I Will be Brief: The William Henry Harrison Presidency

Study Break

The career of former U.S. president William Henry Harrison (1773-1841) was long and varied. He served in the military, was a congressional delegate for the Northwest Territory, Indiana Territorial Governor, a hero of the War of 1812, Ohio state senator, and an Ohio congressman. He lost an Ohio governor election and a 1836 presidential election.

Harrison was the ninth president of the United States, best known for giving the longest inaugural address (8,445 words, lasting nearly 2 hours), catching pneumonia and dying after being in office 30 days, 12 hours, and 30 minutes.

This brief History channel video recaps his 1840 “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” presidential campaign (where some historic campaign tactics first took place) and presidency. Other than his death establishing presidential succession, Harrison’s legacy (fairly or not) is talking too much and not having the sense to wear an overcoat when it was cold and wet outside.

Harrison double-downed on trying to prove that he was not too old for office by riding through the streets of Washington during the inaugural parade, and afterwards, attending three inaugural balls. He became ill 3 weeks into his presidency on March 26, 1841 so some historians speculate the inaugural speech had nothing to do with the illness.

The cure was probably worse than the illness. Harrison’s doctors treated him with opium, castor oil, leeches and Virginia snakeweed, which – what a surprise! – made his condition worse. He died nine days later.

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