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Benjamin Harrison Day

The grandson of William Henry Harrison, the ninth president of the United States, Benjamin Harrison followed in the family footsteps and served as the nation's twenty-third president from 1889–1893. We celebrate him today, on Benjamin Harrison Day. The day takes place on March 4, the date on which Harrison and all presidents until 1937 were inaugurated.

Benjamin Harrison was born on August 2, 1833, on a farm on the Ohio River, in the village of North Bend, not far from Cincinnati. He attended nearby Farmer's College and Miami University, and read law in Cincinnati before moving to Indianapolis to practice law. In 1853, he married Caroline Lavinia Scott, and they had two children together. Harrison became involved in Republican politics shortly after the party formed in 1856. He fought for the Union in the Civil War and became an important figure in Indianapolis after returning home and continuing to practice law. He made an unsuccessful run for Governor of Indiana in 1876 but was elected as a United States Senator in 1880. Along with his party, he supported robust pensions for Civil War veterans and education for Blacks, but he broke with Republicans to oppose the Chinese Exclusion Act. He lost his bid for reelection but continued to be an important figure in politics.

At the 1888 Republican National Convention, Harrison was nominated for president on the eighth ballot. Instead of actively campaigning, Harrison conducted a front porch campaign, where he delivered short speeches to those who visited his home in Indianapolis. Even though he received around 100,000 votes less than Grover Cleveland, he won the Electoral College vote with a tally of 233 to 168, and with it, the presidency.

Benjamin Harrison was sworn into office on March 4, 1889. During his presidency, the first Pan American Congress was held in Washington, and he signed appropriations bills for naval expansion, for subsidies for steam lines, and for internal improvements. He also signed the Sherman Antitrust Act, the first federal act aiming to regulate trusts. Six new states were admitted to the Union during his time in office: Montana, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Harrison ran for reelection in 1892, once again facing Grover Cleveland, but this time he lost. A deficit and worsening economy in the lead-up to the election helped ensure his defeat.

Indianapolis once again became Harrison's home. His wife had died shortly before his election defeat, and he married again in 1896, to Mary Dimmick, a niece of his first wife. They had one daughter together. Benjamin Harrison died of pneumonia on March 13, 1901, at his home in Indianapolis. Not to be forgotten, he is honored today with Benjamin Harrison Day.

How to Observe Benjamin Harrison Day

Spend the day celebrating Benjamin Harrison. You could visit his birthplace or grave, or the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, where his Indianapolis home is located. If you are unable to travel to any of these locations, you could read a biography or watch a documentary about Harrison.

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