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Collection William Henry Harrison Papers


An illustrated chronology of key events in the life of William Henry Harrison (1773-1841), ninth president of the United States.

William Henry Harrison (1773-1841)

  1. 1773 Feb. 9

    Born, Charles City County, Virginia. His parents were Elizabeth Bassett Harrison and planter, merchant, and prominent politician Benjamin Harrison V (1726-1791). He was the youngest child and third son in a family of three boys and four girls. His wealthy slave-holding family owned Berkeley Plantation, a prosperous estate on the James River. His father Benjamin Harrison V served as Virginia delegate to both the first and second Continental Congresses.

    William Henry Harrison birthplace “Berkeley” in Virginia. Samuel H. Gottscho, photographer. Gottscho-Schleisner Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-G613-77597.
  2. 1774

    First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and the American Revolution began, pitting the American colonies against Great Britain.

  3. 1776, Aug. 2

    Father Benjamin Harrison V signed the U.S. Declaration of Independence as a member of the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia and became known within his family as “The Signer.” His son, William Henry Harrison, and his great-grandson, Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901), later became presidents of the United States.

  4. 1781

    During the American Revolution, the Harrison family home in Virginia was looted of valuables and sacked, but left standing, by the British.

  5. 1781-84

    Father Benjamin Harrison V served as governor of Virginia.

  6. 1783, Sept. 3

    Treaty of Paris officially ended the American Revolution.

    The British surrendering their arms to General Washington after their defeat at Yorktown in Virginia October 1781. John Francis Renault, artist, c. 1819. Tanner, Vallance, Kearny & Co. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-45
  7. 1787

    Educated at home until the age of 14 when he entered Hampden-Sidney College. Enjoyed the study of Greek and Roman history.

  8. 1787, July

    The Northwest Ordinance, an act of the Confederation Congress, provided for government of the Northwest Territory. Bordering the Great Lakes and Canada, the territory encompassed parts of what became the future states of Ohio (1803), Indiana (1816), Illinois (1818), Michigan (1837), Wisconsin (1848), and Minnesota (1858).

  9. 1788, July

    Arthur St. Clair (1737-1818), former president of the Continental Congress and an aide-de-camp to George Washington during the American Revolution, was appointed the Northwest Territory’s first governor. He served until 1802.

  10. 1788

    Father Benjamin Harrison V was a delegate to the Virginia convention called to ratify the Federal Constitution. He decried the lack of a Bill of Rights.

  11. 1789

    George Washington became the first president of the U.S.

  12. 1790

    William Henry Harrison studied medicine with Dr. Andrew Leiper in Richmond, Virginia.

  13. 1791

    Learned of his father’s sudden April 1791 death back home, soon after arriving in Philadelphia to study at the Medical School of Pennsylvania. With his financial status altered, Harrison arranged a commission into the Army infantry, aided by his father’s friends and President George Washington.

  14. 1791, Nov.

    In the Battle of the Wabash (also known as St. Clair’s Defeat) U.S. army forces under the command of Major General Arthur St. Clair were decisively defeated by a confederation of Indians led by Miami chief LittleTurtle and Shawnee chief Blue Jacket.

  15. 1791, Fall

    Stationed at Fort Washington, a western stockade located at what would become Cincinnati, Ohio, in the Northwest Territory. Criticized the high rates of intoxication observed among U.S. troops.

  16. 1792-93

    Became a lieutenant, then captain, and aide-de-camp and protégé under Revolutionary War hero General (“Mad Anthony”) Anthony Wayne (1745-1796). Wayne’s forces opposed the pan-tribal Western Indian Confederacy led by Shawnee chief Blue Jacket.

    General Anthony Wayne. Popular Graphic Arts collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-DIG-pga-02142
  17. 1794, Aug. 20

    Fought in the Battle of Fallen Timbers, which ended the Northwest Indian War.

    Battle of Fallen Timbers, 1794. Etching, Paul T. Cahill. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-133836
  18. 1795, Aug. 3

    Present at negotiations of the Treaty of Greenville, a peace treaty with Indian leaders conducted at Fort Greenville. The treaty established a boundary line between Native American and Anglo-American settlement by which Indian signers ceded much of the modern-day state of Ohio to white control. Shawnee leader Tecumseh (1768-1813) boycotted the agreement and began to organize a pan-tribal confederation of Indians opposed to white encroachment and fostering retention of traditional Native American cultural and religious practices and ways of life.

  19. c. 1795

    Traded family land held in Virginia for title to land in Kentucky. This transaction signified a shift in regional identification from southerner to westerner.

