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Old Tippecanoe: William Henry Harrison and His Time
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Old Tippecanoe: William Henry Harrison and His Time

3.59  ·  Rating Details ·  227 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
Hardcover, 422 pages
Published June 1st 1990 by American Political Biography Press (first published 1939)
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May 06, 2013 Steve rated it liked it

“Old Tippecanoe: William Henry Harrison and His Time” by Freeman Cleaves was published in 1939 and remains the “go to” classic on the nation’s ninth president. Born in 1904, Cleaves graduated from the University of New Hampshire and worked as a journalist beginning in 1925. His career included stints at The Boston Herald, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Following publication of his biography of Harrison he focused on his new great passion, t
David Bales
Mar 07, 2015 David Bales rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
Brilliant classic from 1939, Freeman Cleaves' biography of William Henry Harrison, frontier politician and general who ended up as a historical footnote as the ninth U.S. president because he was the first president to die in office, (after serving only 31 days). What most Americans don't remember is that he had 68 previous years, including 11 years as governor of Indiana Territory and fought in numerous Indian wars and the War of 1812, including, (naturally, the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811) bu ...more
May 04, 2017 Wyatt rated it it was ok
It took me a long time to get through this. For the first two-thirds of the book it's all about Harrison and his time on the frontier. Engaging at some parts, most of it is boring to me. The last third, which talked about his political life, I enjoyed though. I expected boring parts from an 80 year old book, but it's surprisingly fluid in parts. Harrison himself wasn't ever particularly compelling to me, and I can definitely see why he's mostly forgotten, save his famous nickname "Old Tippecanoe ...more
Dec 28, 2016 Joshua rated it really liked it
Thus, in many ways, begins the more difficult section of my journey to read a biography of every president. This is not just because WHH was president for only a month, but because he is the first of a series of presidents who have become lost to popular memory between Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln. Mr. Cleaves here has managed something special, since this is by far the oldest biography I have yet read that is still widely considered to be definitive.

'Old Tippecanoe' definitely reads like
It's hard to give this book 3 stars. I want it to be 3 and 1/2! Please keep in mind that 3 means I liked it. I did like it! It was more than OK! I even recommend it. I learned a great deal about WHH. (I've noticed I rather like referring to my prez boys by their 3 initials. As with my new BFF JQA.) We all hear the story of how he died a month after being inaugurated and it's kind of told as if his life was a waste, but it surely wasn't. He spent the first half of his life - and thus we spend the ...more
Choices are few for biographies of America's shortest-serving president, and this one is quite dated in language and content. Mrs. Harrison is little more than a footnote throughout the text, not receiving any mention even as her husband lay in state in the capital. But it vividly depicts the scenes and the action of Harrison's battles on the western frontier and during the War of 1812. The reader will form feelings for the allies and enemies of the governor, the general, the ambassador, and the ...more
Mar 20, 2017 Kyle rated it liked it
Shelves: history, biography
A solid overview of William Henry Harrison and his times. Probably the best (of the few) around but it often felt too focused on minutiae that did little to add to the reader's overall picture of the biographical subject. Though very detailed and well-written, it occasionally fails to humanize Old Tippecanoe. We get a solid idea of his achievements and the trajectory of his career but I often wished I was reading more of his relations at home with family, friends, and loved ones. There was also ...more
Apr 30, 2017 EricW rated it really liked it
After being disappointed by Gail Collins' snarky and overly-concise biography of William Henry Harrison (the only WHH biography that's currently in print, as far as I know), I decided to turn to eBay to find an older but hopefully better book. Although this work by Freeman Cleaves is a little old fashioned in its writing style (as other have noted), it does an adequate job of covering Harrison's life, including his extensive negotiations with both friendly and hostile Indian tribes, his relative ...more
Brent Ecenbarger
May 31, 2016 Brent Ecenbarger rated it it was amazing
Shelves: presidents, biography
President number nine was one I was particularly looking forward to. I knew little about William Henry Harrison prior to reading this, except that he had Indiana ties, was a successful general in the War of 1812, and died shortly after taking office (the circumstances of which, I was actually mistaken about). One biography later, I think I know closer a lot more about Old Tippecanoe (and Tyler too), some positive, some negative. It’s hard to imagine an odder candidate to be thrust forward as a p ...more
Dec 29, 2016 Bryan rated it liked it
It's probably fair to generalize that most only remember William Henry Harrison, our 9th President, as a silly trivia question. In my eighth grade history class, I remember the teacher echoing the story that Harrison had given a laborious two-hour long acceptance speech on his inauguration day on a particularly cold, rainy day in March without wearing the proper coat. After the speech, Harrison took ill with a nasty cold that would later kill him. He only served 32 days as President.

