William Henry Harrison
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In office: March 4 – April 4, 1841
Born: February 9, 1773, Charles City County, Colony of Virginia
Henry Harrison was an American military leader, politician, the
ninth President of the United States, and the first President to die in
The oldest President elected until Ronald Reagan in 1980,
Harrison had served 30 days in office, still the shortest tenure in
United States presidential history, before his death in April
His death created a brief constitutional crisis, but ultimately
resolved many questions about presidential succession left unanswered by
the Constitution until passage of the 25th Amendment.
Died: April 4, 1841 (age 68), Washington, D.C.
On March 26, Harrison became ill with a cold. The presumptive story,
which has become common knowledge despite its falsity, is that the
inauguration day exposure was the cause of his illness. In fact, it was
more than three weeks after the inauguration before Harrison showed the
first signs of ill health. The cold worsened, rapidly turning to
pneumonia and pleurisy.
According to the prevailing medical misconception of that time,
microorganisms being then unknown, it was believed that his illness was
directly caused by the bad weather, when, in fact, he was likely a
victim of the common cold virus, exacerbated by the drastic pressures of
his changed circumstances.
He sought to rest in the White House, but could not find a quiet room
because of the steady crowd of office seekers; in addition, his
extremely busy social schedule made any rest time scarce.
Harrison's doctors tried cures, applying opium, castor oil, Virginia
snakeweed, and even actual snakes. But the treatments only made Harrison
worse, and he became delirious.
He died nine days after becoming ill, at 12:30 a.m., of right lower
lobe pneumonia, jaundice, and overwhelming septicemia, becoming the
first American president to die in office.
Where is William Henry
- William Henry Harrison Memorial, North Bend, Ohio
- Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana
- Harding Memorial Park, Marion, Ohio