It was called the “log cabin and hard cider campaign,” pitting two political warhorses against each other in the 1840 presidential election. In a now-familiar tactic, Whig candidate William Henry Harrison presented himself as a man of the people, more at home in a log cabin than in the wealthy Virginia household where he grew up. On the other side was Democratic incumbent Martin Van Buren, who tried to frame the 68-year-old Harrison as an aging hack more suited to sitting in his cabin quaffing cider than leading the country. But the Harrison campaign doubled down, issuing campaign ribbons declaring “hurrah boys for Harrison and [running mate John] Tyler, / A rough Log Cabin and a barrel of hard cider.”
Every presidential history buff knows how the story ended. After edging Van Buren in the popular vote to become the nation’s ninth president, Harrison was inaugurated on a cold, damp March day. He addressed the crowd for two hours sans overcoat or hat, then rode in the inaugural parade. A month later, he was dead of pneumonia, his term in office the shortest in U.S. history.
A Harrison campaign ribbon touting the “log cabin and hard cider” candidate is part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Special Collections Library. Click here to download a finding aid. For more collections on presidents and politics, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.