spacer William Henry Harrison William Henry Harrison (1773-1841)
Ninth President (March-April 1841)

As a two-term congressman and former territorial governor, William Henry Harrison could lay no claim to proven abilities in political leadership. But his reputation as a frontier Indian fighter and hero of the War of 1812 amply made up for that lack, and in 1840 the Whigs eagerly made him their presidential standard-bearer. In the so-called "hard cider" campaign that followed, Harrison's supporters celebrated his military prowess and combined it with homespun frontier imagery that was unprecedented for its carnival-like brouhaha. While discussion of real issues was avoided, that brouhaha proved sufficient in itself to win Harrison the presidency.

Jubilance over his victory, however, proved short-lived. Soon after delivering the longest inaugural address ever made, Harrison contracted pneumonia and, on April 4, 1841, became the first President to die in office.

Harrison's presidential candidacy inspired many requests from artists to paint him. One of the few that he honored came from Albert Gallatin Hoit, a New England portraitist with very good Whig connections. While painting Harrison, Hoit wrote home effusing over his subject's "striking head" and boasting, "I cannot fail." At least one contemporary critic thought he made good that boast, declaring the finished likeness "the best portrait" ever done of Harrison.

Albert Gallatin Hoit (1809-1856)
oil on canvas, 1840
National Portrait Gallery
Smithsonian Institution

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