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Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

The "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" campaign of William Henry Harrison represents America's initiation into the modern era of political election spectacle, replete with spin and screeching hyperbole.

In 1840, determined to oust the Democrats, the Whig party packaged William Henry Harrison as a heroic and passionate advocate for the common man, despite dubious evidence. They wrote songs and newsletters, arranged parades and rallies, and produced every manner of kitschy keepsake imaginable. Harrison won the election, only to die a month after taking office - the shortest term of any president.

Our drawing reflects the style of political art of that era, and is carefully distressed to create an authentic look. Finally, it's printed on light Georgia clay-colored, ultra-soft, vintage-style tees that have been washed and machine-grinded for a unique "destroyed" look.

William Henry Harrison 'Tippecanoe and Tyler Too' 1840 Presidential Campaign T-Shirt - Unisex
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William Henry Harrison 'Tippecanoe and Tyler Too' 1840 Presidential Campaign T-Shirt - Womens
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Mens slim fit heather destroyed tee
Collar, sleeve and bottom hems are grinded with a special machine to create a worn and deconstructed look.
90% Cotton / 10% Polyester.
Garment dyed and washed for a super soft vintage feel.
Click for Size Chart
Womens slim fit heather destroyed tee
Collar, sleeve and bottom hems are grinded with a special machine to create a worn and deconstructed look.
90% Cotton, 10% Polyester.
Garment dyed and washed for a super soft vintage feel.
Click for Size Chart

William Henry Harrison

"We could meet the Whigs on the field of argument and beat them without effort ...
But when they lay down the weapons of argument and attack us with musical notes, what can we do?"

William Cullen Bryant
New York Evening Post
May 30, 1840

William Henry HarrisonThe story of America's first modern political campaign seems almost too absurd to be true; it would tax a fertile imagination to weave Daniel Webster, Simon Bolivar, the Shawnee leader Tecumseh and a sitting president with the improbable nickname "Sweet Sandy Whiskers" into a believable tale.

The man at the center of the madness, William Henry Harrison (1773 - 1841), was born into a wealthy and aristocratic Virginia family. After a brief stint inWilliam Henry Harrison Fact 5 medical school, Harrison found his footing in the military, a guaranteed path to adventure as the young country was continually embroiled in battle in some corner or another.

Valor and family connections landed Harrison governorship of the Indiana Territory, where for 12 years he aggressively negotiated land purchases with Native Americans, including the Treaty of Fort Wayne, a land grab of over three million acres in 1809. The Shawnee leader Tecumseh vehemently denied the legitimacy of the treaty and organized a confederacy of tribes to oppose the settlers.

In November 1811, Harrison led a group of nearly 1,000 men toward the Tippecanoe River in the north. He eventually beat back the tribes, but lost several dozen men in the fight. He would enjoy greater success later in the War of 1812, but it was the battle at Tippecanoe that stuck with Harrison.

The next years brought ... not much. In fact Harrison spent the next two decades unremarkably, variously serving in Congress and hitting up friends William Henry Harrison Fact 6for appointments he thought might advance his career. Most notably he was dispatched by President John Quincy Adams to serve as an envoy to Columbia; he stayed in Bogota long enough to announce his disapproval of President Simon Bolivar, blatantly disregarding an order from the White House to keep his nose out of local politics. Harrison was yanked back to America when the Andrew Jackson administration came to power, and he subsequently settled in to semi-retirement at his farm in Ohio. He re-emerged on the national scene in 1836 as part of the Whig Party's ill-conceived multi-candidate ticket created to oppose Democrat Martin Van Buren, who would become president.

William Henry Harrison Fact 4In 1840 the Whigs saw a window of opportunity to dislodge the Democrats. That window presented itself in the form of catastrophic financial collapse: inflation and unemployment soared, businesses were lost and crop prices plummeted. Van Buren did little to endear himself to a frightened nation: he blamed the crisis on unscrupulous bankers and greedy Americans, and maintained that the government should not interfere with private business.

Of the losing Whig candidates back in 1836, Harrison was most successful, so he was chosen to oppose Van Buren. The Democrats must have been elated: Harrison was old - older by 20 years than Van Buren. And he hadn't really been involved in the Washington political scene for years. Even with the financial crisis it probably seemed like Van Buren could secure a second term.

The law of unintended consequences played out shortly thereafter when a Democratic newspaper in Baltimore openly dismissed Harrison's William Henry Harrison Fact 3candidacy, implying he was a simpleton, ready to be put out to pasture:

"Give him a barrel of hard cider, and settle a pension of $2,000 on him, and our word for it, he will sit the remainder of his days in his log cabin by the side of the sea-coal fire and study moral philosophy."