  20. 1795, Nov.

    Married Anna Tuthill Symmes (1775-1864), the well-read, boarding-school educated, daughter of wealthy western-land speculator Colonel John Cleves Symmes. An excellent horsewoman, Anna was well suited to frontier and military life. The couple first met in Lexington, Kentucky. The match was supported by Anthony Wayne. The Harrisons moved to a log-cabin home on a farm outside the village of North Bend (near Cincinnati), purchased from the bride’s father.

    Mrs. William Henry Harrison (Anna T. Symmes Harrison) (1775-1864). Photograph of a watercolor. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-25820.
  21. 1796

    Eldest daughter Elizabeth born, the first of ten children.

  22. 1796-97

    Invested in business, including a gristmill, whiskey distillery, and sawmill, in Indiana Territory. None of the ventures proved profitable. Meanwhile, commanded the quiet outpost of Fort Washington.

  23. 1798

    Became secretary of Indiana Territory.

  24. 1799-1800

    As a delegate from the Northwest Territory to Congress, in Philadelphia, Harrison penned the Land Act of 1800. It reduced the size of tracts of federal land available to western white settlers and made land available on credit, increasing white settlement but also raising the number of foreclosures. The sociable Harrison enjoyed evenings at President John Quincy Adams’s residence.

  25. 1800, May-July

    Appointed by President John Quincy Adams the first governor of the Indiana Territory, created when Congress subdivided the Northwest Territory. Served as governor of Indiana Territory for twelve years.

  26. 1800-11

    Took up residence at Vincennes, a French and Indian settlement some 200 miles from Cincinnati. As governor, supported the creation of an agricultural society, circulating library, and a Vincennes college, the latter to be supported by public lottery, and encouraged founding of the Indiana Gazette. Indian policies superseded resident Native American populations in favor of white settlement and statehood. Elite whites prospered from land speculation. Shawnee leader Tecumseh and his brother The Prophet led an Indian confederation that opposed further succession of lands and resisted assimilation by Indians to hegemonic Anglo-American religious beliefs and cultural practices.

  27. 1803

    Ohio became the 17th state of the United States.

  28. 1804, Aug.

    Treaty of Vincennes.

  29. 1804

    Gubernatorial mansion, Grouseland, completed. The well-constructed two-story brick home was a sensation in Vincennes.

  30. 1805

    Treaty of Grouseland negotiated on behalf of the United States with Native American military leaders Miami chief Little Turtle and Lenape chief Buckongahelas.

  31. 1809

    Treaty of Fort Wayne (the Twelve Mile Line Treaty) opened vast acreage to white settlement and sparked what became known as Tecumseh’s War.

  32. 1811, Nov. 7

    In Tecumseh’s absence, Harrison’s U.S. soldiers overcame supporters of Tecumseh’s brother, Tenskwatawa (The Prophet) at the Battle of Tippecanoe (near present-day Lafayette, Indiana, and the confluence of the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers). The battle resulted in the temporary destruction of Prophetstown, the encampment and headquarters of the spiritual followers of Tenskwatawa , a setback for the Indian confederation. Indian resistance continued into the War of 1812.

    The Battle of Tippecanoe. Kurz & Allison, print c. October 1889. Popular Graphic Arts collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-DIG-pga-01891
  33. 1812

    Commissioned as a general in the War of 1812. Took command of American forces in the northwest. Resigned as territorial governor of Indiana Territory.

  34. 1813, Sept.

    American troops were victorious over the British and their allies at Detroit.

  35. 1813, Oct. 5

    Battle of the Thames in Upper Canada pitted Harrison’s U.S. cavalry and infantry against the British and their Indian allies. The British retreated. Shawnee political and military leader Tecumseh was killed in battle, severely weakening the Indian alliance he headed. The U.S. army victory secured white control of the northwest frontier.

    Tecumseh, Shawnee Chief. Hand-colored wood engraving, artist unknown. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZC4-3616
    Prophet’s Rock, near Tippecanoe battleground. Detroit Publishing Co., 1902. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-DIG-det-4a09833
  36. 1814, July 22

    Won pledges of support for the U.S. cause from pan-tribal Indian leaders in the Second Treaty of Greenville, with Governor Lewis Cass.

  37. 1814, Dec.

    Treaty of Ghent officially ended the War of 1812.

    General William H. Harrison. Engraving, c. 1820. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-91508
  38. 1815-18

    Member, U.S. House of Representatives, from Ohio.

