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William Henry Harrison's funeral

President Harrison in 1840
President Harrison in 1840
Albert Gallatin Holt, 1809-1856. Wikimedia Commons,

Detroit has always been fond of parades and processions. One just has to look at the sports championships of recent years to witness this love of celebration; the Red Wings and the Pistons celebrations resulted in massive turn-outs by Metro- Detroiters. Parades celebrating holidays, such as Labor Day and memorial Day are also popular. But there have also been other processions that Detroiters have turned out for in its history, funerals being a prime example. In the 20th century processions were well attended for such luminaries as Coleman A. Young, the many-termed former mayor of Detroit. Processions of this nature also took place in the 19th century.

In 1840 a new President had taken up residence in the White House: William Henry Harrison. Unfortunately for him, he contracted pnemonia and, about one month into his four year term, passed away. He was the first President to die in office, and he was mourned by all in this young nation. It was probably felt more in Detroit than in many of the places around the country, for Harrison was remembered here as being the commander in charge of forces that liberated Detroit from the British (after William Hull surrendered it to them without taking any defensive stand) in the War of 1812. So it was that on April 20th of 1841, a little over two weeks since his passing, Detroit turned out to mourn him publicly. It is likely that a large percentage of Detroits poulation of about 9000 turned out that day to commemorate the life of this important figure. A funeral procession was held, followed by speeches memorializing the life of this man who was instrumental in keeping Detroit a part of the United States.

Detroit has seen many public parades, celebrations, and processions during its 300 year history. The one held for President William Henry Harrison is only but one of many that have occurred, as Detroiters definitely seem to have a fondness for them, especially those of the celebratory type. Any time Detroiters get together for one of these events, for whatever the reason, is good for the city: events like this unite those from all walks of life into one body, helping to build and maintain civic identity, and to create bonds within our community.

Source: Poremba, David Lee, ed. Detroit in Its World Setting. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. 2001. pp 95; 120