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William Henry Harrison: The American Presidents Series: The 9th President,1841 [Kindle Edition]

Gail Collins , Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. , Sean Wilentz
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The president who served the shortest term--just a single month--but whose victorious election campaign rewrote the rules for candidates seeking America's highest office

William Henry Harrison died just thirty-one days after taking the oath of office in 1841. Today he is a curiosity in American history, but as Gail Collins shows in this entertaining and revelatory biography, he and his career are worth a closer look. The son of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Harrison was a celebrated general whose exploits at the Battle of Tippecanoe and in the War of 1812 propelled him into politics, and in time he became a leader of the new Whig Party, alongside Daniel Webster and Henry Clay. But it was his presidential campaign of 1840 that made an indelible mark on American political history.

Collins takes us back to that pivotal year, when Harrison's "Log Cabin and Hard Cider" campaign transformed the way candidates pursued the presidency. It was the first campaign that featured mass rallies, personal appearances by the candidate, and catchy campaign slogans like "Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too." Harrison's victory marked the coming-of-age of a new political system, and its impact is still felt in American politics today. It may have been only a one-month administration, but we're still feeling the effects.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

That William Henry Harrison was president requires his entry in the American Presidents series, this one written by an op-ed columnist for the New York Times. Harrison’s mark on presidential history was that his administration was the briefest in U.S. history. He died of pneumonia only 31 days after taking office. Harrison sprang from a fine old Virginia family, his father a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Harrison made the military his career, rose to general, and earned a reputation (though a questionable one) in the Indian skirmish called the Battle of Tippecanoe. He later added the offices of governor of the Indiana Territory and congressman and senator from Ohio to his résumé. But the real story Collins has to tell is Harrison’s against-all-odds presidential candidacy in the 1840 election as the Whig contender. Calling it “one of the most ridiculous presidential campaigns in history,” Collins sees how the Whig leaders put an incredible spin on Harrison, selling this Virginia aristocrat as a humble soldier with log-cabin origins—“marketing genius,” as Collins has it. --Brad Hooper


"A surprisingly entertaining biography. . . . [that] tells everything the average reader might want to know about our ninth president. . . . While he accomplished nothing as president, [Harrison’s] earlier achievements are well served in this excellent addition to the American Presidents series."—Publishers Weekly

Product Details

  • File Size: 320 KB
  • Print Length: 176 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0805091181
  • Publisher: Times Books (January 17, 2012)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #270,552 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Four INTERESTING Stars! This is the latest edition in The American Presidents Series and deals with the 9th president, William Henry Harrison. His presidency was distinguished by several factors: he was the first to die in office (from complications of pneumonia), had the shortest Presidency (32 days) and probably the longest inauguration speech (2 hours, delivered in a rain storm that legend says made him sick with pneumonia and killed him.) So having received that brief information, why even have this book for a presidency of such a short duration? The answer is the fascinating pre-election Harrison life as possibly the first political "comeback kid", the socio-political machinations of the day, the engrossing slices of Americana, and the run-up to the election and beyond that author Gail Collins gives us on what was becoming a unique presidency. And she gives us a sequence of events that dismiss the weather during the epic speech as the only possible cause of his death; plus two more distinguishing historical factors on the last page of the book: the uniqueness of his wife Anna and grandson Benjamin.

In the run-up to the winning of the highest political office by "regional candidate" Harrison, we get very interesting overviews of political intrigue, military battles, and the life of citizens, Native Americans, slaves and freemen. Along the way there are log cabins, Indiana Territory vs Indian Territory, treaties, Whigs and Democrats, the great Native American leaders Tecumseh and The Prophet, the War of 1812, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too", epic mudslinging, and much more, with enough detail that it kept my interest to the end.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Thirty-one Day Presidency May 4, 2012
When the American Presidents Series began, the editors had no plans to include a short volume on the ninth president, William Henry Harrison (1773 -- 1841). Harrison, who became president at age 68, served only 31 days before his death. The change in plans came from an unlikely source. Gail Collins, the former editorial page editor for the New York Times and the author of several books about the changing status of American women, volunteered to write a biography of Harrison for the series. Collins was interested in Harrison because of her father's connection to the man. In the 1960's, her father supervised a crew of the local electric company that demolished a large former Harrison residence to make way for a new electric plant. Collins undertook researching and writing her Harrison book, she says, because "I felt I owed him".

