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Benjamin Harrison: 23rd President: Old Tippecanoe's Grandson

Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else we're destined to repeat it.

1895 - Official Presidential Photo of Benjamin Harrison

1895 - Official Presidential Photo of Benjamin Harrison

Harrison's Early Years

Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd President of the United States, was born in 1833 to a long line of politicians at a farm near the Ohio River below Cincinnati. He was one of the few Presidents to have had a relative also be a previous president. His grandfather William Henry Harrison was the ninth president known as "Old Tippecanoe." Benjamin was seven years old at the time he won the election. His great grandfather also signed the Declaration of Independence. Although despite his famous heritage, he was not wealthy and grew up fishing and hunting.

Benjamin attended Miami University, then studied law in Cincinnati. After getting married in 1853 to Caroline Lavinia Scott, he moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, where he gained a solid reputation as a successful lawyer. He used his connections to help campaign for the Republican Party.

He took a brief hiatus from his law practice to fight in the Civil War as a Colonel of the 70th Volunteer Infantry. He returned soon after.

Harrison's Narrow Win

He was not known for a friendly demeanor. Many thought he was cold, even gaining the nickname "the human iceberg." Despite his icy personality, many respected him, although it played a factor in his losing the Indiana governor election in 1876.

Fortunately, he did become a U.S. Senator in 1880, which paved the way to run for President, although winning was not an easy task. In the election, he ran against Cleveland as a Republican. The Republican party was getting its start. He ended up with 100,000 fewer popular votes. Despite fewer popular votes, he still won the Electoral College 233 to 168! This made him President in between Grover Cleveland's two terms. His opponents claimed that he paid for some of his electoral votes.

Benjamin Harrison's Presidential Accomplishments

Harrison had a reasonably uneventful presidency. He mostly agreed with Congress when handling problems, although he did focus intensely on foreign policies. He attempted to annex Hawaii and established the basis of the Pan American Union, which met for the first time in Washington in 1889.

Although he did not succeed with Hawaii, six new states were admitted to the Union: North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Wyoming, which caused the country to reach from one coast to the other officially.

He also was well known for signing the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, which protected "...trade and commerce against unlawful restraints and monopolies," which was the first Federal act attempting to regulate trusts.

The federal budget exceeded $1 billion, which was the first time this happened when there wasn't a war. He had that money put towards improving the Navy and harbors.

Harrison was also a strong advocate for Civil Rights. He fought hard to get specific bills passed that would have laid the groundwork for the future, but most of his efforts failed.

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He did run for a second term in 1892 but lost to former President Grover Cleveland. The same man narrowly won the election the prior term.

After leaving office, he returned to Indianapolis, where he married widowed Mrs. Mary Lord Dimmick, his late wife's niece, four years later. He died in 1901 from pneumonia.

Fun Facts

  • Because he was only 5 feet 6 inches, he was nicknamed by Democrats "Little Ben," but Republicans would retort that he was big enough to wear the hat of his grandfather, "Old Tippecanoe."
  • In 1889, he placed the first Christmas tree in the White House.
  • In 1892, his wife was one of three first ladies to die while their husbands were in office.
  • His grandfather was the ninth President of the United States, William Henry Harrison.
  • His great-grandfather signed the Declaration of Independence.
  • He was the first President to use electric light in the White House. He also was the last President to date to have a beard.
  • Some people felt he had a very stiff personality, and he earned the nickname "the human iceberg" as a result.

Basic Facts

QuestionAnswer

Born

August 20, 1833 - Ohio

President Number

23rd

Party

Republican

Military Service

United States Army

Wars Served

American Civil War

Age at Beginning of Presidency

56 years old

Term of Office

March 4, 1889 - March 3, 1893

Years Served as President

4 years

Vice President

Levi P. Morton

Age and Year of Death

March 13, 1901 (aged 67)

Cause of Death

pneumonia

Citations

  • Freidel, F., & Sidey, H. (2009). Benjamin Harrison. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/benjaminharrison
  • Sullivan, George. Mr. President: A Book of U.S. Presidents. New York: Scholastic, 2001. Print.
  • What are some interesting facts about presidents and first ladies? (n.d.). Retrieved April 22, 2016, from https://www.whitehousehistory.org/questions/what-are-some-interesting-facts-about-presidents-first-ladies


© 2017 Angela Michelle Schultz

Comments

Dianna Mendez on October 17, 2017:

Great share on the history of this president.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on October 16, 2017:

Thank you so much!

Doug West from Missouri on October 16, 2017:

Good article.

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