  39. 1819-21

    Elected to the Ohio state Senate and served two terms.

  40. 1820

    Unsuccessful candidate for governor of Ohio.

  41. 1822

    Unsuccessful candidate for U.S. House of Representatives.

  42. 1825-28

    Member, U.S. Senate, from Ohio (until May 1828).

    Log cabin anecdotes: Illustrated incidents in the life of Gen. William Henry Harrison. J. F. Trow, 114 Nassau St./New York: J. P. Gitting, Harrison Almanac, c. 1840. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZC4-2103
  43. 1828-29

    U.S. envoy to Colombia.

  44. 1829

    Entrepreneur and businessman in Ohio.

  45. 1831

    Failed in a new election bid for the U.S. Senate.

  46. 1836-40

    County court clerk, Cincinnati, Ohio.

  47. 1836

    Unsuccessful Whig Party candidate for the presidency of the U.S. The successful Democratic party opponent was Andrew Jackson’s political favorite son, Martin Van Buren of New York.

    General William H. Harrison [campaign vignettes/montage]. George Endicott, lithographer, c. 1840. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-DIG-ds-00685
  48. 1839, Dec.

    Nominated for president at the Whig Party convention in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. John Tyler nominated for vice president. Henry Clay had garnered the most votes in early balloting, but did not win a majority. Behind-the-scenes politicking led to a compromise Harrison-Tyler ticket, with Tyler of Virginia a pro-Clay delegate.

    New England Convention Bunker Hill, 1840 [campaign badge, Whig Party convention, Boston]. Printed on silk. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-40700
  49. 1840

    The campaign of 1840 was a rematch between Harrison, the Whig of Ohio, versus Martin Van Buren, Democrat of New York and the incumbent president of the U.S. Van Buren was nominated unanimously at the Democratic National Convention, but Democrats balked at backing controversial incumbent Richard M. Johnson as vice president. Harrison’s campaign, meanwhile, was heavily infused by popular songs and by frontier iconography, including images of log cabins, coonskin caps, hard cider, and yeoman farmers at their plows. Harrison’s political nickname “Tippecanoe” appeared in lyrics of the Whig Log Cabin Song Book, and the Harrison campaign slogan remained famous into modern times: “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.”

    Young Men’s Whig Convention, Baltimore Songbook, “Old Tippecanoe.” [Philadelphia?] : Leopold. Meignen & Co. Publishers & Importers of Music, 1840. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-91863
    Harrison & Tyler Campaign Emblem. Woodcut, c. 1840. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-DIG-ds-00706 LC-DIG-ds-00706
  50. 1840, Nov.-Dec

    Elected the ninth president of the U.S. in a landslide for the Whigs.

    General Harrison’s marc and quick step [Whig Party sheet music]. Samuel Carusi, Edward Weber & Co., Baltimore, 1840. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress . LC-USZ62-4918
    William Henry Harrison, 9th President of the U.S. New York: N. Currier (Currier & Ives), c. 1835-1856. Popular Graphic Arts collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZC2-3178
  51. 1841, Mar. 4

    Sworn into office as president of the U.S. Harrison gave a long inaugural address, speaking for an hour and forty minutes and putting his interest in Roman history to good use in the speech. Harrison, at age 68, remained the eldest person inaugurated as president until 1981, when Ronald Reagan took office at age 69.

    Presidential Inauguration of William H. Harrison (Washington, 1841). Charles Fenderich, lithograph, c. 1841. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-58550.
  52. 1841, Mar. 9

    U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the captive-African mutineers in the Amistad case, following a rousing defense summation by John Quincy Adams.

  53. 1841, Mar. 17

    With Henry Clay’s urging, called for a special session of Congress on the national economy.

    Death of William Henry Harrison (1841). Kelloggs & Thayer, c. 1846. Popular Graphic Arts Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-51523
  54. 1841, April 4

    After a short acute illness, the previously hearty president died only weeks after taking office, in Washington, D.C. Interned in William Henry Harrison State Memorial Park, adjacent to Congress Green Cemetery in North Bend, Ohio. Vice President John Tyler succeeded as U.S. president, quickly alienating Whig supporters.

  55. 1841, May 14

    National day of mourning for the late president.

  56. 1864

    Widow Anna T. S. Harrison, died while the American Civil War was still in progress. Her grandson, Benjamin, became president of the U.S. in 1889.

    Mrs. William Henry Harrison (Anna T. S. Harrison) (1775-1864). Photograph of a portrait. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-25778