Nickname: Old Kinderhook

Years in office: 1837–1841

Political party: Democratic

Birthday: December 5, 1782

Official presidential portrait of Martin Van Buren

by George Peter Alexander Healy, 1858

A Beautiful Goblet of White-House Champagne, by David Claypoole Johnston, 1840 (National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)

Of course the first modern campaign had some mudslinging. This mechanical card, used by the Harrison campaign, showed Van Buren as an aristocrat, happy only when drinking the finest of champagne. He changed to a disapproving face when given the hard cider that characterized Harrison’s campaign.

Martin Van Buren used his close ties to Andrew Jackson to secure the Democratic nomination in 1836. The Whigs, a party created in opposition to Jackson, ran four regional candidates.  Even though the vote was split, Van Buren still received the majority of electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

Martin Van Buren inherited policies that led the US into the Panic of 1837. The Whigs capitalized on this Panic to propel William Henry Harrison into office.  Referred to as the first modern presidential campaign, Harrison was portrayed by Democrats as a hard cider drinker who lived in a log cabin.  Harrison, actually from a wealthy Virginia family, benefitted from this image, and Old Tippecanoe was elected.


Lindenwald, Kinderhook, NY 


Kinderhook Cemetery, Kinderhook, NY


Davis, Kenneth C., and Pedro Martin. Don’t Know Much about the Presidents. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2014.

DeGregorio, William A., and Aaron Jaffe. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books, Inc., 2017.

Kane, Joseph Nathan, and Janet Podell. Facts about the Presidents: A Compilation of Biographical and Historical Information. New York: H.W. Wilson, 2009.


Encyclopedia Britannica, britannica.com

Library of Congress, loc.gov

Miller Center, University of Virginia, millercenter.org/the-presidency

The White House, whitehouse.gov

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