Tuesday 11 May, 2010

The Curse of Tippecanoe

Do you believe in curses?
There are some famous ones out there – the Curse of the Bambino, Montezuma’s Revenge and the Curse of King Tutankhamen are just a few.  But have you heard about the Curse of Tippecanoe?

A strange coincidence has plagued United States Presidents elected every 20 years between 1840 and 1960 – each of them has died while in office.  It began in 1840 with William Henry Harrison.  After delivering the longest Inauguration speech in history, Harrison succumbed to a severe case of pneumonia on April 4, 1841.

The next president to fall victim to the alleged curse was Abraham Lincoln.  Elected to his second term in 1860, he was assassinated in 1865.

The list continues:

  • Elected in 1880, James Garfield was assassinated in Washington, D.C.in 1881.
  • Elected in to his second term in 1900, William McKinley was assassinated in Buffalo, New York in 1901.
  • Elected in 1920, Warren G. Harding died of an uncertain cause in 1923.  His official cause of death has been listed as a heart attack, respiratory illness or pneumonia.  After his wife refused for an autopsy to be performed, some speculated Harding had been poisoned by her.
  • Elected to what would be his final term in 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt served four terms as president before succumbing to a cerebral hemorrhage in 1945.
  • After being elected in 1960, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.

Why call it the Curse of Tippecanoe?  It goes back to the first victim – Harrison.  As governor of the Indiana Territory in 1811, Harrison used bottles of whiskey to bribe Native Americans to cede their land to the United States government.  Angered by this trickery, Shawnee Chief Tecumseh organized his tribe and others against the Americans. Harrison successfully squashed the rebellion by attacking Tecumseh’s village on the Tippecanoe River.

Tecumseh’s brother, Tenskwatawa, is said to have set a curse upon Harrison when he used the phrase “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too!” in his presidential campaign in 1840.

Ronald Reagan may have broken the presidential curse.  Elected in 1980, John Hinckley, Jr. attempted to assassinate President Reagan on March 30, 1981.  Reagan suffered a punctured lung from the shooting, but he fully recovered.  The next president in line for the curse was George W. Bush, elected in 2000.  Considering he has been living peacefully on his ranch in Texas since finishing his second term in 2008, it looks like the curse may be broken.