William Henry Harrison Biography
Ninth President of the United States
Years Served as President: 1841
Vice President: John Tyler
Age at Inauguration: 68
Home State: Virginia
Date of Birth: February 9, 1733
Died: April 4, 1841
Married: Anna Tuthill Symmes
Children: Elizabeth, John, William, Lucy, Benjamin, Mary, Carter, Anna
Nickname: Old Tippecanoe
What is William Henry Harrison known for?
William Henry Harrison was a military officer and politician. He is best known for being the first United States president to die in office.
He also served the shortest term of any president. He died just 32 days into his term.
William Henry Harrison was born to a wealthy family in Richmond, Virginia. His father Benjamin was the governor of Virginia and had signed the Declaration of Independence.
William attended Hampden-Sydney College and studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. However, he dropped out to join the Army.
He fought against Native American forces in several territorial conflicts, including the Battle of Fallen Timbers. He eventually became a captain and the commander of Fort Washington in Ohio.
William married Anna Tuthill Symmes in 1795. Her father, a wealthy judge, didn’t approve of the marriage because of William’s military career.
The couple eloped and went on to have ten children. Six of the children died before William became president.
The couple’s son John became a congressman, and his son Benjamin became the twenty-third president of the United States.
Political and Military Career
William Henry Harrison resigned from the Army in 1798. John Adams, who was then the president, named him the secretary of the Northwest Territory.
The Northwest Territory was made up of the land we now call Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and parts of Minnesota (view all US states).
In 1799, William became the Northwest Territory’s first delegate in Congress. When the Indiana Territory was created from the Northwest Territory in 1800, William became the new territory’s governor.
While serving as governor, he negotiated treaties with Native American tribes. In these treaties, the tribes agreed to hand over millions of acres of land.
However, some of the tribes did not agree with the treaties, and William called in U.S. troops to remove them from their lands.
In 1811, at the Battle of Tippecanoe, William’s forces defeated the powerful leader Tecumseh and his followers. From this battle, William received the nickname “Old Tippecanoe.”
When the War of 1812 began, William rejoined the U.S. Army. He became the brigadier general in charge of the Army of the Northwest.
At the Battle of the Thames, William and his forces won a victory against the British and their Indian allies. Tecumseh was killed in this battle. Most of the Indian tribes then surrendered.
In 1816, William was elected to the House of Representatives. He became a state senator in 1819 and spent three years as a U.S. senator beginning in 1825. In 1828, he served as the U.S. minister to Colombia.
William Henry Harrison ran for president against Martin Van Buren in 1836 and lost. Four years later, he ran against Van Buren again and won.
His opponents said that William was too old to run. They mocked him in the newspaper, saying, “Give him a barrel of hard cider and a pension of two thousand dollars a year, and he’ll sit the remainder of his days in a log cabin.”
In his campaign, William used images of log cabins and even barrels of cider. His political party, the Whigs, positioned William as a symbol of the common man and an Indian fighter on the frontier.
Although William was actually from a wealthy family, the campaign worked. He won about 53% of the popular vote and defeated Van Buren in the electoral vote too.
At 68, William Henry Harrison was the oldest president sworn into office at that time.
He gave the longest inaugural address in history. During the address, he famously did not wear a hat or coat despite the poor weather.
Four weeks later, he died of pneumonia (or, according to some historians, typhoid fever). His vice president John Tyler took over the presidency.
William Henry Harrison’s presidency is still the shortest in U.S. history.
Fun Facts About William H. Harrison
The plantation that William Henry Harrison lived on as a child was attacked during the Revolutionary War.
William’s inaugural address was 105 minutes long.
The first lady, Anna Harrison, outlived William by about 20 years. She was the first presidential widow to receive a pension (payment) from Congress.
Anna’s pension was a one-time payment of $25,000, which was to be William Henry Harrison’s presidential salary. She also received free postage on all her mail.
William and Anna are buried at the William Henry Harrison Tomb State Memorial in North Bend, Ohio.