Book Nook: William Henry Harrison, by Gail Collins

Feb 20, 2012

William Henry Harrison was elected president just over 170 years ago.  Harrison had an unusual career. He was a war hero who had fought in the wars against American Indians as the United States continued to surge westward. His campaign slogan, "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too" was a salute to his military victories.

During Harrison's tenure as the governor of the Indiana Territory he was responsible for purchasing millions of acres of land from the Indians. It was Harrison who bought most of what is now the State of Illinois for the United States.

Harrison was also a US envoy to the South American nation of Colombia.  When he won the nomination to run for president as the candidate of the Whig Party he was serving as the Cincinnati Clerk of Courts.

Harrison was quite elderly for the time. He was 68 years old. He gave the longest inaugural speech ever, over two hours. He contacted pneumonia and died a month later.

Gail Collins is a columnist for the New York Times. Her biography of this rather amazing man is terse, pithy, and succulent.