Given his s
Russell Reidelberger
Having set a goal of reading a biography on every president, I have recently gone back to reading and not listening to audio books, partially because there aren't audio books on these presidents and partially because I find that I'm retaining more from the reading. At first I found it almost foolish that I was going to read a 400 plus page book on a president that only served about a month, but I'm glad I did. One of the many interest aspects of a president is how he finds himself even close to ...more
Christian Dibblee
For a book written in 1939, Old Tippecanoe is surprisingly readable. That said, the book's defects are clear. The first 150 pages or so detail WHH's war record on the Northwest frontier, and while there are some particularly interesting portions (like the discussion of Tippecanoe and even the Thames), the various movements are tough to follow when unaccompanied by maps. But that period is no doubt a huge hole in my historical knowledge, so the book provides some needed knowledge.

The remainder is
The other John
Sep 10, 2007 The other John rated it liked it
Shelves: borrowed
In the past, when I've been seeking out Presidential biographies, I've been looking for the most modern versions I could find. I figure that if you go back to the fifties or earlier, all you'll get is a rah-rah tale of "America right or wrong" hero worship. And if you try for the sixties or seventies, all you'll get is a "let me tell you the truth about this so called hero" tale. Well, when it came to the 9th U.S. President, my choice was Inter-library Loan, or this 1939 volume. (not counting th ...more
Scott Cox
Jan 17, 2016 Scott Cox rated it really liked it
Freeman Cleaves biography of William Henry Harrison, ninth President of the United States is a surprisingly good read! I say "surprisingly" because Harrison is not a well-known President, having died in office within a month of his inauguration. However what made this biography fascinating were details surrounding the Indian wars and the frontier battles which General "Tip" heroically fought in the War of 1812. Harrison was born in Virginia, as a young man moved to the Western frontier states of ...more
Mar 23, 2012 Riley rated it liked it
As it does with a lot of things, The Simpsons perfectly encapsulates what most people know about William Henry Harrison, giving him the line, "I died in thirty days!" in a school musical number, "The Mediocre Presidents." That and "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" probably sums up Harrison's legacy in popular culture.

This book made me appreciate that Harrison came to the presidency with a rather impressive resume: War of 1812 general, governor of Indiana, senator, congressman and ambassador. Like a lot
Regina Lindsey
Sep 25, 2012 Regina Lindsey rated it liked it
As part of our Chronological Read of American History Group, a great deal of discussion went into whether or not to include Harrison since his term was limited to one month after he died in office. I, for one, am gald we included his biography in our read. The main reason is that this read provided the most detailed account of Native American policy to date. This aspect was surprisingly lacking in Meacham's American Lion, yet Cleaves spends about 2/3 of his work on Harrisons involvement. This se ...more
Although only in office for one month as President of the United States, William Henry Harrison's life was filled with one fascinating adventure to the next. From his countless military campaigns, to his administrative experiences as governor of the Indiana Territory, to representative and Senator from Ohio his life touches on many pivotal moments in American history. He was not always revered as a military hero but deserved his accolades as the greatest general since George Washington. He maste ...more
Chad Malkamaki
May 25, 2016 Chad Malkamaki rated it it was amazing
If you can get through the dated language, this was originally published in 1939 and uses the term savages throughout for American Indians, Cleaves book is the most thorough biography of Harrison that you can find. Cleaves does an excellent job of tracing Harrison's early beginnings through his exploits as a young army officer, and frontier diplomat. With detailed chronicles through the Battle of Tippecanoe and action during the War of 1812, one gets a sense of events that shaped Harrison's life ...more
Nov 28, 2011 Mark rated it it was ok
Shelves: croah
William Henry Harrison is probably best known today as the answer to a trivia question. Yet his standing as the man with the briefest tenure as president obscures a long and important life. Freeman Cleaves's great achievement in this book is to describe this life in dramatic prose that captures much of the excitement of a young nation expanding westward in the early 19th century. Primarily a military historian, Cleaves focuses on Harrison's tenure as territorial governor of Indiana and his servi ...more
Sep 26, 2015 Martin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, easton
I suppose Paul C. Nagel's biography of John Quincy Adams set such a high bar that this book feels like a 2.5. The book's early history of Harrison is lacking. It does an excellent job of explaining his actions in the War of 1812. It does a terrible job of explaining the issues at hand or the political forces at work in Harrison's two runs for President. The author's using of "old" names when describing geography rather than the corresponding modern days is confusing and annoying.

