The Meaning of Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Most don't know the meaning of "Tippecanoe and Tyler too," although many Americans have heard the phrase at some point in their lives. So what is this catchy little alliterative slogan all about?

On the Campaign Trail
"Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" was the campaign song for Whig party candidate William Henry Harrison and his running mate, John Tyler, in the 1840 presidential election. Harrison was also known as "Old Tippecanoe" for his victory over Shawnee chief Tecumseh at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. Although Harrison was considered a hero, the battle resulted in the deaths of 188 American soldiers and an unknown number of Native Americans. Not much good came from the battle, which resulted in an alliance between the British and the Indians.

Twenty-nine years later, Harrison's nickname was used in a campaign song that would be remembered for generations. Alexander Coffman Ross wrote the lyrics, set to the tune of an old minstrel song. The song was rousing and humorous, and attempted to paint Harrison as a simple, homespun hero in contrast to wealthy incumbent Martin Van Buren.

This contrast was the main focus of Harrison's campaign, which was known as the Log Cabin Campaign because of a newspaper editorial that said of Harrison, "Give him a barrel of hard cider, and ... a pension of two thousand [dollars] a year ... and ... he will sit the remainder of his days in his log cabin." While these statements were meant to be derogatory, the Whig party chose to embrace this notion of Harrison as a man of the people, in touch with the needs and concerns of common folk, while depicting Van Buren as a wealthy elitist.  Ironically, Van Buren was the one born into a working class family, while Harrison was from a wealthy political family, his father one of the original signers of the declaration of Independence.

A Winning Tune
The public embraced the Log Cabin Campaign, and Tippecanoe and Tyler too. William Henry Harrison was elected the ninth President of the United States. Sadly, Harrison was not able to complete his term; he died of pneumonia on April 4, 1841, after serving just 32 days in office.

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