Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


Little Rock Look Back: Benjamin Harrison becomes first sitting president to visit LR

On April 17, 1891, Benjamin Harrison became the first sitting president to visit Arkansas.  He was on a cross-country railroad trip having left DC on April 13.

The morning of the 17th he spoke in Memphis and then took the train to Little Rock.  Accompanying him from Memphis to Little Rock were a delegation which included Governor and Mrs. James P. Eagle, Mayor H. L. Fletcher and Col. Logan H. Roots.  Also in the party was Mrs. W. G. Whipple, a former first lady of Little Rock.

They arrived in Little Rock in the afternoon.  A parade took them from the train station to the State House (now the Old State House Museum) where the Governor formally welcomed the President and his party.

In his brief remarks, President Harrison spoke of the hospitality and the natural resources available in Arkansas.  He also touched on the Civil War, which at the time was less than 30 years in the past. He noted “The commonwealth rests upon the free suffrage of its citizens and their devotion to the Constitution and the flag is the bulwark of its life.  We have agreed, I am sure, that we will do no more fighting among ourselves.” These remarks were met enthusiastically by the crowd assembled.

The President concluded is brief remarks thanking the State officials and the citizenry.  He then took the train to Texarkana where he made his third set of remarks of the day.

Benjamin Harrison was on the Presidential ticket two times. The first time he lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College defeating incumbent Grover Cleveland. The second time he lost both the popular and electoral votes to Cleveland.  He did not carry Arkansas in either election. Though he was the first sitting president to visit Little Rock, there is nothing here named for him.  Since there was already a Harrison Street named after his grandfather, he is skipped between Cleveland and McKinley in the presidential streets.


Little Rock Look Back: President Benjamin Harrison becomes first sitting president to visit LR

Benjamin-Harrison-by-Joseph-Gray-Kitchell-1897-358x426On April 17, 1891, Benjamin Harrison became the first sitting president to visit Arkansas.  He was on a cross-country railroad trip having left DC on April 13.

The morning of the 17th he spoke in Memphis and then took the train to Little Rock.  Accompanying him from Memphis to Little Rock were a delegation which included Governor and Mrs. James P. Eagle, Mayor H. L. Fletcher and Col. Logan H. Roots.  Also in the party was Mrs. W. G. Whipple, a former first lady of Little Rock.

They arrived in Little Rock in the afternoon.  A parade took them from the train station to the State House (now the Old State House Museum) where the Governor formally welcomed the President and his party.

In his brief remarks, President Harrison spoke of the hospitality and the natural resources available in Arkansas.  He also touched on the Civil War, which at the time was less than 30 years in the past. He noted “The commonwealth rests upon the free suffrage of its citizens and their devotion to the Constitution and the flag is the bulwark of its life.  We have agreed, I am sure, that we will do no more fighting among ourselves.” These remarks were met enthusiastically by the crowd assembled.

The President concluded is brief remarks thanking the State officials and the citizenry.  He then took the train to Texarkana where he made his third remarks of the day.

Benjamin Harrison was on the Presidential ticket two times. The first time he lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College defeating incumbent Grover Cleveland. The second time he lost both the popular and electoral votes to Cleveland.  He did not carry Arkansas in either election. Though he was the first sitting president to visit Little Rock, there is nothing here named for him.  Since there was already a Harrison Street named after his grandfather, he is skipped between Cleveland and McKinley in the presidential streets.


Little Rock Look Back: John Tyler

640px-WHOportTylerOn March 29, 1790, future US President John Tyler was born.

Upon the death of President William Henry Harrison, as Vice President he assumed the office of President.  The language in the U.S. Constitution was open to interpretation as to whether he was President or merely acting as President.  He insisted he was President which established the precedent (until a subsequent amendment formalized the procedure he had put into place).  His detractors, including many in his own Whig Party, referred to him as “His Accidency.”

Tyler was a strong proponent of Manifest Destiny and westward expansion.  He actively sought to bring the Republic of Texas into the U.S.  Because of his interest in this, the Tyler Administration was a benefit to Arkansas. As the western border of the US (and a neighbor to Texas), Arkansas was an important stop for commercial and political leaders on the road to and from Texas.

He is memorialized in Little Rock with Tyler Street.  An easy way to remember which street is Tyler and which is Taylor (a couple of blocks away): Tyler Street has Saint John’s Seminary as a terminus. So the street named after John Tyler, ends at the Saint John’s campus.

As of this writing, two of his grandsons are still alive.  Born in 1924 and 1928, they make Tyler the earliest U.S. President with living grandchildren.  Many of his successors do not have living grandchildren.


Little Rock Look Back: President William Henry Harrison

A campaign ribbon from an 1840 Harrison and Tyler rally in Little Rock.

A campaign ribbon from an 1840 Harrison and Tyler rally in Little Rock.

On February 9, 1773, future US President William Henry Harrison was born in Virginia. Though he would later be viewed as a frontiersman (which he was), his early years were spent on a family estate as part of one of the FFV’s (First Families of Virginia).

At the age of 18, he was commissioned in the US Army and began an illustrious military career which spanned the Northwest Indian War and the War of 1812. This career took him into the wilderness areas of the US, which at the time were Indiana and Ohio.

Harrison launched his political career in 1798 when he was appointed treasurer of the Northwest Territory. The next year, he was elected to represent the territory in Congress. In 1801, he was named Governor of the Indiana Territory.  In 1811, while still Governor of Indiana, he led troops to defend against a Shawnee attack in the Battle of Tippecanoe.  The following year, with the outbreak of the War of 1812, he continued to command armies in the northwest areas of the US.  In 1813, he scored a major victory at the Battle of the Thames in Canada.  This solidified him as a war hero with the public.

In 1814, he was appointed by President Monroe to oversee negotiations with Indians. In 1816, he was elected to Congress from Ohio and served until 1819. In 1824, he was elected as a US Senator from Ohio and served until 1828. He was sent as minister to Columbia in 1828 and served until the Presidency of Andrew Jackson in 1829.

220px-William_Henry_Harrison_daguerreotype_editReturning to private life, he ran for President as a Whig in 1836. At the time, the Whigs ran several candidates hoping to split the vote and send the election to Congress. Harrison narrowly lost Pennsylvania and its 30 electoral votes. (Though since the Democrats retained Congress in the election, it was expected that Van Buren still would have won.)  Four years later the Whigs coalesced behind Harrison.

Though his opponents tried to paint him as old, out of touch, and backwoods, he and running mate John Tyler (also a landed gentry from Virginia) embraced the depiction. They felt it helped them relate to the average voters and, in turn, painted Van Buren as out of touch and elitist.  Though Arkansas’ electoral votes went to Van Buren, Harrison ran fairly strong in the state. He narrowly captured Pulaski County and ran strong in the southeast portion of the state.

Harrison served in office only one month.  While at the time it was believed to be related to the weather at his inaugural (and his record-long inaugural address), subsequent analysis has shown it to be due to entric fever, the result of a bacterial infection.

Harrison Street in Little Rock is named for him. His grandson, Benjamin, the only grandson of a President to serve also serve as President, is skipped in the row of Presidential streets.