Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Death of the President

William Henry Harrison's inaugural address lasted nearly two hours, but in the days before electronic media, oratory of such duration was common. During the address, the new president wore no coat or hat. As a soldier, farmer, and outdoorsman, Harrison had spent much of his life in bad weather. But he was far from young now, and when he followed the address with a round of receptions in his wet clothing, it resulted in a bad chill. Within days, he had a cold, which developed into pneumonia.

Doctors were called in, but their medical practices were crude: heated suction cups to supposedly draw out the disease, and the same bleeding tactics that had killed George Washington. All this only weakened Harrison further, and three weeks after taking office, he was clearly dying. As a last resort, a number of Native American "remedies" were tried, including one involving the use of live snakes. Exactly one month after taking the oath of office, Harrison was dead. It was the most fleeting presidency ever, lasting one scant month.

William Henry Harrison was buried near his home in North Bend, Ohio.