"54-40 or fight... Remember the Maine... Tippecanoe and Tyler too... What do these mean? They're war slogans. We remember the slogans and we don't even remember the fucking wars."
--Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro), Wag The Dog
Our heads nowadays are pounding with memes, advertising slogans and pop culture oddities that have, through some device, been implanted in our minds and on our tongues. "Where's the beef?". "I KISS YOU". "All Your Base Are Belong To Us". These words, however, are but children when compared to the enduring qualities of the political slogans of nineteenth century America.
The slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" represented flagwaving nationalism with some good old-fashioned sectionalism. In 1811 at dawn on November 7th, General William Henry Harrison and his army of 800 men attempted to wrest control of the Tippecanoe River valley from a Shawnee war tribe led by The Prophet. Harrison's troops incurred casualties of 61 dead and 127 wounded, but they managed to drive the Shawnee back to the deserted Prophet's Town. The Indian confederation regrouped under the lead of Tecumseh, The Prophet's brother, and fought in favor of the British during the War of 1812. Harrison was both honored and vilified for his actions at Tippecanoe, but was able to use the battle to his political advantage 29 years later during his campaign for presidency.
And what a campaign. With slogans, buttons, and, best of all, mudslinging, it was the first very active presidential campaign the young America had seen. The Log Cabin Campaign of 1840 pitted Harrison, a Whig, against the incumbent Martin Van Buren, a Democrat. To gain badly needed support from voters in the South, the Whigs nominated for vice presidency John Tyler, a former Virginian senator. The Whigs rallied together behind Harrison, historically famous for his securing of vast lands for American settlement, and Tyler, a man who represented the interests and the ideals of the North. Thus: "Tippecanoe and Tyler too."
But why has this slogan survived upwards of 150 years? Possibly because it was the first catchy line a young and hungry media industry had to latch on to. By the election of 1844, James K. Polk and Henry Clay would have caught on to the idea and importance of memetics, and so it would continue, onward to the present day. This was a line repeated in thousands of households by hundreds of thousands of people, humans who were ready and primed to get swept up by patriotism that rhymed. It is an important century-and-a-half old echo because it, perhaps, marked the death of careful thought on the voter side of the election process.