The President Who Won The Election By Rolling Balls Around The Country
Victory balls were a publicity stunt employed by the campaign of ninth U.S. President William Henry Harrison to give potential voters something to talk about
The presidency of ninth President William Henry Harrison is best known for being the shortest ever — as he died just 31 days into his tenure. In addition to that unique distinction, he stands out in another way, given one of the unusual ways in which he campaigned in order to get elected. This was his use of victory balls; huge spheres emblazoned with slogans that were manually rolled from community to community to help get the word out to voters, and spawned the widespread use of what is now a popular modern phrase.
Born in 1773 in Virginia, Harrison was from a wealthy family with political influence. As he grew up, he went into the family business, holding down a distinguished military career and serving in a variety of political offices, including serving as Indiana’s first Governor; a term each in the senate and Congress as a representative of Ohio; a diplomat; and finally President.
Harrison, a Whig, first ran for President in 1836 in opposition to Martin Van Buren. He was narrowly defeated, and despite approaching the age of 67 four years later, he decided to run again. Once again opposing Van Buren, he was picked as the Whig candidate because of a belief that his southern heritage and military career were all positive that could be used as selling points in light of the economic downturn the country had been in.
The 1840 campaign was combative, to say the least. Van Buren supporters noted that Harrison’s last name spelled backwards was “No Sirrah.” They derided his age, referring to him as “Granny Harrison,” and laughed that he was just a washed up old man who’d rather be sitting on the porch of a log cabin sipping hard cider. Turning the attacks on their ear, he and his running mate, John Tyler, began using cabins and hard cider as campaign symbols — even going as far as to have their own hard cider bottled in glass containers shaped like log cabins, which were then given out and served at rallies.