This book on religion comes directly from the descendants of these men and was passed from generation to generation until the present.
The library of the American President is a personal glimpse into the mind and character of the man. Scholars have attempted to piece them together from surviving inventories, notes, letters, and books with signatures or bookplates. George Washington's home at Mount Vernon has attempted a recreation of the first President's library. Books...
The library of the American President is a personal glimpse into the mind and character of the man. Scholars have attempted to piece them together from surviving inventories, notes, letters, and books with signatures or bookplates. George Washington's home at Mount Vernon has attempted a recreation of the first President's library. Books from John Adams' library reside at the Boston Public Library. And the Library of Congress, off the main entry, has an exhibit of Thomas Jefferson's library. Though some of the original books these men read have in fact survived, most of them have not; but their records were good, and we know what they read. Of course, Jefferson was a bibliophile, and both Adamses were scholars. But the books of some presidents were much fewer in number, much less likely to have survived, and seldom are mentioned in their correspondence. So a clear idea of what these presidents read is very hard to come by. A great rarity has always been a book from the library of William Henry Harrison.
In William Henry Harrison's library
Harrison was the son of the Signer of the Declaration of Independence Benjamin Harrison. After serving in the Army, he resigned and in 1801, after other political positions, became the Territorial Governor of Indiana. His great success, and road to fame and acclaim, would be as a commander of the U.S. forces in the West during the War of 1812. General Harrison led his men to victory over the British in the Battle of the Thames, and over a Native American coalition at the Battle of Tippecanoe, and which resulted in the death of Indian leader Tecumseh. He then served in Congress and as a U.S. Senator from Ohio, becoming an important political force. Following that, as Minister to Colombia, he met with Simon Bolivar. He was President of the United States for one month in 1841, and was the first president to die in office.
President Harrison did not have a large library. Additionally, after his death, Mrs. Harrison, meaning well, cut signatures from those few books he had and sent them as keepsakes to well wishers. As a result, books from Harrison's library are virtually unobtainable. Public records disclose just 2 books from his library having been sold in at least the past 40 years. Of those, one was inscribed by someone else as a gift to him and the other was not signed.
A signed book from William Henry Harrison's library, "Fletchers Works," Volume 1, a religious text, signed boldly by Harrison on the title page. Fletcher was a contemporary of John Wesley (the founder of Methodism ), a key interpreter of Wesleyan theology in the 18th century, and one of Methodism's first great theologians. Fletcher's work was a polemical debate with the Calvinists of that period of the Great Awakening in England. It is interesting that the only book our research has discovered that was owned and retained by Harrison and bears his signature is a scholarly religious text.
In 1809, William Wanes opened up a Methodist Church near Harrison's home. The two remained friends until Harrison's death, with Harrison describing him as one of the wisest men he had ever known. Since the publication date is 1809 and Harrison's is the only ownership signature in it, it is reasonable to conclude that he first acquired this book at this time during his term as Territorial Governor. It is probably that he owned it during his military campaigns and certainly during his Presidency.
The story of the book does not end there. It was dear to the Harrison family and was passed down from President William Henry to his son John to John's son President Benjamin, and thence from generation to generation. The inside back cover bears the signature of Rev. R. E. Hawley, who was the officiant at the funeral of John Scott Harrison. This book may very well have been used at the funeral of Benjamin Harrison's father by the future President, with Hawley adding his name at that time.
An article in the Indiana funeral Directors Association publication describes the scene at that funeral. On May 25, 1878, John Scott Harrison died suddenly at his home at Point Farm located close to North Bend, Ohio…Funeral services were held at the Presbyterian Church in Cleves, Ohio on May 29…The Rev. Mr. R.E. Hawley, acting as pastor, concluded the services by sketching Harrison's life. Among the family of John Scott Harrison was his highly successful lawyer son from Indianapolis, Mr. Benjamin Harrison, who was already at the helm of the Indiana Republican Party."
This book passed down in the Harrison family, from which we obtained it. In addition to the great rarity described above, we were unable to find an example of a clearly book owned by two Presidents reaching the market, or be able to track the ownership of a book back in time from 1809 to 2013, through a great American family.
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