The first President of the United States that I am ranking in the Worst To First countdown I am not actually going to rank- that is the 9th POTUS William Henry Harrison. Why am I not ranking him? He was in office only one month before dying.
William Henry Harrison came from a prominent background. His father Benjamin was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a Governor of Virginia in the 1780’s. His mother was from one of the most noted families in Virginia.
Harrison gained his fame as a soldier and ‘statesman.’ He was the governor of the Indiana Territory from 1800-1812 where is main accomplishment was to swindling the Native Americans out of their land- sometimes for pennies an acre. He was a noted Indian fighter, his victory at the Battle of Tippecanoe being the most famous of his victories.
William Henry Harrison would go on to serve a term in the U.S..House of Representatives from 1817-19 and from 1825-28 was a U.S. Senator from Ohio. He was also the U.S. Minister to Columbia from 1828-29. The nreext we hear from him is in 1836 when he was the Whig Parties nominee for president. He would be beaten by Andrew Jackson protege Martin Van Buren.
Martin Van Ruin’s presidency was marred by the Panic of ’37 and when he ran for re-election in 1840 it was against his opponent from 1836- William Henry Harrison. Harrison’s people ran him as a common man- born in a log cabin and tried to paint Van Buren as an aristocrat. The opposite was actually true but Van Buren’s people couldn’t correct the impression. Van Buren did LOOK like an aristocrat. Harrison’s handlers also told him to say as little as possible on the issues of the day. The campaign slogan was “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” [ John Tyler was his running mate more on him soon}
The Harrison strategy worked and Harrison beat Van Buren in the rematch. When Harrison took office on March 4, 1841 he was sixty-eight years old. Back then sixty-eight was nearly twice the average lifespan of the average American. He would be the oldest president inaugurated until #40 Ronald Reagan in 1981. Donald Trump who is seventy will break that record this coming Friday.
Inauguration Day in Washington was a miserable day. Cold and rainy. Harrison must have wanted to prove age didn’t matter. He gave his two hour Inaugural Address [ still the longest in presidential history} without wearing a coat or hat. He then proceeded to the receptions in his wet clothes.
A couple weeks later Harrison came down with a bad cold which developed into pneumonia and pleurisy and many historians believe the care he got from his doctors didn’t help matters. Harrison 31 days into his presidency became the first president to die in office.
During his short presidency he really didn’t accomplish anything since he was ill most of the time but he was able to keep one campaign promise- he had said in 1840 that if elected he wouldn’t serve a second term.
I didn’t rank Harrison due to the shortness of his presidency. In some ways I guess you could say Harrison was one of the most successful presidents since he did nothing. The next post will reveal the worst president in American history.
A few interesting facts on POTUS #9 William Henry Harrison.
- Harrison was the first POTUS to be photographed. His picture was taken on his Inauguration Day.
- Mrs. Harrison never set foot in the White House. She was back home packing and was about to leave when William Henry died.
- William Henry Harrison’s grandson- Benjamin Harrison would be elected the 23rd POTUS serving from 1889-1893. Benjamin was seven years old when his grandfather died.
- Do you believe in curses? Many of you I am sure have heard of the “Curse of Tippecanoe.” Back in 1811 as mentioned earlier Harrison beat the Shawnee at that battle defeating the famous Indian Chief Tecumseh. Tecumseh’s brother the prophet Tenskwatawa supposedly placed a curse on Harrison and future presidents elected in a year ending in 0. 1840 Harrison is elected and dies a month later, 1860 Lincoln is elected and assassinated. 1880 Garfield falls victim to an assassins bullet and in 1900 was re-elected and was assassinated the following year. 1920 Harding is elected and dies in 1923 of a heart attack. 1940 Franklin Roosevelt wins his third term. He would die early in his 4th term. 1960 Kennedy elected- assassinated in 1963. The next president elected in the 0 year beat the curse- although Ronald Reagan was shot a couple months into his presidency he survived and in 2000 George Dubya Bush also served and survived his two terms. There have been eight presidents who have died in office- seven of them were elected or re-elected in a year ending in 0. The only one who died who wasn’t -Zachary Taylor who was elected in 1848.