President of the United States
August 20, 1833 in
North Bend, Ohio
March 4, 1889 -
March 13, 1901 in Indianapolis,
in Crown Hill Cemetery
in Indianapolis, Indiana
was the fourth dead president, and the 26th overall, that my wife
Debbie and I visited on "The Five
DPOTUS Tour '05".
Along with the dead presidents, we picked up
dead vice presidents, dead supreme court chief justices and losing
presidential candidates. We started out from Bayonne early in the
morning on Saturday, August 27. We drove through Pennsylvania and into
Ohio. We stopped in Fremont, Ohio to visit Rutherford B. Hayes. The
next day we continued, with numerous
stops, to Chicago. After spending the week in Chicago, we
headed on to Iowa to get Herbert Hoover and then back to Springfield,
Illinois. The next morning we visited Abraham Lincoln and then headed
off to Indianapolis, Indiana to see Benjamin Harrison, then on to
Dayton, Ohio for the night. The next
day, after stopping in Columbus, we headed north toward Marion, Ohio
and Warren G. Harding.
In Indianapolis, Indiana, we
drove to Crown Hill Cemetery. This is one of the most
famous cemeteries in the country due to the fact it has one dead
president, Benjamin Harrison, three dead vice-presidents; Fairbanks,
Thomas Marshall and Thomas Hendricks along with famous gangster John
Dillinger. Crown Hill is extremely large and though Harrison's grave is
easy to find (since there are signs pointing you to it), the three
were not so easy.
To say that
Harrison was born into a famous American political family is somewhat
of an understatement. He was the grandson of President William Henry
Harrison and the great-grandson of Benjamin Harrison V (who signed the
Declaration of Independence). Benjamin was the second of eight children
of John Scott Harrison (later a U.S. Congressman from Ohio) and
Elizabeth Ramsey Irwin. After graduating from
University (colloquially and incorrectly referred to as Miami of Ohio) in
Oxford, Ohio in 1852 (
Ben Roethlisberger graduated from
the same university), he became a lawyer and got a job working for the
Indiana Supreme Court. On
October 20, 1853, he married Caroline Lavina Scott. They
had two children who lived to adulthood, Russell Benjamin Harrison
and Mary Harrison McKee, as well as a daughter
who died very shortly after birth in 1861.
Harrison served in the Union Army during the Civil
War and was appointed colonel of the 70th Indiana Volunteer Infantry
Regiment. The unit performed reconnaissance duty and guarded railroads
in Kentucky and Tennessee until Sherman's Atlanta Campaign in 1864.
Harrison, who was known for his fighting spirit and leadership, was
brevetted as a brigadier general and commanded a Brigade at Resaca,
Cassville, New Hope Church, Lost Mountain, Kennesaw Mountain, Marietta,
Peach Tree Creek and the Siege of Atlanta. Harrison was later
transferred to the Army of the Cumberland and participated in the Siege
of Nashville and the Grand Review in Washington D.C. before mustering
out in 1865.
After the war, he got his
job back with the Indiana
Supreme Court. A Republican, he
ran unsuccessfully for governor of Indiana in 1876. He was appointed a
member of the Mississippi River Commission in 1879 and in 1880 was
elected to the United States Senate, where he served one term to 1887.
The following year, Harrison set his sights higher.
beating John Sherman for the Republican presidential nomination at the
1888 Republican National Convention in Chicago, Harrison was elected
President of the United States in 1888. In the Presidential election,
Harrison received 100,000 fewer popular votes than incumbent President
Grover Cleveland but carried the Electoral College 233 to 168. Although
Harrison had made no political bargains, his supporters had given
innumerable pledges upon his behalf. When Boss Matthew Quay of
Pennsylvania heard that Harrison ascribed his narrow victory to
Providence, Quay exclaimed that Harrison would never know "how close a
number of men were compelled to approach...the penitentiary to make him
President." Harrison was also known as the "centennial president"
because his inauguration was the 100th anniversary of the inauguration
of George Washington.
