Born on August 20, 1833, the 23rd President of the United States, Benjamin Harrison.
The grandson of the 9th President, William Henry Harrison –the first President to die in office– and great-grandson of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, namesake Benjamin Harrison V. Harrison was born in North Bend, Ohio, on the farm that his grandfather had given to his father. An attorney , he volunteered to serve when the Civil War broke out and commanded a regiment of volunteers that saw heavy fighting in Georgia during Sherman’s “March to the Sea.” He was promoted to brigadier general, and was one of the string of Ohio-born Civil War veterans who became president (Grant, Hayes, Garfield, and McKinley are the others.)
Harrison won one of the most controversial elections in history, defeating incumbent Grover Cleveland in 1888 despite losing the popular vote in an election tainted by accusations of ballot-box stuffing and other irregularities.
“I could not name my own Cabinet. They had sold out every place to pay the election expenses.” –William Henry Harrison, following his election (Source: Paul Boller, Jr., Presidential Campaigns)
In 1892, Cleveland defeated Harrison and returned to the White House he had left four years earlier.
*Seen as cold and aloof, he was known as the “White House Iceberg.”
*In 1889, the Indian Appropriation Act opened up millions of acres of territory, once Indian land, and led to the settlement of Oklahoma and later the Dakotas. The following land rush led to heightened warfare between native nations and the federal government. The death of Native American leader Sitting Bull and the massacre of hundreds of Sioux at Wounded Knee (December 29, 1890), both took place during Harrison’s term.
*In part because of that land rush, more states were admitted under Harrison than under any president since Washington: North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington in 1889; Idaho and Wyoming in 1890.
*Electric lights were installed in the White House during Harrison’s term. And in 1891, the White House got its first Christmas tree. Harrison also liked to dress as Santa Claus for his grandchildren.
*Harrison’s first wife, Caroline Scott Harrison, died of tuberculosis in the White House just weeks before Harrison lost his bid for reelection. He later married Mary Dimmick, the niece of his first wife.
Read more about Harrison and his administration in Don’t Know Much About® History and Don’t Know Much About® the American Presidents.