As you toast him today, you can honestly say he did not overstay his White House tenure. Others could have learned from his example.

4 Responses to Monument to brevity: William Henry Harrison

  1. Brian says:

    Always hated this one – you can’t catch a cold from being out in the cold. Giving a long inaugural address in bad weather simply wouldn’t have made him sick. Maybe from shaking a lot of hands.

    Like

  2. Ed Darrell says:

    Haven’t forgotten. Also haven’t had time for the post I’d hoped to get done on April 3rd, about the “mountaintop” speech.

    Like

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