While in the
White House, his wife Caroline started the tradition of having a White
House Christmas tree. She also oversaw a number of renovations before
Civil Service reform was a no-win situation. Congress was split so far
apart on the issue that agreeing to any measure for one side would
alienate the other. The issue became a popular political football of
the time and was immortalized in a cartoon captioned "What can I do
when both parties insist on kicking?"
proud of the vigorous foreign policy which he helped shape. The first
Pan-American Congress met in Washington, D.C. in 1889, establishing an
information center which later became the Pan American Union. At the
end of his administration, Harrison submitted to the Senate a treaty to
annex Hawaii; to his disappointment, President Cleveland later withdrew
perplexing domestic problem Harrison faced was the tariff issue. The
high tariff rates in effect had created a surplus of money in the
Treasury. Low-tariff advocates argued that the surplus was hurting
business. Republican leaders in Congress successfully met the
challenge. Representative William McKinley and Senator Nelson W.
Aldrich framed a still higher tariff bill; some rates were
intentionally prohibitive. Harrison tried to make the tariff more
acceptable by writing in reciprocity provisions.
the end of the Harrison Administration, the Treasury surplus had
evaporated and prosperity seemed about to disappear. It didn't help
that the Republican-controlled Congress, known as the "billion dollar
Congress," wasted a lot of money and made voters very angry.
Congressional elections in 1890 went against the Republicans and party
leaders decided to abandon President Harrison, although he had
cooperated with Congress on party legislation. Nevertheless, his party
renominated him in the 1892 Republican National Convention in
Minneapolis. However, in the general election, Cleveland who he
defeated four years earlier came back to defeat Harrison by almost a 2
to 1 margin in electoral votes (popular votes were 46% to 43% - there
was a third party candidate, James Baird Weaver, who carried four
states). Just two weeks earlier, on October 25, 1892, Harrison's wife,
Caroline died after a long battle with tuberculosis.
After the defeat, he set out on a new career as a
writer and a professor. Harrison decided to remarry, however to the
shock of many, including his children, he married his wife's widowed
niece and former secretary Mary Scott Lord Dimmick on April 6, 1896 at
St. Thomas Protestant Episcopal Church on Fifth Avenue in New York City
(the current church is not the one they married in, that one burned
nine years after their wedding). Harrison's new wife who was 25 years
younger then him (Harrison was 62) was born 10 days after his 5th
Wedding Anniversary with Caroline. They had one daughter, Elizabeth.
Because his two children from his first marriage, Russell and Mary,
were very unhappy about the new marriage, Harrison responded by cutting
them out of his will (they were, however, buried near him).
of 1901, Harrison, who was only 67 years old, got the flu that
developed into pneumonia. Harrison did not respond well to treatments
and lapsed in and out of a coma before dying at 4:45 in the afternoon
of March 13. Harrison's body, in a walnut casket, lied in state in the
rotunda of the Indiana state capital building in Indianapolis. There
was a large funeral at the First Presbyterian Church, where Harrison
had been a member for almost 50 years, with President William McKinley
in attendance. The overflow crowd sang Harrison's favorite hymn, "Rock
of Ages." He was next taken to Crown Hill Cemetery where he was buried
next to his wife Caroline in a granite tomb that was lowered into the
ground as cannons fired.
Harrison, who was a strict Presbyterian, was known to be somewhat of a
cold fish. He was a spectacular orator who could motivate people with
rousing speeches, but in one on one situations, would turn the same
people off. After giving
speeches, his aides tried to get him away from the people as fast as
possible. People would walk
away from a meeting with Harrison and use words like 'chilly,' 'frigid'
and 'frosty.' When someone mentioned the 'Harrison bandwagon' in the
1888 convention, one Republican said it was more like an
'icewagon.' After being elected, he was referred to as the "White
House iceberg." His handshake was especially weak having been described
as being like a "wilted petunia." Harrison, at five feet six inches,
was not very tall and was derisively referred to by his opponents as
'Little Ben." harrison also has the distinction of being the last
president to wear a beard.
also involved in a bizarre legal/medical incident that was called "The
Harrison Horror." Harrison had the Ohio state legislature enact strict
laws against bodysnatching after his father's body was stolen from the
cemetery after his death in 1878 and sold to a medical college for
dissection. In a public letter, Harrison described how he was horrified
when his father's body was discovered "hanging by the neck...in the pit
of a medical college."
Here are some webpages of
House Biography of Grover Cleveland
Internet Public Library Biography
American President Biography