William Henry Harrison
-Harrison, William Henry (1773-1841), served the shortest time in office of any president in American history. He caught cold the day he was inaugurated president, and he died 30 days later. Harrison was the first president to die in office.
-Early life. William Henry Harrison was born on Feb. 9, 1773, at Berkeley, his father's plantation in Charles City County, Virginia.
-Soldier. Harrison served in early American wars against the Indians and rose to the rank of lieutenant. In 1794, he developed a plan which led to an American victory on the Great Miami River. He was promoted to captain and given command of Fort Washington, Ohio.
-Harrison's family. While at Fort Washington, Harrison met and married Anna Symmes (July 25, 1775-Feb. 25, 1864). She was the daughter of John C. Symmes, a judge and wealthy land investor. The Harrisons had six sons and four daughters. Six of the children died before Harrison became president.
-Entry into politics. Harrison resigned his Army commission in June 1798, and President John Adams appointed him secretary of the Northwest Territory.
-Army commander. When the War of 1812 began, President James Madison made Harrison a brigadier general in command of the Army of the Northwest.
-Return to politics. Harrison again resigned from the Army in 1814 after a quarrel with the secretary of war. He settled on a farm in North Bend, Ohio. In 1816, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives.
-Elections of 1836 and 1840. Harrison was one of three Whig Party candidates for the presidency in 1836. The party was a mixture of people with conflicting ideas of government, and Harrison's supporters felt he could unify the party. He ran surprisingly well, winning 73 electoral votes. Democrat Martin Van Buren won the presidency with 170 electoral votes.
In 1840, the still-divided Whigs tried to broaden their appeal, which had been confined mainly to big eastern cities. They nominated Harrison again and, for vice president, chose John Tyler, a Virginia Democrat. Harrison won by about 147,000 votes but had a huge electoral majority.
-Harrison's administration (1841). Harrison's wife became too ill to travel just before he left for Washington, so he was accompanied by his widowed daughter-in-law, Jane Irwin Harrison. She served as White House hostess during his term. It was a cold, rainy day when Harrison gave his inaugural address. He caught a cold, which a month later proved fatal.
-Death. Harrison sought relief from the pressures of his office by attending to minor details of running the White House. One raw March morning, he went out to buy vegetables and suffered a severe chill. The cold he had caught on inauguration day now developed into pneumonia. Harrison died on April 4, 1841, 121/2 hours short of 31 full days in office. He was buried in North Bend, Ohio.
Mintz, Steven. "Harrison, William Henry." World Book Advanced. World Book, 2013.