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Salutations to the slothful,

Travel back with me today to the year 1840, when William Henry Harrison led the Whig party to the White House! Thanks to Cornell’s delightful (and remarkably easy to navigate) Political Americana collection, you, too, can relive Harrison’s glorious slaughter of the Native Americans at the Battle of Tippecanoe with this commemorative lithograph (detail below; click for full image). Or sing along to the National Whig Song! Come on, you know the words: “I’ll sing you now a new Whig song / made to a good old rhyme / Of a fine true-hearted gentleman / all of the olden time.”

harrison

Unfortunately, Harrison’s victory wouldn’t last long—he died within a month of his inaugural address. At which point his followers could secure a print of his last bedridden moments (see below).

Death of Harrison, Susan H. Douglas Political Americana Collection, #2214 Rare & Manuscript Collections Cornell University Library Cornell University

The presidential deathbed portrait was apparently a popular genre all its own. Check out below, George Washington, Andrew Jackson,  Zachary Taylor, and Abraham Lincoln, all breathing their last, tearful friends, family, and servants around them (click on images for larger view). Maybe it’s just me, but these scenes definitely bring to mind that final montage from the HBO series Six Feet Under, as well as countless films of the Terms of Endearment variety. Oh, Ann Douglas, where are you now? The “domestication of death” lives on.

Melancholically,

Stephen

Washington's Death, Susan H. Douglas Political Americana Collection, #2214 Rare & Manuscript Collections Cornell University Library Cornell University

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