Tippecanoe and Tyler Too…in a Quilt

Hand-pieced and hand-quilted in 16 rows of 14 blocks, with one inch cross hatching, the more interesting aspect of this quilt isn’t the majority of its fabric – its the border, which is made of “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” fabric.

Have you heard of “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too”?

It’s a campaign song, published during the 1840 Presidential election in support of Whig candidate, William Henry Harrison – known as the “hero of Tippecanoe” – and his running mate, John Tyler. Harrison is one of those Presidents that we often forget, resigned to the portraits of history with nary a legislative victory to his name. But Harrison did have a victory – at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811.

In his late thirties, Harrison was Governor of the Indiana Territory, along the borders of many tribal lands. Tensions were high, and they came to a climax in 1811 at Prophestown, along the borders of the Tippecanoe River. Harrison’s forces outnumbered those of Tecumseh, a Shawnee leader who had gathered a confederacy of tribes to oppose European settlement and treaties that took Native American lands. Yet Tecumseh was absent – away recruiting more forces – and his brother, Tenskwatawa (a prophet more than a soldier), led the short battle. After just a few hours, the Native Americans were low on ammunition and forced to abandon Prophetstown. Harrison’s men burned Prophetstown to the ground and proclaimed victory.

Shortly after, Harrison gained the nickname “Tippecanoe,” in honor of the Tippecanoe River that ran near Prophetstown. His military career ended in 1814, and after two years at his home in North Bend, he transitioned to a political career. He served as a state Representative, then State Senator, for Ohio before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1824. After a short stint as a foreign minister and a few years of home life, Harrison began running for President.

The log cabin motif became part of Harrison’s campaign, helping him connect to the “common man.” This motif is found in the quilt’s border, which uses “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” fabric.

In the 1840 election, Harrison proved his mettle. Though cast by his opponent as a provincial, out-of-touch old man who preferred to sit in his log cabin drinking cider, Harrison adopted this motif – the log cabin – successfully in efforts to connect to the “common man.” He also built on his military legacy, forming the slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too,” which Alexander Coffman Ross turned into a song, which you can listen to here:

“Tip and Ty” by Peter Janovsky, as part of Winners and Losers: Campaign Songs from the Critical Elections in American History, Vol. 1 ℗ 2004 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings / 1978 Folkways Records.

Harrison was elected to the Presidency in 1840, but his career was short. Taking the oath of office on March 4, 1841, he braved a cold and wet day, choosing not to wear an overcoat or hat, and delivered the longest inaugural address in American history. After two hours in the cold, he rode through the streets on horseback. His decision was fatal. Just 22 days later, on March 26, Harrison became ill, likely of pneumonia. He died on April 4, 1841, exactly one month after taking office – becoming the first President to die in office.

Made in on Long Island, New York, this quilt commemorates Harrison’s famous campaign song, which – according to folk music critic Irwin Silber – “firmly established the power of singing as a campaign device.”

“Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” quilt, made in Suffolk County, Long Island, New York, circa 1845. Part of the Elizabeth Richardson Collection, 2008.241.2. To help care for this quilt, please consider adopting it by making a $500 gift here. Gifts may be made in a one-time or installment payments.

Fun Fact: This quilt was was once in the possession of Florence Peto, a leading figure in the Quilt Revival Movement in America.

Published by kentuckymuseumwku

The Kentucky Museum is located in the Kentucky Building on the campus of Western Kentucky University. The Museum houses several changing exhibits. There are a variety of partnerships, services, opportunities, workshops, camps and other outreach provided to the public each year.