chapter  8
15 Pages

Alcohol

ByERICA HANNICKEL

During the presidential election of 1840, Whig candidate William Henry Harrison sought to establish himself as the common man’s choice by campaigning under the symbols of a log cabin, hard cider, and coonskin cap. The imagery had originally been part of a series of epithets directed at Harrison from the opposing Democratic Party, who thought they could deflate Tippecanoe’s candidacy by aligning him with retirement and backwoods living. Instead, Harrison’s campaign reframed the items through a yeoman farmer lens: associating him with hard cider shored up voters’ dreams of American self-sufficiency and a pre-industrial economy. The “log cabin and hard cider candidate” spoke to white male citizens, evoking America’s western frontiers. Alcohol and campaigning had been bedfellows for decades, but Harrison went so far as to distribute specially bottled log-cabin whiskey and cider at rallies. Raised as Virginia nobility, the Whig was the wealthier and more educated candidate in the race, but his populist image worked. Indeed, his campaign was so adroit, in the midst of all the booze, that he was still able to court the temperance vote.1 Harrison’s campaign carefully – and in most respects inaccurately – manufactured an image of his private life for public consumption.