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Tippecanoe and Tyler, Terminated

It’s the Curse of Tecumseh nobody talks about — the aura of death that surrounded the administrations of U.S. presidents William Henry “Old Tippecanoe” Harrison and John Tyler.

Harrison died in office, four of his children died around the same time, and Tyler’s wife died while First Lady. Or as their 1840 campaign slogan proclaimed: Tippecanoe and Tyler, too!

Here’s the rundown:

1839:Carter Harrison, son of William Henry and Anna Harrison, dies at the age of 27. Meanwhile, Tyler’s wife Letitia Christian Tyler has a paralyzing stroke.

1840: Benjamin Harrison, son of William Henry and Anna Harrison, dies at the age of 33. His father is elected president later that year.

1841: Just one month into office, President Harrison dies on 4 April. John Tyler becomes America’s 10th president. His already-ailing wife gives over White House hostess duties to her daughter and daughter-in-law.

1842: Mary Harrison Thornton, daughter of William Henry and Anna Harrison, dies at the age of 33. Letitia Tyler makes her only public appearance as First Lady of the United States, at the wedding of her daughter Elizabeth on 31 January. She then has another stroke and dies on 10 September, at the age of 51.

Before the end of the year President Tyler meets his future wife, New York socialite Julia Gardiner.

1844: Julia has been reluctant to accept President Tyler’s marriage proposal, but on 28 February an explosion aboard the U.S.S. Princeton kills six people, including two members of the president’s cabinet and Julia’s father, David Gardiner, a U.S. senator from New York. Julia agrees to marry President Tyler and they are secretly wed in June at her family’s island in New York.

1845: The Tylers leave the White House in March. In July Anna Harrison Taylor, daughter of William Henry and Anna Harrison, dies at the age of 31.

That’s quite a tally.

Tyler did his level best to make up for the death rate: he had eight children with his first wife, Letitia, then another seven with Julia Gardiner. His 15 children are the most ever fathered by any U.S. president.

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