Ohio’s Great 8: Benjamin Harrison

The first grandson of a President to be elected, the 23rd President, the 5th from the Great State of Ohio. Benjamin Harrison was born August 20th, 1833,  in North Bend just .03 miles from where his grandfather is buried.  At the age of 7, Harrison’s grandfather William Henry Harrison died while serving as President. He started his education in a one room school house but his parents eventually got him a private tutor. Harrison went to college and met his future wife, Caroline Lavinia Scott, before moving on to Miami University to finish his studies, graduating in 1852.

The Harrisons moved to Indiana in 1854 and had 2 children before the outbreak of the Civil War. Harrison served in 70th Indiana which he helped to muster. The 70th guarded railroads and fought in Georgia during Sherman’s campaign.

Photo by Daniel Schwen

After the war Harrison continued in politics and ran for Governor of Indiana on the Republican ticket. He lost. During this time him and his wife built a 16 room house that still stands today.  After a grand showing at the 1880 Republican National Convention, Harrison was finally given the seat of United State Senator. A position he held for one term, losing to a democrat when his party lost control of the Indiana senate.

In 1888 Benjamin Harrison entered the race for President of The United States. His opponent was sitting President Grover Cleveland. Harrison used the Ohio style Front Porch Campaign, having people visit him at his home, and his staff tour the nation for him. As with most elections of the Guiled Age, the election of 1888 was rife with controversy. In the end Benjamin Harrison won the office of President.

Harrison’s presidency was concerned with many of the problems that of the previous Ohio presidents, including tariffs and civil service reform. During Harrison’s tenure the federal budget first reached 1 billion dollars. Harrison was a big supporter of modernization, having installed electricity in the White House and being the first President to have his voice recorded. He also revolutionized the small navy of the time into a legitimate power.

In 1892, Harrison again ran against Grover Cleveland for office. This time was different however. The problems with tariffs and the increasing budget had weakened his standing in his own party, let alone the national stage. His wife, Caroline Harrison, became sick and died during right before the election. This and the fact that both candidates were once president lead to a more somber campaign. In the end Cleveland won back the White House and Harrison returned to Indiana.

Benjamin Harrison spent most of his later life out of public office. He was asked in 1896 to rerun for the office of President, but declined and instead campaigned for William McKinley. Eventually he remarried and had a child with his new wife.

In 1901 Harrison contracted  influenza and on  March 13, he died from pneumonia which had a risen as a complication from the flu. He is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana next to both of his wives.

Gravesite of the Harrisons

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