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William Henry Harrison: The American Presidents Series: The 9th President,1841 Hardcover – January 17, 2012

3.8 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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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

Review

“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
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Product Details

  • Series: The American Presidents
  • Hardcover: 153 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books (January 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805091181
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805091182
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #362,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By RBSProds TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 19, 2012
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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Format: Hardcover
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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although President Harrison is known for being the "31-day President", Gail Collins takes you back to his life as a child and how he made it to the presidency. Gail's light, conversational tone is easy to read and makes the book quite enjoyable. She captures many of Harrison's successes and his failures. Great book to read on this somewhat unknown President.
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This is one in a series of brief bios of the American Presidents; I've read a half-dozen so far and this is among the best. What a quizzical, fascinating character this old coot was! And, although he campaigned as something of a naif, how he handled the mercurial Henry Clay once elected! Of course, as history remembers, that didn't last long (one month, to be exact) after which time the budding Whig party deteriorated into factionalism. Unlike some authors in this series Ms. Collins is a syndicated columnist and not an academic. It's appropriate for this bio because Harrison's long life is punctuated by many colorful anecdotes - and because he ran against the unpopular Martin van Buren, the political machinations that got him there are (unlike, say, Franklin Pierce) not all that complicated. Plus I very much liked Ms. Collins's account of her "personal" connection with the old General. I am unfamiliar with this era in American history and I plan to read more about it thanks to her pleasing intro to the subject.
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