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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Tippecanoe and Tallmadge too?

It's inauguration time again, which called to mind the peculiar fate of Nathaniel Tallmadge (1795-1864). He was Wisconsin's third chief executive, but he could have been the tenth president of the United States instead.

Tallmadge was admitted to the bar in 1818 and served in the New York legislature before going on to two terms in the U.S. Senate (1833-1844). In 1840 he was offered the nomination for vice-president, as running mate of Gen. William Henry Harrison. Nearly 30 years earlier, Harrison had become famous by leading U.S. forces in the Battle of Tippecanoe, a clash between settlers in Indiana Territory and the confederacy led by Shawnee chief Tecumseh.

When Tallmadge declined the offer to join the ticket, John Tyler accepted it instead. Harrison leveraged his fame with the campaign slogan, "Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too" which has made schoolchildren giggle ever since.

Election, Inauguration, and Disaster

Harrison was elected, but he caught a cold during his swearing in. It turned into pneumonia and he died less than a month later. John Tyler was immediately elevated to the office of president. Had Tallmadge chosen differently, he would have been U.S. president following Harrison's demise.

Instead, in June 1844, Tallmadge was named governor of Wisconsin Territory. Rather than living in the White House, he took up residence in this humble abode in frontier Madison. During his brief tenure, Gov. Tallmadge urged railroad development, opposed a 21-year naturalization period, and recommended the founding of agricultural societies and schools.

Retired to Fond du Lac

With the change of national administration in 1845, Tallmadge was replaced by Henry Dodge. But Tallmadge apparently liked Wisconsin, since he retired to an estate outside Fond du Lac for several years, where he had extensive land holdings.

In addition to being a politician, Tallmadge was a psychic who claimed to have many encounters with ghosts. But that's another story.

:: Posted in Odd Lives on January 17, 2013

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