DEAD: William Henry Harrison

DEAD: ON THIS DATE

William Henry Harrison (aged 68)
9th president of the United States

William Henry Harrison Sr. (February 9, 1773 – April 4, 1841) was a United States military officer and politician who served as the ninth president of the United States in 1841.

DEATH: On March 26, 1841, Harrison became ill with a cold after being caught in a torrential downpour without cover. His symptoms grew progressively worse over the ensuing two days, at which time a team of doctors was called in to treat him. The prevailing misconception at the time was that his illness had been caused by the bad weather at his inauguration three weeks earlier. After making a diagnosis of right lower lobe pneumonia, they proceeded to place heated suction cups on his bare torso and to administer a series of bloodlettings, supposedly to draw out the disease. When those procedures failed to bring about improvement, the doctors treated him with ipecac, Castor oil, calomel, and finally with a boiled mixture of crude petroleum and Virginia snakeroot. All this only weakened Harrison further.

Initially, no official announcement was made concerning Harrison’s illness, which, the longer the he remained out of public view, fueled public speculation and concern. By the end of the month large crowds were gathering outside the White House, holding vigil while awaiting any news about the president’s condition. On April 4, 1841, nine days after becoming ill, and exactly one month after taking the oath of office, Harrison was dead; the first U.S. president to die in office. A medical analysis made in 2014, based on Dr. Miller’s notes and records of the White House water supply being downstream of public sewage, concluded that he likely died of septic shock due to enteric fever.

That June, Harrison’s body was transported by train and river barge to North Bend, Ohio. Then, on July 7, 1841, the nation’s 9th president was buried in a family tomb at the summit of Mt. Nebo, overlooking the Ohio River – now the William Henry Harrison Tomb State Memorial.

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