On February 9, 1773, the future President William Henry Harrison was born on the Berkeley Plantation in Virginia.
Harrison became the ninth President of the United States for a brief 32-day period in 1841, the shortest term ever. Harrison is also credited with the record for the longest inaugural address in history. Delivered on a very cold March morning, it timed at one hour and 45 minutes. He was also the last president to be born an English subject.
A native of Virginia, Harrison grew up in a wealthy and politically active family – his father served as governor of Virginia for three terms. He attended university with the intention of studying medicine, but chose to join the military before completing his studies. As a private, Harrison earned a reputation for bravery for his participation in the Indian Wars of the Northwest Territories and the Battle of the Thames in Ontario during the War of 1812. John Adams appointed Harrison Secretary of the Territories of the Northwest (now Indiana and Illinois) in 1798 and soon after he accepted Adam’s offer to become governor of the region.
In 1811, Harrison earned the nickname Old Tippecanoe after leading a brutal but successful attack on the Shawnee tribe of Tecumseh at Tippecanoe Creek in what is now Indiana. As governor, Harrison drew up several restrictive and unilateral treaties with Native American tribes who held desirable lands. In one of his stingiest treaties, he agreed to pay a tribe barely a cent for every 200 acres, a deal that gave the United States 51 million acres for a bite of bread and opened a wide strip from the west to the white colonies.
Harrison married Anna Tuthill Symmes in 1795. The couple had eight children; Harrison also adopted Anna’s son John from a previous marriage. Six of his children died before Harrison’s campaign for the presidency. Daughters Mary and Elizabeth survived their father, but only by several years. His last child, Anna, died in 1865.
Spurred on by a successful military and political career, which included stays in the United States Congress, the Ohio Senate, and as U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, Harrison ran for President in 1840, choosing John Tyler to run with him. on the Whig party ticket. Much to the horror of the political establishment, the two campaigned vigorously, setting the tone for future campaigns. They also used eye-catching campaign slogans like Tippecanoe and Tyler, and held loud rallies where they handed out free hard cider bottles housed in small log cabin shaped bottles.
Harrison caught a cold on his inauguration day which persisted, eventually turning into a fatal case of pneumonia. Some historical records indicate that the doctor’s prescribed remedies for pneumonia also gave Harrison a fatal case of hepatitis. He died on April 4, 1841, leaving behind his widow Anna and three surviving children. His grandson, Benjamin, followed in Harrison’s political footsteps, serving a full term as president from 1889 to 1893.