Benjamin Harrison

Benjamin Harrison

23rd President, 1889-1893

Early Life and Pre-presidency

Benjamin Harrison Official Presidential portrait, 1895 Artist: Eastman Johnson

Benjamin Harrison Official Presidential portrait, 1895
Artist: Eastman Johnson

  • Born on August 20, 1833 in North Bend, Ohio.
  • Parents: John Scott Harrison and Elizabeth Irwin. Siblings: Archibald Irwin,
    Mary Jane, Anna Symmes, John Irwin, Carter Bassett, Anna Symmes, John Scott,
    James Findlay, James Irwin. Half-sisters: Elizabeth Short and Sarah Lucretia. Half-brother: William Henry.
  • He is the grandson of the 9th U.S. President, William Henry Harrison.
  • Educated at a local school and by a private tutor before entering Farmer’s College near Cincinnati, Ohio in 1847.
  • Attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio in 1850, graduating with honors in 1852.
  • Apprenticed at a law office in Cincinnati, Ohio after graduating from Miami University.
  • Married Caroline Lavinia Scott ((1832–1892) on October 20, 1853. Children: Russell Benjamin (1854–1936); Mary Scott (1858–1930).
  • Returned to his father’s farm to finish his law studies, then moved to Indianapolis, Indiana in 1854. He was admitted to the bar in the same year and opened his law practice.
  • Worked for the Supreme Courtas as court crier, earning $2.50 a day, while building up his law practice.
  • Joined the Republican Party in 1856, then was elected city attorney in 1857. He also served as a reporter for the Supreme Court of Indiana.
  • During the Civil War, he answered the call for recruits and served in the 70th Indiana Infantry. He left the army in June 1875 after attaining the rank of brigadier general.
  • Returned to Indiana to continue his work as a reporter for the Supreme Court and to build his law practice.
  • He ran for governor of Indiana in 1872 and 1876 but lost both times.
  • Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1881 and served until 1887.
  • Chosen as the Republican Party Presidential nominee in the 1888 election. He lost in the popular vote but won in the electoral vote to become the 23rd President of the United States.

Presidency

Benjamin Harrison Photograph by Pach Brothers, 1896

Benjamin Harrison Photograph by Pach Brothers, 1896

  • Took his oath of office on March 4, 1889 at the East Portico, U.S. Capitol.
  • Appointed Theodore Roosevelt as his Civil Service Commissioner in May 1889.
  • Admitted four new states into the Union in November 1889: North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington. Two more states were admitted in July 1890: Idaho and Wyoming.
  • Signed into law the Anti-Lottery Bill in September 1890. The law prohibited the sale of lottery tickets through mail.
  • Signed the Dependent and Disability Pension Act into law in June 1890. The law provided pension for all veterans who were unable to perform manual labor because of a disability.
  • Signed the McKinley Tariff in October 1890. The law raised tariff rates on imports to protect domestic industries. The law, however, gave the President the power to negotiate reciprocity agreements with other countries.
  • Signed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act into law in July 1890. The law required the U.S. Treasury to purchase 4.5 million ounces of silver at the current market price each month.
  • In July 1890, signed into law the Sherman Antitrust Act. The act prohibited anticompetitive business practices and limited the creation of cartels and monopolies. The government did not make the effort to enforce the law until President Theodore Roosevelt’s term.
  • In July 1892, Harrison sent federal troops to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho to restore order during a violent strike by silver miners.
  • Had the Edison General Electric Company install electricity in the White House in 1891. However, he and his wife were afraid to touch the light switch for fear of being electrocuted.
  • Convened the First International Conference of the American States in Washington, D.C. in January 1890. The gathering would later be known as the Organization of American States, or the Pan-American Union.
  • The Baltimore Crisis in May 1891 almost brought the United States to war with Chile after two American sailors died in Valparaiso, Chile in a brawl with the locals. Harrison sent an ultimatum to Chile, who eventually decided to pay indemnity.
  • Signed the Land Revision Act of 1891 into law. The law gave the president the authority to set aside public lands as reserves. The first forest reserve authorized by Harrison was located in Yellowstone, Wyoming.
  • In February 1893, his last act as president is to send a treaty to Congress requesting the annexation of Hawaii after its queen was deposed by rebels led by an American, Sanford B. Dole. The provisional government set up by Dole requested the annexation.
  • Harrison ran for re-election in 1892 but was defeated by his predecessor Grover Cleveland. Campaigning by all nominees was halted two weeks prior to the election due to the death of Harrison’s wife.

Post-presidency

Harrison in Civil War uniform, 1865

Harrison in Civil War uniform, 1865

  • Before returning to his home in Indianapolis, he went to Chicago to visit the World’s Columbian Exposition in June 1893.
  • Is the earliest president to have his voice recorded. The recording was made sometime between 1894 and 1899. His speech read, “As President of the United States, I was present at the first Pan-American Congress in Washington, D.C. I fully believe that with God’s help, our two countries shall continue to live side by side in peace and prosperity. Benjamin Harrison.”
  • He taught for a few months at Stanford University in 1894.
  • He served on the Board of Trustees of Purdue University from July 1895 to March 1901.
  • Married Mary Scott Lord Dimmick (1858–1948) on April 6, 1896. One child: Elizabeth (1897–1955).
  • Became an honorary member of the Pennsylvania Society of the Cincinnati in 1889.
  • Joined the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States as a veteran companion. He also joined the Military Order of Foreign Wars as a honorary companion.
  • This Country of Ours, published in 1897, is a series of articles Harrison wrote about the federal government and his Presidency.
  • Attended the First Peace Conference at The Hague in 1899.
  • In 1900, he served as Venezuela’s attorney in its border dispute with Great Britain over British Guiana. The trial was part of an international arbitration requested by the United States on behalf of Venezuela.
  • Died March 13, 1901 from pneumonia.
  • He is interred at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana next to his two wives.
  • The Benjamin Harrison Statue was erected in 1908 in Indianapolis, IN.
  • Harrison’s home in Indianapolis was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964.
  • He and William Henry Harrison are the only grandson and grandfather to become President of the United States.