23rd U.S. President: Benjamin Harrison

About the twenty-third President of the United States Benjamin Harrison, his birth, death, biography, description, facts and quotes.


Born: August 20, 1833, North Bend, Ohio, on the estate of his grandfather, Gen. (and later President) William Henry Harrison.

Died: March 13, 1901, Indianapolis, Ind.

Career: Graduate of Miami University (Ohio), young lawyer in Indianapolis, active in Republican politics, elected reporter of the State supreme court, commissioned as 2nd lieutenant at outbreak of Civil War, used political influence to rise to rank of general (despite lackluster battlefield record). Twice defeated as candidate for governor of Indiana, elected to U.S. Senate, but defeated in his 1st reelection bid (1886).

Personal Life: While in college, Harrison fell in love with the daughter of one of his professors, and married her when he was only 20. The new couple shared a deep commitment to the Presbyterian Church; for years, Harrison taught a men's Bible class and served as superintendent of a Sunday school. Caroline Harrison died after a long illness during her husband's last months in the White House. Three years later, the former President married his wife's niece, a young widow who had lived with the family for several years. His 3 children were so disturbed at this match that they refused to attend the wedding.

His Person: Height 5'6"; squat, stocky frame, blond-graying hair, reddish beard, blue eyes. Cold and humorless. His only self-indulgence: his love for fine cigars.

Election: In 1888, James Blaine, the leading Republican candidate, broke a convention deadlock by announcing his surprising support for Harrison. In the election that followed, Harrison benefited from Republican trickery and vote-buying to defeat President Grover Cleveland. Cleveland actually won more popular votes (5,540,309 to 5,444,337) but Harrison carried the key States of New York and Indiana and with them the Electoral College, 233-168. Four years later, when Harrison tried for reelection, Cleveland came back to beat him.

Term of Office: March 4, 1889-March 4, 1893 (4 years).

Little-Known Facts: In 1891, the Edison company installed electricity in the White House for the 1st time. The Harrisons, however, were so fearful of the new device that they refused to touch the switches. Often, they slept with all the lights burning.

Quote from Harrison:

"When I came into power, I found that the party managers had taken it all to themselves. I could not name my own Cabinet. They had sold out every place to pay the election expenses."

Quote about Him:

"He is a cold-blooded, narrow-minded, prejudiced, obstinate, timid old psalm-singing Indianapolis politician."--Theodore Roosevelt

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