Harrison biographers focus of necessity on his earlier life due to his uneventful thirty-one day presidency. I became interested in Collins' book after reading a recent and longer study, "The Gods of Prophetstown: The Battle of Tippecanoe and the Holy War for the American Frontier" (2012), by the Auburn University historian, Adam Jortner. The Gods of Prophetstown: The Battle of Tippecanoe and the Holy War for the American Frontier Jortner's somewhat unfocused book is a double biography of Harrison and a Shawnee religious leader known as Tenskwatawa, the older brother of the more famous Tecumseh. Jortner's book explores Harrison's life through the Battle of Tippecanoe and the War of 1812. I found it valuable to compare Collin's portrayal of Harrison with the picture that emerges from Jortner.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well done, worth the read! January 26, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I just finished this book, and I have to say that I was very impressed. The book spends adequate time on President Harrison's background, history, and pre-political background without becoming laborious. Obviously, he was only President for a short time, so there wasn't a lot of time devoted to the presidency (he dies of pneumonia in April, nearly two months after his inauguration). This was the campaign that changed politics, and how one campaigned to become president forever. Well written, very interesting, and I recommend it for anyone seeking a good read about this long forgotten President. My only complaint is the last 30 pages of the book are notes and index!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short and concise January 20, 2012
This book was short, concise and easy to read from beginning to end. The reason
why the author wrote this book set the stage for the rest of the book -learning about the life
and times of the man before he became president. I knew about the events leading up to his election
and the short term of his presidency, but I did not know the extraordinary life he lived prior
to his election.

I enjoyed this book and the writing style of the author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little too snarky for my taste October 20, 2014
William Henry Harrison was acclaimed as a war hero, as coming from a commoner's background (his "log cabin" campaign). He served as President for only a very short period of time before his death. He was the first President to die in office.

This series of brief biographies is a useful way of introducing readers to the American Presidents. The volumes are all relatively short and provide short and sweet analyses of the presidents of the United States. The series outlines its perspective on page xv): ". . .[A[ system based on the tripartite separation of powers has an inherent tendency toward inertia and stalemate. One of the three branches must take the initiative if the system is to move. The executive branch alone is structurally capable of taking that initiative."

That said, the author, Gail Collins, undertakes a biography of Harrison. I enjoy her snarky columns for the New York Times. But some of that orientation/attitude comes out in this book. I am not sure that I want a snarky biography of an American president. I think that the tone is somewhat problematic.

One comes to know quite a bit about Harrison, which is what one would wish from a biography. But I wish that the tone has been more neutral.

Still, quite readable. . . .
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Quick easy read. Contains a alot of interesting information
Published 1 month ago by Cathleen B Wehrmann
1.0 out of 5 stars Written by an amateur
Harrison is an interesting individual, but Collins does him complete disservice. I got the sense she should be writing a book about social issues on the western frontier opposed to... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Brad
4.0 out of 5 stars Amusing, concise, and informative to boot
Why would anyone undertake to write the biography of a president whose term in office lasted only 31 days? Read more
Published 4 months ago by MBJ
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great series.
Published 4 months ago by Ohio Guy
4.0 out of 5 stars Collins Deserves Praise
I’ve been working my way through reading biographies of the U.S. Presidents, and when I saw this one on the library shelf, I immediately snatched it up. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Oddsfish
3.0 out of 5 stars Very short. But interesting.
Very short. But interesting.
Published 5 months ago by sam hendeson
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
interesting read
Published 8 months ago by Tom Dunham
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Thea 30 day president. Well written book. One about his military career might be more interesting
Published 10 months ago by Alice R. Kemper
4.0 out of 5 stars Concise and enlightening like W.H.H.
A tightly written biography that is appropriate for the president with the shortest term. I enjoyed reading of the political voting environment of 1840. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 11 months ago by Conservative88
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More About the Author

Gail Collins was the Editorial Page Editor for the New York Times from 2001-2007--the first woman to have held that position. She currently writes a column for the Times' Op-Ed page twice weekly.


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