Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - May - 2013 Issue

President Benjamin Harrison's Inaugural Address from the Raab Collection

President Benjamin Harrison.

Harrison presided over good times in America. Growth was robust, employment was high. Nonetheless, he was not as popular as good times would suggest. High tariffs displeased many people. No one likes taxes. Workers were becoming restless over poor working conditions and low wages. The labor movement was beginning to take hold. Harrison was more or less an observer, though one important piece of related legislation, the Sherman Antitrust Act, still in force today, was passed during his administration. When he sought reelection, Harrison was defeated by the former President, Grover Cleveland. Cleveland's return has forever confused the numbering of American presidents. Perhaps the loss was just as well for Harrison, as overspeculation from the economic boom was sowing the seeds that Cleveland, like Herbert Hoover years later, would soon reap. The Panic of 1893, one of America's worst recessions, would arrive shortly after he left office. Some encouraged Harrison to attempt the same feat as Cleveland – make a comeback by running for the presidency in 1896. Harrison declined. He lived in semi-retirement until his death in 1901.

Offered is the copy of Harrison's inaugural speech he pulled out of his pocket on inauguration day and read to the public. Raab notes that there are three other copies in the collection of the Library of Congress, but this is the one he actually read from that day. It contains 37 typewritten pages, typed by his secretary. At the conclusion, Harrison has handwritten, “This is the MSS used by me in delivering the address March 4, 1889.” He has signed his name. Raab notes that Harrison had a habit of annotating documents immediately after an event, so it is possible that this is his first signature as President.

This copy became the property of the President's son Russell Benjamin Harrison. It passed down through the family in the years since before reaching the Raab Collection. It is priced at $100,000.

The catalogue also offers six other items related to the family of Harrison and Russell Harrison's wife, Mary, daughter of Nebraska Governor and Senator Alvin Saunders. There are books (signed) by the President's great grandfather, Benjamin, and his grandfather, President William Henry Harrison. There are President Lincoln and President Johnson's appointments of Saunders as Nebraska Territorial Governor. There is Harrison's appointment of a member of the Great Utah Commission (charged with governing Utah and enforcing anti-polygamy laws) and President Rutherford Hayes' appointment of Russell Harrison as an assayer in Montana. You will also find a complete reprint of President Harrison's inaugural address in the catalogue, and here I must make a confession - I had never before read his inaugural speech. It makes an interesting read, both to see how far we have come, and how much as things change, they remain the same.

The Raab Collection may be reached at 800-977-8333 or questions@raabcollection.com. Their website is www.raabcollection.com.

Rare Book Monthly

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