“I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth will starve in the process.” — Benjamin Harrison
Benjamin Harrison was born on this day in North Bend, Ohio in 1833. Today is the 180th anniversary of his birth.
Benjamin was the second of eight children born to John and Elizabeth Harrison at their farm near Cincinnati, Ohio. He went to school in a one-room schoolhouse as a child. For college he attended Farmer’s College in Cincinnati. He went on to study law at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
He married Caroline Lavinia Scott on October 20, 1853. The moved to Indianapolis, Indiana the following year and he began to practice law. When the Civil War broke out he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 70th Indiana Infantry. Eventually he earned the rank of brigadier general.
With his strong political pedigree — which includes
- a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Harrison V and
- his grandfather, the ninth President of the United States, William Henry Harrison
he seemed destined to enter the political arena. He ran for Governor of Indiana in 1872 & 1876.
The Democrats defeated him for Governor of Indiana in 1876 by unfairly stigmatizing him as “Kid Gloves” Harrison. In the 1880’s he served in the United States Senate, where he championed Indians. homesteaders, and Civil War veterans. [Whitehouse.gov]
He was in the Senate from 1881 to 1887. In 1888 he ran against Grover Cleveland for US President. Harrison won all the Northern states except Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky and Missouri.
Cleveland took all the Southern states. Cleveland actually had 100,000 more popular votes, but Harrison won the Electoral College 233 to 168.
Highlights of the Harrison Administration include:
- The first Pan American Congress (1899)
- The Dependent and Disability Pension Act
- Naval expansion
- The McKinley Tariff
- The Sherman Antitrust Act
He was the first President to have his voice captured on a recording when Giuseppe Bettini used a wax phonograph cylinder to record this 36 second clip…
When Harrison entered office there was a significant treasury surplus. He chose to spend it on internal improvements and on pensions to Civil War veterans, their wives and children. Harrison, his Republican House and Senate were dubbed “the Billion-Dollar Congress”
Long before the end of the Harrison Administration, the Treasury surplus had evaporated, and prosperity seemed about to disappear as well. Congressional elections in 1890 went stingingly against the Republicans, and party leaders decided to abandon President Harrison although he had cooperated with Congress on party legislation. Nevertheless, his party renominated him in 1892, but he was defeated by Cleveland. [Whitehouse.gov]
Republicans in the West peeled off to join the Populist Party (whose candidate, James Weaver, ran on a platform that included an 8-hour work day, better pensions for veterans and free silver.)
To make matters worse for Harrison his beloved Caroline was loosing her long fought battle against tuberculosis. Harrison’s decision to stay at the ailing Caroline’s side — and not go on the campaign trail — probably didn’t help his campaign bid. Caroline died a mere two weeks before election day. Cleveland won the election soundly.
Harrison travelled the country after his defeat, enjoying his role as “dignified elder statesman” [Ibid]. In 1896 at age 62 he married Caroline’s former secretary (and niece) the 37-year-old widow Mrs. Mary Scott Lord Dimmick. It was a bit of a family scandal since his adult children, Russel and Mamie were both older than his new wife. Mary bore Harrison another child, Elizabeth in 1897.
He caught influenza in February of 1901. It worsened to pneumonia and he passed away in March, 1901.
- Pres. Benjamin Harrison turns 180! (indyhomeschool.com)
- Private tour inside President Benjamin Harrison’s Indy home (fox59.com)