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Portraits: William H Harrison   1 comment

William Henry Harrison (1773 – 1841)

The 9th President of the United States, 1841

This portrait of Harrison originally showed him in civilian clothes as the congressional delegate from the Northwest Territory in 1800, but the uniform was added after he became famous in the War of 1812.

AKA: Old Tippecanoe, General Mum

From: Virginia, Ohio

College: Presbyterian Hampden-Sydney College, University of Pennsylvania (withdrew from both)

Married to: Anna Symmes

Children: Ten with his wife, and six with one of his slaves, Dilsia.  He didn’t want “bastard slave children” around the White House, so he gave four of those to his brother, who sold them.

Party: Whig

Previous Jobs: General, US Representative, Senator, minister to Columbia

In His Words:  “But I contend that the strongest of all governments is that which is most free.”

“There is nothing more corrupting, nothing more destructive of the noblest and finest feelings of our nature, than the exercise of unlimited power.”

“The only legitimate right to govern is an express grant of power from the governed.”

Final words: “Sir, I wish you to understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more.”

Not true: Chief Tecumseh’s Shawnee were defeated by Harrison (at the Tippecanoe River), prompting Tecumseh to curse the American presidency. The oddly specific curse was that every President elected in a year ending in zero would die in office.  Harrison himself was the first such President to die, followed by Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Harding, Roosevelt and Kennedy.  The curse was proven false when Reagan did not die in office (though he was shot).

True: Harrison’s father, Benjamin Harrison, signed the Declaration of Independence.

It was a cold, wet day in March when Harrison was inaugurated. His speech lasted nearly 2 hours. He caught pneumonia and died on his 32nd day in office, the shortest term of any president. Harrison was the first president to die in office. His death would be seen as the first in a long series of what became known as Tecumseh’s Curse: Presidents elected in a year ending in a zero would die in office.

The Official Portrait:

James Lambdin is famous for many of his portraits of U.S. Presidents, including portraits of William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor. The Harrison portrait was painted in 1835, before he was elected President. Lambdin became professor of fine arts at the University of Pennsylvania.

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