I had no idea h
Jan 24, 2017 Ben rated it liked it
Shelves: presidents
Finding a book in the 9th president isn't easy, outside of the 200 page time life series. He was in office for 31 days and the first president to die in office; His footprint as a president is tiny. However he had 68 years prior to that and good or bad was instrumental in taking western land. The book is well researched and Cleaves does a great job of piecing together Harrison's life and his battles on the frontier. It was written in 1938 so you have to overlook the use of the word "savages" to ...more
Jan 05, 2013 Eric rated it liked it
The greater part of the book naturally focuses on WHH's career in the north-west territories and this much of the book is very well done. A rich, detailed picture of WHH's life and character emerges through the presentation of his military adventures from Tippecanoe through the war of 1812.

Once the story reaches Washington, things are a bit weaker. A lot is written with very little context making it quite difficult to place the events in proper relation with the rest of the history of that time
Gene McAvoy
Dec 08, 2009 Gene McAvoy rated it really liked it
This was an interesting book. WHH was primarily an indian war fighter, a capable General, and a popular man when it came to politicking.

The book adequately covered his life from beginning to end. Great detail was given to his military endeavors and a few chapters to his political campaigning. Just a short section covered his 30 days as President but what can you say...that's 'all she wrote' for WHH.

If your primary goal is to learn about the life of WHH (as mine was) you'll find this book rewardi
Oct 14, 2008 Jan rated it it was ok
Perhaps because he only served one month as President, there aren't many biographies of W.H. Harrison. I searched the catalogs of three different library systems where I have borrowing privileges, then searched new and used books for sale online and found nothing. I finally found this book available at a local college that grants borrowing privileges to county residents. So I didn't have a choice of several different biographies to choose from.

This biography, written in 1939, is dated and a some
Jerry Landry
Really great biography for the most part. Very detailed, and for a while there, I really got a good sense of Harrison the man. Towards the end, though, it seemed to be more of a recitation of dates, and the end was quite abrupt. Still, I do recommend it in order to better understand an often overlooked president. While not having a great impact as president due to the extremely short length of time he occupied the office, Harrison greatly impacted the nation's history through his life before ste ...more
Feb 08, 2011 Mel rated it liked it
Shelves: us-presidents
I am reading the biographies of the US Presidents. Harrison's presidency took up about the last five pages, understandable as he fell sick and died within a month of his inauguration. Most interesting was his generalship during the War of 1812 and his involvement with the indians in the Ohio Valley. General Harrison certainly had more concern for the plight of the natives than did General Sherman 55 years later. A more insightful book on the role of indians in the western war and on settlers is ...more
I did it! I finally finished Old Tippecanoe!!! For some reason it has taken me over a year to finish this book. I should be clear that this is in no way a reflection on the quality of the book. In fact, it was a really interesting read, though at times a bit over my head. Amazing that a biography on a president who was only in office for a month should be over 300 pages, but it's only because William Henry Harrison at such a full and interesting life. It would have been interesting to see what h ...more
Becky Snow maybe teves
Apr 01, 2016 Becky Snow maybe teves rated it really liked it
Cleaves did a wonderful job with this. I really enjoyed gaining perspective on what the frontier was like in the early 19th century. Harrison was a fair governor, general, and treater, I wonder what his presidency would have been like? His treatment of the frontier First Nations people was, to me, pretty impressive for the time, and while I obviously don't appreciate his states' rights/abolition stance, I thought his politics regarding emancipation could have been effective.
Aug 28, 2014 David rated it liked it
Well, always check the publication date before grabbing a book. A few pages in I checked and realized the book was written in 1939. Whoops. That being said, the author did a tremendous amount of research and did a good job showing the rise of Harrison. Of course, this is all with typical 1939 language, which is not very pc to say the least. Also, the book abruptly ends when Harrison dies (spoiler!), so I was left wanting a little there.
Jan 26, 2010 Julie rated it liked it
A long read about a man who was only president a month, but it gives an interesting perspective on early frontier life (when the frontier was Illinois) and the wars and relationships with the native americans. This is pretty much the only biography of the man out there and it is old.
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