William Henry Harrison in Antebellum Period
William Henry Harrison (1773-1841) was the ninth president of the United States, serving the shortest term in office ever: just one month. Harrison was governor of Indiana Territory in 1800 and gained a reputation for his successes fighting Indians in the region during the War of 1812. Harrison's presidential campaign in 1840 was a pivotal event in American political history; it was the birth of populist politics, in which both parties appealed to the nationalistic spirit of the age by nominating war heroes and touting their humble backgrounds.
In an echo of Andrew Jackson's campaign twelve years earlier, Whigs touted the military achievements of William Henry Harrison (nicknamed "Tippecanoe" after the battle he won against Shawnee Indians in 1811) and his running mate, John Tyler. Using popular songs ("Tippecanoe and Tyler, too") and an array of cartoons, Whigs promoted Harrison as a man of the people and attacked opponent President Martin Van Buren as an aristocrat. Even if most Whigs were from the middle and upper classes, they employed popular rhetoric and masculine, patriotic imagery that appealed to the mass electorate. After Harrison won, he delivered a long inauguration speech on a cold day, caught pneumonia, and died after just a month in office. Yet the true significance of the 1840 election was its legacy for the political process in America. Four out of five eligible voters cast a ballot, raising turnout to 80.2%, the third highest in American history.