Benjamin Harrison Song Book

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This song book from the 1888 campaign of Benjamin Harrison and running mate Levi P. Morton is a great example of nineteenth-century political propaganda.  While today it is typical for a candidate to have a campaign song, these days such songs are usually pop songs not one written just for the campaign.  The Harrison-Morton song book contains over a dozen songs.  Some are patriotic, such as “My County ‘Tis of Thee” and “Columbia, Gem of the Ocean,” but most are concerned with the main issue of the election, Protection (Harrison) vs. Free Trade (incumbent President Grover Cleveland).  Most of the songs are parodies written to the tune of familiar songs like, “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Yankee Doodle,” and “Marching Through Georgia.”

Interestingly, there is a song titled “The Star Spangled Banner” but it is not the song based on Francis Scott Key’s poem that we are familiar with today.   This version is to the tune of “The Old Oaken Bucket,” a nineteenth-century song associated with Harrison’s home state of Indiana (though it was written about a town in Massachusetts).  Our “Star Spangled Banner” did not become the national anthem until 1931.  At this time, “Columbia, Gem of the Ocean” and “Hail, Columbia” were more common at political and patriotic rallies.

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Harrison won the White House in 1888, but only for one term.  While in office, six new states entered the Union, but an economic downturn and higher prices due to Harrison’s protective tariff voters to change their minds.  In 1892, Grover Cleveland became the only president to regain office having once lost it.

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