Monday, August 23, 2010
Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901) was our only President to be a grandson of a previous President. Benjamin's grandfather was William Henry Harrison who was the hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe. Both grandfather and grandson ran for the presidency two times, winning one term of office and losing the other. Both men, previous to becoming President, had been successful army commanders, and both had served in the United States Senate. A Republican campaign song for Benjamin Harrison was a song called "Grandfather's Hat Fits Ben." Benjamin won my respect when I read that he did more than any other President to increase respect for the United States flag. He ordered the flag to be flown over the White House and other government buildings and urged the flag to be flown over every school in America. Benjamin Harrison was born in a red brick home on his grandfather's farm near the Ohio River in North Bend, Ohio, on August 20, 1833. He was named for his great-grandfather who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin was the second of ten children and was a short, stocky boy who spent his youth on the farm. His father was a farmer who served two terms in Congress. Harrison attended Farmers' College, is located in a suburb of Cincinnati, for three years and there he met his future wife, Caroline ("Carrie") Lavinia Scott. Carrie's father was the president of a college for women. Mr. Scott moved his family and his college to Oxford, Ohio, and Harrison followed them a year later. He graduated from Miami University there in 1852 and married Carrie in 1853. The couple had two children. Benjamin read law with a firm in Cincinnati and was admitted to the bar and moved to Indianapolis in 1854. Harrison decided to enter politics and had a name that was familiar to voters - his father was a Whig congressman and his grandfather was a Whig President. Benjamin became Indianapolis city attorney in 1857, secretary of the Republican state central committee in 1858, and reporter of the state supreme court in 1860. He was reelected twice. Harrison taught Sunday School, became a deacon of the Presbyterian Church in 1857, and was elected a church elder in 1861. In 1862 he was asked by the governor to recruit and command a regiment of volunteers in the Civil War. His first recruit was his former law partner. The regiment he led became a well-disciplined unit that fought in many battles. Harrison stood 5 feet 6 inches tall and was called "Little Ben" by his soldiers. He was a fearless commander and rose to the rank of brigadier general. Benjamin won national prestige as a lawyer after the war but was unsuccessful in his bid in 1876 to become governor of Indiana. He was appointed to the Mississippi River Commission in 1879 by President Rutherford B. Hayes and held the position until 1881. President James A. Garfield offered him a post in the Cabinet, but Harrison turned it down because he had been elected to the U.S. Senate in 1881. He was not re-elected. In the presidential election of 1888, Harrison was nominated by the Republicans in part because of his record from the war and his popularity with war veterans. His opponent was President Grover Cleveland. Harrison did not win re-election in 1892, losing it to Grover Cleveland. Harrison's term was the first time that life in the White House was thoroughly photographed. Even though electric lights and bells were installed in the White House in 1891, the Harrison family didn't feel comfortable with them for fear of shocks. They chose to use the old-style gas lights or requested the electrician for the White House to flip the switches. President and Mrs. Harrison were joined in the White House by their daughter, her husband, her two children, Mrs. Harrison's father, and a widowed niece, Mrs. Mary Dimmick. Mrs. Harrison had poor health but served as official hostess. She died on October 25, two weeks before the national elections of 1892. Benjamin returned to Indianapolis to practice law. He married Mrs. Dimmick in 1896 and had one child with her. He wrote a book about the federal government in 1897 entitled This Country of Ours. He died at home on March 13, 1901 and was buried in Indianapolis. Important events in the world of Benjamin Harrison are: 1) The Eiffel Tower in Paris was dedicated in 1889. 2) The Johnstown flood took place in Pennsylvania in 1889. It killed more than 2,000 people and caused damage costing over $10million. 3) About 2 million acres of land in Indian Territory in Oklahoma was opened to white settlement in 1889. 4) A newspaper reporter named Nellie Bly began a trip around the world in November 1889 and set a record of 72 days 6 hours 11 minutes. 5) The Battle of Wounded Knee took place in South Dakota in 1890 and was the last major fight between Indians and U.S. troops on the northern plains. About 200 Indians were massacred by the soldiers. 6) Congress created Yosemite National Park in 1890. 7) Wyoming joined the Union in 1890 as the first state with women's voting rights. 8) James A. Naismith, a physical education instructor in Springfield, Massachusetts, invented basketball in 1891. 9) Ellis Island in New York Harbor became a reception center for immigrants in 1892. 10) Inventions of the period included the diesel engine (named after its inventor Rudolf Diesel) in 1892 and the zipper in 1893. Facts for this post came from an article by H. Wayne Morgan in World Book Encyclopedia, Vol.9, pp 70-73.