And drink to Old Tippecanoe…

Below is an interesting recollection by John C. Boorse of a rally for presidential candidate William Henry Harrison in 1840. The meeting took place at the White Horse Hotel in Mainland (Harleysville). The recollection is undated, but says that it was dictated by John C. Boorse to H. Rittenhouse Boorse.  You can click on the image to make it larger.

Seven year-old Boorse was witnessing a very interesting moment in American history.  Prior to the Harrison campaign, presidential elections were fairly low key, and actively seeking the office was frowned upon.  The Harrison campaign was the first to use slogans and imagery to win office.

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William Henry Harrison is probably most famous today for dying a mere 32 days into his presidential term.  Candidate Harrison in 1840 was best known as the hero of Tecumseh’s War (a conflict with the Shawnee) and the War of 1812.  It was during Tecumseh’s War that Harrison acquired the nickname “Tippecanoe” after winning a battle near Tippecanoe Creek. When Harrison became the Whig Party’s candidate in 1840, the Democrats tried to portray the 68 year-old former general as out of touch, saying he would rather sit in his log cabin and drink hard cider.  However, then as now, Americans appreciated the “common man” aspect of the candidate, and the Whigs turned log cabins into the main symbol of the campaign (Harrison actually came a wealthy family).  Boorse describes the log cabin he saw, and he records for us two verses of a campaign song.

The campaigning worked, and Tippecanoe defeated incumbent Martin Van Buren in a landslide.  His death so early in his term (the first time a president had died in office) was a disaster for the Whig Party, however.  His vice-president, John Tyler, proved a divisive president who alienated both Whigs and Democrats.

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