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The Five Worst Inaugural Addresses of the 19th Century

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William Henry Harrison's Inaugural Address Was the Worst Ever
William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison, whose horrendous inaugural address doomed him

Library of Congress

William Henry Harrison delivered the worst inaugural address in history on March 4, 1841. No question about it.

  • It was the longest inaugural address, at more than 8,000 words.
  • It took more than two hours to deliver.
  • It was delivered in a snowstorm.
  • Much of the speech dealt, inexplicably, with ancient Roman history.
  • While the speech went on forever, it followed the "Log Cabin and Hard Cider Campaign" that was oddly devoid of issues.
  • The speech bored the freezing crowd.
  • And for the new president it was fatal.

Fatal?

Yes, fatal. The calamitous speech killed the new president.

Harrison, who was 68 years old, was not wearing a hat or overcoat on the snowy day. He caught a cold while delivering the seemingly endless oration, and his condition developed into pneumonia. A month later Harrison became the first American president to die in office. He was succeeded by the vice president, John Tyler.

And how awful was the speech that cost the new president his life? You can read it today, if you have two hours to kill. But dress warmly, and know that if you invite people to listen, they will not be pleased.

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