On April 4th 1841, 175 years ago this day, William Henry Harrison became the first person to die while serving as President of the United States of America. This was a tragedy. Having only served 30 days in office, the shortest of any president, Harrison had little time to do much more than create a cabinet.
William Henry Harrison’s funeral took place in the east room of the Executive Mansion (as the White House was called at the time). Being the first time a president had died in office, no procedure was in place for a ceremony. The president deserved a formal ceremony with the pomp and circumstance befitting of such a high office. The procedures would set a precedent that was to be followed for other presidents who were to die in office. The mansion was draped in black, The United States Marine Band played as the casket was placed on a large funeral car and driven to Congressional Cemetery to be placed in a public viewing vault.
In June of 1841 the time had come to move William Henry Harrison’s body to North Bend, just west of Cincinnati, Ohio. His body was transported down the Ohio River on a procession of black draped barges. On July 7 he was formally interned in a simple tomb.
William Henry Harrison’s legacy stretched far beyond just his death. His presidency , however, did not. The precedents established would go on to help a nation morn after the lose of a president, either by the hand of man or the hand of nature. As Vice President John Taylor was to show, the nation had lost a person it had not lost the office.