William Henry Harrison

By | Apr 4, 2008

William Henry Harrison died on the fourth of April in 1841 from pneumonia. With his death he became the first president to die in office. He also served as President for the shortest period of time at only 30 days, 12 hours and 30 minutes.

Beginning with Harrison each President elected in a year that ended with zero would die in office until Ronald Reagan. Abraham Lincoln, elected in 1860, was assassinated during his second term in 1865. James Garfield, elected in 1880, was also assassinated. William McKinley was elected to his second term in 1900, but he too was assassinated. Warren Harding elected in 1920 fell ill and died three years later. Franklin Roosevelt was elected for his third term in 1940 and died shortly after taking the oath of office for his fourth term in 1945. Then in 1963 John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 after being elected in 1960.

1841 would be the first of only two calendar years where the United States had three Presidents. Harrison had won the election in 1840 against the incumbent Martin Van Buren, replacing him in March. When Harrison died his Vice President John Tyler took office. The only other year with three presidents was 1881 when Rutherford B. Hayes relinquished the office to James Garfield, who was assassinated with Chester Arthur stepping into the Presidency.

Harrison’s inaugural address lasting nearly two hours is the longest in American history. He delivered it outside on an extremely cold and wet day. It’s commonly thought that this was the reason for his pneumonia, but he didn’t develop a cold until over three weeks later on March 26.

Shortly after his inauguration Harrison became the first president to have his photograph taken by Justus Moore using the daguerreotype process. Unfortunately the daguerreotype is lost. John Quincy Adams is the earliest President to have had a photograph taken, but that was not until 1847, nearly 20 years after he had left office. Each President after Adams has been photographed and like Adams, Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren had theirs taken after they left office.

Harrison’s father Benjamin Harrison, V was a signer of the declaration of the United States and his Grandson Benjamin Harriosn became President of the United States in 1889.


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