Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Ohio Bicentennial Moment

Harrison first Ohioan elected president

On March 4, 1841, William Henry Harrison, the first Ohioan elected president, delivered the longest inaugural address in American history.

After his election he traveled from his home in North Bend to his boyhood home at Berkeley Plantation in Charles City County, Va. He wrote his speech in the bedroom where he had been born. Once in Washington, he rode his favorite horse, Old Whitey, to the ceremony on the east portico of the Capitol.

He delivered the speech to a crowd of 50,000. It was 8,445 words long and took one hour and 40 minutes to deliver. That was three times the length of the average inaugural address. It would have been longer had it not been edited down by Harrison's future Secretary of State, Daniel Webster.

The day was cold and snow fell as the president was speaking. He wore a hat, but removed it to give his speech. He wore no overcoat or gloves - probably to show that he was tough enough to be president, since at 68, his age was an issue.

A few weeks later, Harrison was caught in a downpour and was drenched. On March 27, he went to bed with a severe chill. He took a turn for the worse and died April 4, the shortest term of any U.S. president.

- Rebecca Goodman

Ohio Moments will appear daily during 2003. Have a suggestion? Contact Rebecca Goodman at rgoodman@enquirer.com or (513) 768-8361.

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