Courts in the Classroom
Supreme Court of Indiana
Division of State Court Administration
30 S. Meridian Street, Ste 500
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Dr. Elizabeth R. Osborn
Public History and
2011 Outstanding Public
History Project Award
from the National Council
on Public History
Benjamin Harrison was born in 1833 at North Bend, Ohio, at the home of his grandfather, William Henry Harrison. He was the second son of ten children and as a boy was tutored in a log cabin on his father's farm property.
Benjamin Harrison graduated from Miami University at Oxford, Ohio in 1852, with honors. In 1853 he married Caroline Scott, who had recently completed studies at the Oxford Female Institute. They moved to Indianapolis in 1854. They had two children, a son Russell and a daughter Mary. A second daughter died at birth.
From 1852 to 1854, Mr. Harrison worked with a Cincinnati law firm. He was admitted to the bar in 1854, then moved to Indianapolis to establish his law practice. After three years service in the Union Army during the Civil War, he returned to Indianapolis and resumed his law practice. He eventually became known as one of Indiana's leading attorneys.
In 1862, Indiana's Governor Morton, an energetic and loyal supporter of President Lincoln, appealed for Volunteers. Mr. Harrison responded and was assigned the responsibility of recruiting and leading troops for the Indiana 70th Volunteer Regiment. He was a disciplined and effective commander who began with the rank of Second Lieutenant and advanced to the rank of Brevetted Brigadier General. Indiana soldiers participated in every major battle of the war. More than 200,000 Hoosiers (10 percent of the Union Army) served in every type of combat.
Mr. Harrison was the Centennial President of the United States, elected one hundred years after George Washington. The time in history was transitional; issues that faced colonial America were still germane, but Mr. Harrison was facing issues that plague presidents today. For example, President Harrison brought in the most states (6) of any one term President (politicians in colonial America were concerned with expansion). The key issues during Harrison's four years were immigration, the preservation of the environment, monopolies, tariffs and national economic concerns.
Due to the differences in land and population configurations, Benjamin Harrison was the last president of the United States to loose the popular vote but win the election by the Electoral College. In a time were the spoils system ruled the day, Mr. Harrison made appointments based on ability to do the best job. The 23rd president was sensitive to Civil Rights issues many years before any other president.
As an ex-President, Mr. Harrison could be selective about his clients. He limited his court appearances to well known cases and became one of the highest paid attorneys in the country. His pleas before State and Federal courts, together with writing fees for national publications, earned him between $50,000 to $100,000 a year...a far cry from his first days in Indianapolis in the 1850s when he earned $2.50 per day as a court crier.
When Mr. Harrison left the White House, he was fatigued from his term in office and still mourning the loss of his wife Caroline. In 1896, he married Mary Lord Dimmick, his late wife's niece. In the following year, a daughter Elizabeth was born in the Delaware Street home. During this time, Harrison resumed his law practice and enjoyed an active retirement. Mr. Harrison gave a series of speeches concerning legal issues; these speeches were later compiled into a book. Mr. Harrison died in his home on March 13, 1901. The cause is believed to have been a heart attack followed by pneumonia. Mr. Harrison is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.