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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON: BRIEF PRESIDENCY, BUT A FASCINATING LIFE.
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...
Published on January 19, 2012 by RSProds

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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
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...
Published 1 month ago by Steven A. Peterson


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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON: BRIEF PRESIDENCY, BUT A FASCINATING LIFE., January 19, 2012
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RSProds "rbsprods" (Deep in the heart of Texas) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: William Henry Harrison: The American Presidents Series: The 9th President,1841 (Hardcover)
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. This edition in the series reveals the complexities of William Henry Harrison, who was taking a decidedly different view of how the presidency would operate. A wonderful feat of scholarship that is Very Definitely Recommended. Four ABSORBING Stars. (176 pages; this review is based on a Kindle download in text-to-speech mode.)
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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
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This review is from: William Henry Harrison: The American Presidents Series: The 9th President,1841 (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.

Born to an aristocratic Virginia family, Harrison used his family connections to become an Army officer and to rise to the position of Governor of the Indiana terrritory 1n 1800. In that capacity, Harrison negotiated large cessions of land from the Indian tribes at pennies per acre. Some of the Indians resisted including Tecumseh, a Shawnee chief. His older brother. Tenskwatawa, claimed to have a prophetic vision in which he was told to lead the Indians in an effort to unite, give up alcohol, and preserve their lands. Both Jortner's and Collins' books recount a pivotal incident in which Harrison taunted Tenskwatawa. If you are a prophet, Harrison said, prove it by making the sun stand still.

Unfortunately for Harrison, he issued his challenge on the eve of a solar eclipse. Almanacs of the day precisely predicted the time and day of the eclipse, but Harrison seemed unaware. Tenskwatawa apparently knew about the almanacs and seized his chance. At the appropriate time, he went outside in the presence of his followers and "stopped" the sun. Collins treats this event briefly and sensibly, while it becomes the major incident underlying Jortner's study.

Collins explores Harrison's controversial tenure as the Indiana governor and his even more controversial role in the 1811 Battle of Tippecanoe which ultimately won him the presidency. In the War of 1812, which followed the Battle of Tippecanoe, Harrison did better as a general. Following the War of 1812, Harrison spent his time importuning for various political jobs to support his large estate and family. He served in Congress and as envoy to Columbia before Andrew Jackson uncerimoniously dumped him.

In 1836, Harrison ran for president as the northern candidate of the badly split Whig party and made a respectable showing in defeat. In 1840, he secured the nomination of the momentarily united Whigs, wresting the nomination from perennial Whig candidate Henry Clay. Collins describes a campaign notable for its vacuity. Harrison became the first presidential candidate to campaign aggressively and to meet and mingle with a broad constitutency. He then became the first American president to die in office.

While Jortner's book emphasizes Harrison's harshness as Indiana governor, his support of slavery, his unfair Indian treaties, and his sham victory at Tippecanoe, Collins is kinder to her subject. She sees Harrison as an early moderate who was friendly, educated, and willing to compromise. She has a more positive view of Harrison than does Jortner. In general, the American Presidents series emphasizes the virtues of its subjects rather than their deficiencies. Collins wisely avoids speculating on what Harrison might have done as president if he had lived.

Collins has written a readable short book which offers a good overview of a president whose life will be unfamiliar to most Americans. She offers a portrayal as well of frontier life in the Indiana territory, the Battle of Tippecanoe, and presidential campaigning in early America. For all the brevity of Harrison's presidency, this book is a good addition to the American Presidents series.

