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This statue commemorates the ninth President of the United States, William Henry Harrison (1773-1841). Born in Virginia, he died from pneumonia a mere thirty-one days into his term. With his untimely demise, Harrison became the first U.S. president to die in office. He remains the shortest-serving president in American history. Prior to becoming president, Harrison served as an officer in the U.S. Army and represented his adopted state of Ohio in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Nearly fifty years after his death, a group of Cincinnati residents formed a commission with the intent of erecting a statue of Harrison in the city. The group initiated a design contest in 1886 and solicited submissions from artists. That same year, the Ohio General Assembly contributed $25,000 to the project. In 1887, the commission selected the proposal submitted by Louis Rebisso, an Italian-born sculptor who later settled in the city and taught at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. Dedicated in Piatt Park on May 30, 1896, the bronze equestrian statue depicts Harrison in full military garb, sitting upright on his horse. Scanning the horizon, he holds the reigns in his left hand, while his right holds his unsheathed sword at his side. The only equestrian statue in Cincinnati, it rests on a massive pedestal of Barre granite. Originally installed at the end of the park near Vine Street, the sculpture and its pedestal were moved to the park’s Elm Street end during renovations in 1988. 


  • Horse, Sky, Building, Window
  • Window, Building, Standing, Sculpture
  • Forehead, Nose, Cheek, Chin

The youngest of several children, William Henry Harrison was born into privilege on his family’s planation along the James River in the colony of Virginia on February 9, 1773. His father, Benjamin Harrison V, was a wealthy and well-connected planter and politician who later signed the Declaration of Independence and served as governor of Virginia in the early 1780s. The younger Harrison took instruction from private tutors before enrolling at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, where he received a classical education. According to his father’s wishes, he then studied medicine in Philadelphia under the esteemed physician and Founding Father, Benjamin Rush. Soon after Harrison commenced his medical studies, his father died unexpectedly in the spring of 1791. With his late father’s estate going to his older brothers, he founded himself unable to pay for his education. 

Lacking a passion for the medical field anyway, Harrison decided to change career paths and secured a commission as an ensign in an infantry division in the U.S. Army. Assigned to Fort Washington near the settlement of Cincinnati in the vast Northwest Territory, he served under the command of General “Mad” Anthony Wayne. Harrison quickly rose to the rank of lieutenant before becoming an aide-de-camp to Wayne. He also participated in the campaign against the area’s Native Americans that culminated in the Battle of Fallen Timbers in August 1794, which opened much of present-day Ohio to white settlement. A few years later, Harrison received a promotion to the rank of captain. In June 1798, however, he resigned his commission.

Later that same year, Harrison became secretary of the Northwest Territory. The next year, he became its first delegate to Congress. During his brief stint on Capitol Hill, Harrison served on the committee that recommended splitting the Northwest Territory in two: an eastern part that remained the Northwest Territory and a western part that became known as the Indiana Territory. In the spring of 1800, President John Adams appointed him governor of the newly created Indiana Territory. While serving in the position, Harrison led U.S. troops to victory against a sizeable force of Native American warriors led by a Shawnee spiritual leader known as The Prophet at the Battle of Tippecanoe in November 1811. His victory gained him national fame and earned him the nickname “Tippecanoe.” Following the outbreak of the War of 1812, Harrison received a commission as a brigadier general and assumed command of all federal troops in the Northwest Territory. In March 1813, he received a promotion to the rank of major general. After the conflict, Harrison settled in Ohio and resumed his political career. In 1816, he won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, serving until 1819. That same year, Harrison was elected to the Ohio State Senate, where he remained until 1821. After an unsuccessful bid to return to the U.S. House of Representatives the next year, he won a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1824. 

By the mid 1830s, Harrison had his sights set on the highest office in the land. In 1836, the nascent and unorganized Whig Party nominated four candidates for President of the United States, of which Harrison was one. Unable to agree on a single candidate, the party hoped to deny the Democratic nominee, Vice President Martin Van Buren, a majority of the electoral votes and send the election to the House. The plan failed and Van Buren moved into the White House. Four years later, the party nominated only one candidate, Harrison. That November, he defeated Van Buren comfortably. Harrison took the oath of office on March 4, 1841, a cold and rainy day in the nation’s capital. Without an overcoat or gloves, the sixty-eight-year-old delivered a two-hour-long inaugural address. In subsequent days, the cold that Harrison contracted on inauguration day slowly developed into pneumonia. He died on April 4 in Washington, D.C. With his untimely demise, Harrison became the first U.S. president to die in office. He remains the shortest-serving president in American history.

Nearly fifty years later, a group of Cincinnati residents formed a commission with the intent of erecting a statue of Harrison in the city. The group initiated a design contest in 1886 and solicited submissions from artists. That same year, the Ohio General Assembly contributed $25,000 to the project. In 1887, the commission selected the proposal submitted by Louis Rebisso, an Italian-born sculptor who later settled in the city and taught at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. Dedicated in Piatt Park on May 30, 1896, the bronze equestrian statue depicts Harrison in full military garb, sitting upright on his horse. Scanning the horizon, he holds the reigns in his left hand, while his right holds his unsheathed sword at his side. The only equestrian statue in Cincinnati, it rests on a massive pedestal of Barre granite. Originally installed at the end of the park near Vine Street, the sculpture and its pedestal were moved to the park’s Elm Street end during renovations in 1988. 

Behrens, Cole. "Cincinnati's William Henry Harrison statue may move to North Bend." Cincinnati Enquirer, June 26, 2020 <https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2020/06/26/cincinnatis-william-henry-harrison-statue-may-move-north-bend/3265788001/>.

Freidel, Frank and Hugh S. Sidey. The Presidents of the United States of America. Washington, DC: White House Historical Association, 2006.

"The Harrison Monument, Cincinnati." The Monumental News 8, no. 7 (July 1896): 442.

"William Henry Harrison." Encyclopædia Britannica. Web. 22 June 2021 <https://www.britannica.com/biography/William-Henry-Harrison>.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cincinnati-harrison-statue.jpg

https://local12.com/news/local/council-member-proposes-removal-of-william-henry-harrison-statue-cincinnati

https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/william-henry-harrison/