Politics had long been the Harrison family business. At the time of his birth, Harrison’s father was serving Ohio in the United States House of Representatives, while his grandfather, William Henry Harrison, was serving as a senator from Indiana and only eight years away from becoming America’s ninth president. His great-grandfather and namesake, Benjamin Harrison, had served as governor of colonial Virginia and was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
After serving in the Civil War as an Army general, Harrison followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and was elected as a Republican to the U.S. Senate from Indiana. In 1888, Harrison beat incumbent Grover Cleveland to become America’s 23rd president. His legislative leadership is considered by many historians, political scientists and economists to have been productive, with his most noteworthy and long-lasting legislative stewardship coming in the form of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in 1889, which set the precedent for breaking up powerful industrial monopolies. He also presided over the passing of the Dependent Pension Act in 1890, which provided benefits to disabled vets, as well as the McKinley Tariff (introduced by then-Congressman and future Republican president William McKinley), which was intended to protect American economic trade.
Although he was re-nominated for the Republican ticket in the election of 1892, Harrison ultimately lost to Democrat Grover Cleveland who appealed to a farming and labor base that opposed McKinley’s protectionist policies. Harrison is sometimes referred to as the president who was “sandwiched” between Cleveland’s two terms.