William Henry Harrison (1773–1841) was the ninth president of the United States. He took the office on March 4, 1841, but died of pneumonia on April 4, 1841. Even though he didn’t stay the nation’s leader for long, he lived an eventful life.
Harrison was born on February 9, 1773, at his family’s plantation near Richmond, Virginia. His father, Benjamin Harrison V, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and served as governor of the state. William Harrison attended Hampden-Sydney College in Pennsylvania, where he studied medicine until he dropped out in 1791 to join the Army.
Harrison got much of his reputation as a fighter against the American Indians. In 1794, he fought against the indigenous tribes at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, which opened the Ohio country to white settlement. He was promoted to captain and became the commander of Ohio’s Fort Washington.
Harrison and Anna Tuthill Symmes were married in 1795. They had ten children, six of whom died before Harrison became president. One son, John Scott Harrison, would later become a congressman and the father of Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd president.
William Henry Harrison resigned from the Army in 1798 and became secretary of the Northwest Territory, assigned by President John Adams. In 1800, Harrison became governor of the new Indiana Territory that had been created by Congress.
He continued as governor for a dozen years before rejoining the Army for the War of 1812. He was placed in charge of the Army of the Northwest and made the rank of brigadier general. After resigning again from the military, Harrison and family moved to North Bend, Ohio, in 1814.
Harrison won the presidency as a Whig in 1840. He was the oldest president until Ronald Reagan, and was mocked relentlessly during his campaign. One newspaper taunted him, saying, “Give him a barrel of hard [alcoholic] cider, and … a pension of two thousand [dollars] a year … and … he will sit the remainder of his days in his log cabin.” This became known as the “log cabin campaign.”
Harrison became president at age 68. He gave a long inaugural address, the longest in history, and chose not to wear a coat or hat despite the weather. Four weeks later, he died of pneumonia, and the vice president, John Tyler, took over, gaining the name of “His Accidency.”
First lady Anna Harrison became the first presidential widow to receive a pension from Congress, which was a one-time payment of $25,000, the amount her husband would have earned in a year as president. She was also given free postage on all her mail.