The image of Harrison as a log cabin-dwelling "everyman," enjoying a good cider and a warm fire, was exactly what the Whigs needed to energize the masses. Hedging their bets, Van Buren was portrayed as a blue-blooded dandy, aloof and unresponsive to the concerns of the common man. In reality he was born to a humble Dutch farming family and left school at age 14.

The beginning of the end for Van Buren was the "Gold Spoon Oration" of Whig Congressman Charles Ogle of Pennsylvania. Ogle ostensibly took the House floor to address a request for funds to renovate the White House, but instead delivered a 3-day skewering of the President, excoriating him for what Ogle described as an extravagant lifestyle.

William Henry Harrison Fact 2Ogle told his colleagues and spectators that "Sweet Sandy Whiskers" (the derisive Whig nickname for Van Buren) ate his dinners at a table arrayed with gold utensils, and dipped his "pretty, tapering, soft, white, lily fingers" in fancy finger cups paid for with the "People's cash." Of course there weren't gold forks or spoons in the White House, and Van Buren actually spent very little public money during his term, but the characterization of him as an elitist had already taken hold.

Harrison on the other hand was now the "log cabin and hard cider" candidate, a war hero who would inhabit the office of the Presidency as a dutiful proxy of the average man. Ohio distillery E.C. Booz produced log cabin-shaped whiskey bottles, passed out at massive rallies where bands played songs from The Log Cabin Songbook, with lyrics that reinforced the manufactured personas:

Let Van from his coolers of silver drink wine,
And lounge on his cushioned settee,
Our man on a buckeye bench can recline,
Content with hard cider is he

Cups, plates, posters and flags were printed with Harrison's face. A newspaper called the Log Cabin covered campaign events, printed speeches and songs, and sold thousands of copies each week. The Whigs promoted their ticket with the slogan and song "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" - "Tippecanoe" of course referred to Harrison's military victory, and "Tyler" was his running mate, John Tyler.

On the pesky matter of "issues" Harrison adhered to the advice of the Whigs and kept quiet - so much so that the Democrats dubbed him "General Mum."

It was an incredibly well planned operation designed to please the crowds, and it worked. Van Buren for the most part ran a traditional campaign, preferring to concentrate on policy matters. Toward the end, though, the Democrats tried to counter-attack with songs of their own:

Rockabye, baby, when you awake
You will discover Tip is a fake.
Far from the battle, war cry and drum
He sits in his cabin a'drinking bad rum.

But it was too later. Over 80 percent of the eligible population took to the polls that November, and Harrison won both the popular and the electoral vote - the electoral by a margin of 234 to 60.

Eager to prove he wasn't the rube of campaign lore, Harrison crafted a colossal commencement speech, shoehorning classical allusions throughout.William Henry Harrison Fact 1 He let his friend and new Secretary of State Daniel Webster take a pass at editing it; though Webster slashed through, remarking he killed "seventeen Roman proconsuls as dead as smelts, every one of them," it still stands as the longest inaugural address of any president. Harrison stood for an hour and a half in the rainy cold detailing the Whig agenda and vowing, "Under no circumstances will I consent to serve a second term."

Fate took that decision out of his hands - Harrison caught pneumonia and died a month later. "His Accidency," as Democrats dubbed Tyler, took the oath and proceeded to veto nearly every Whig bill that crossed his desk; his cabinet resigned in disgust and the Whigs never truly recovered.


Bartleby.Com. William Henry Harrison. Inaugural Address. Thursday, March 4, 1841.
Bryant, William Cullen. Power For Sanity: Selected Editorials of William Cullen Bryant, 1829-1861. Fordham University Press, 1994.
EDSITEment, National Endowment for the Humanities. The Campaign of 1840: William Henry Harrison and Tyler, Too.
Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved October 25, 2009, from William Henry Harrison. (2009).
HistoryNet. American History: 1840 U.S. Presidential Campaign.
Kingsbury, Alex. "William Henry Harrison, Martin Van Buren, and the Birth of the Modern Political Campaign". U.S. News & World Report, January 17, 2008.
The Miller Center for Public Affairs, University of Virginia. William Henry Harrison.
Remini, Robert Vincent. Daniel Webster: the man and his time. New York: W.W. Norton & Company 1997.
Tarbell, Ida M. "Abraham Lincoln." McClure's Magazine, Volume VI, April 1896, No. 5
Tippecanoe County Historical Association. Tippecanoe Battlefield History.
Van Meter, Jan R. Tippecanoe and Tyler Too: Famous Slogans and Catchphrases in American History. University Of Chicago Press, 2008.
The White House. William Henry Harrison.