Robin Friedman
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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
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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
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This review is from: William Henry Harrison: The American Presidents Series: The 9th President,1841 (Hardcover)
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
By 
Steven A. Peterson (Hershey, PA (Born in Kewanee, IL)) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: William Henry Harrison: The American Presidents Series: The 9th President,1841 (Hardcover)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative, readable, August 10, 2013
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texana tolstoy (Valparaiso, IN USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: William Henry Harrison: The American Presidents Series: The 9th President,1841 (Hardcover)
I am trying to read a book about each president. My library has this series, "Times Books", on most of the lesser known presidents. This was the first one of the "Times Books" that I have read, and it was surprisingly good, informative, and readable. Since he was only president for a month, his story has to be his life before his presidency, and I thought the story was told in a well paced and thorough way.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Brief Book About a Brief President, January 29, 2012
By 
Rule 62 Ken (Abbotsford, BC) - See all my reviews
This review is from: William Henry Harrison: The American Presidents Series: The 9th President,1841 (Hardcover)
Author Gail Collins is tasked with writing a biography of the President with the briefest time in office and meets the challenge despite a paucity of material. After all, William Henry Harrison was president only for 31 days (from March 4th to April 4th, 1841) and he was sick for much of that time. It would be difficult for any author, even in a 125 page book (within the norm for the American Presidents Series) to garner enough material from such a brief time in office. Collins takes us through her subject's sixty-eight years, first as the son of a founding father (his father Benjamin was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and nicknamed "the Signer"), then as an 18 year old soldier whose career led him to numerous encounters with Indian tribes in the Indiana Territory, to becoming Governor of the Indiana Territory, then a General in the War of 1812, through a term in congress, and ultimately a politician on the national stage. We are told about Harrison's two campaigns for President, first in 1836 as part of a flawed Whig Party strategy to run several candidates against a strong Democratic opponent Martin Van Buren (Harrison had the best showing of all Whig candidates) and then as the winner of the very interesting and innovative campaign for the Presidency in 1840. Ms. Collins not only writes a wonderful description of this campaign, including the jingles and songs of the day, but points out how it resulted in a voter turnout of over 80%, a feat not repeated since. The chapters of the book about this campaign make for wonderful reading.

The author also gives the reader a clear picture of the personality of her subject. Despite the fact that she portrays a positive picture of Harrison, it is not a sycophantic or fawning description. We come away with a picture of Harrison as a devoted family man, not only for his wife Anna and their nine children who lived past infancy, but as the supporter of the children of other relatives who lost parents, and later as the supporter of the offspring of those of his children who predeceased him. He is portrayed as a commander who is brave in battle, egalitarian towards his men, applying the same standards to himself that he expects of them. As a General he makes mistakes, but the charges of cowardice which will later be made against him in the heat of the campaign are clearly undeserved. He is portrayed as a sensible governor, and as a congressman concerned with the welfare of old soldiers. In all of his dealings he is portrayed as polite, personable and likeable.

Harrison the candidate is portrayed as subservient, believing that the President must be respectful of the will of Congress, who are after all the representatives of the people. Harrison vows never to veto legislation unless it violates the constitution or tramples on the rights of a minority. To Harrison though, minority means slaveholders, not slaves. He claims to be personally opposed to slavery (while being a slaveholder) but supports the institution of slavery so long as it remains a constitutional right. His relationship with Whig leader Henry Clay is interesting. Having defeated Clay for the nomination for President in 1840, he mends his fences with Clay once Clay believes that Harrison will be a weak President. But when Clay tries to impose his choices for cabinet and other offices on the new President, he finds Harrison to be made of sterner stuff.

Collins gives a nice description of Harrison's brief time in Washington as President: his battle with the incessant demands of office seekers, how he related with cabinet and how he likely would have governed if he had lived longer. Collins concludes that Harrison likely wouldn't have made a difference in the path that the nation was taking. From what we learn of Harrison, he was a good man, though not above playing politics to get elected. This is a wonderful window on the man and the times that he lived in. The brief time it takes to read this book is time well spent for anyone with an interest in American history.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Concise and enlightening like W.H.H., June 25, 2014
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A tightly written biography that is appropriate for the president with the shortest term. I enjoyed reading of the political voting environment of 1840. It was a time of great political energy, but rife with misinformation and shady campaigning. It was amazing that Harrison, a virtual unknown could get elected.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, June 25, 2014
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This review is from: William Henry Harrison: The American Presidents Series: The 9th President,1841 (Hardcover)
great
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5.0 out of 5 stars Harrison book, June 4, 2014
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Elsie M. Ashman (blackwood, nj United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: William Henry Harrison: The American Presidents Series: The 9th President,1841 (Hardcover)
I gave this as a gift to my son...He called to tell me that he really enjoyed it...that it was such a complete story and very well told...keeping his interest.
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William Henry Harrison: The American Presidents Series: The 9th President,1841
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