The first president to die in office, William Henry Harrison was notable mainly for the brevity of his presidency (31 days); for the populism of his election campaign; and for his achievements before being elected. The child of an aristocratic Virginia planter family, he initially trained as a doctor before becoming a professional soldier. He served with distinction in the War of 1812-14, becoming a brigadier-general; but was chiefly famous for his campaigns against the Native Americans, notably his crushing victories over Tecumseh’s Indian confederation at Tippecanoe in 1811 and at the Battle of the Thames in 1813.
His presidential campaign presented him as a simple frontiersman, living in a log cabin and drinking cider – in contrast to the effete, champagne-sipping Van Buren. And when John Tyler of Virginia was nominated as Harrison’s running mate, the classic American political slogan was born: “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too”. He won by a majority of less than 150,000, but comfortably swept the Electoral College, 234 to 60. Shortly after taking office, he caught a cold that developed into pneumonia. He died on 4 April, 1841; and (according to the official White House history): “with him died the Whig program”.