Moment of Indiana History

Indiana’s Man In The White House

When Benjamin Harrison was elected the nation’s 23rd president, he became the first and, so far, only candidate from Indiana to reach the White House.

US President Benjamin Harrison seated at desk, 1888

Photo: George Prince

US President Benjamin Harrison seated at desk, 1888

His father was a senator; his grandfather, Governor of the Indiana Territory, and, for a month, President of the United States. When Benjamin Harrison won the 1888 presidential election, he became the first and, so far, only candidate from Indiana to reach the White House.

Born in North Bend, Ohio, in 1833, Harrison attended Farmer’s College, and then Miami University. In 1854, Harrison moved his wife and children to Indianapolis, where he established himself as a first rate lawyer, and joined the newly formed Republican Party.

Quickly becoming engaged in politics, Harrison served as court crier, reporter of the Indiana Supreme Court, and ultimately, senator. In the meantime, Harrison raised a regiment in the civil war–becoming a brigadier general—and ran twice for the governorship of the state—failing to be elected either time.

Indiana’s status as a key swing state helped Harrison become the nation’s 23rd president. His single term saw six states brought into the union and the passing of several landmark bills. A so-called “billion dollar congress” passed the McKinley Tariff, the Sherman Antitrust Act, and a bill providing pensions for civil war veterans.

The perception of overspending made Harrison unpopular, leading to his defeat in 1892 by Grover Cleveland—whom he had ousted four years earlier.

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