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William Henry Harrison

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In office: March 4 April 4, 1841

Born: February 9, 1773, Charles City County, Colony of Virginia

William Henry Harrison was an American military leader, politician, the ninth President of the United States, and the first President to die in office. 

The oldest President elected until Ronald Reagan in 1980, Harrison had served 30 days in office, still the shortest tenure in United States presidential history, before his death in April 1841. 

His death created a brief constitutional crisis, but ultimately resolved many questions about presidential succession left unanswered by the Constitution until passage of the 25th Amendment.

Died: April 4, 1841 (age 68), Washington, D.C.

On March 26, Harrison became ill with a cold. The presumptive story, which has become common knowledge despite its falsity, is that the inauguration day exposure was the cause of his illness. In fact, it was more than three weeks after the inauguration before Harrison showed the first signs of ill health. The cold worsened, rapidly turning to pneumonia and pleurisy. 

According to the prevailing medical misconception of that time, microorganisms being then unknown, it was believed that his illness was directly caused by the bad weather, when, in fact, he was likely a victim of the common cold virus, exacerbated by the drastic pressures of his changed circumstances. 

He sought to rest in the White House, but could not find a quiet room because of the steady crowd of office seekers; in addition, his extremely busy social schedule made any rest time scarce.

Harrison's doctors tried cures, applying opium, castor oil, Virginia snakeweed, and even actual snakes. But the treatments only made Harrison worse, and he became delirious. 

He died nine days after becoming ill, at 12:30 a.m., of right lower lobe pneumonia, jaundice, and overwhelming septicemia, becoming the first American president to die in office.

Where is William Henry Harrison buried?

  • William Henry Harrison Memorial, North Bend, Ohio
  • Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Harding Memorial Park, Marion, Ohio

Check Your Answer

Angels on your pillowWilliam Henry Harrison Memorial, North Bend, Ohio

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