Since the middle of the 19th century, the log cabin has been a powerful metaphor in election campaigns. Then as now, the log home engenders a feeling of independence and living on the frontier. When the country was still in its expansionary phase, the association with being born in a log home was seen as helpful for many politicians. In this post we will talk about the six presidents who can reasonably claim to have been born in a log home, as well as the use of log home imagery in less-scrupulous circumstances.
Andrew Jackson is the first president who may have been born in a log home. At the time of his birth, Jackson’s father had recently died and his mother was traveling back from the burial. Jackson was born in a remote area on the border between the Carolinas, and it is not even certain which state he was born in. (In later years, Jackson would claim to have been born in South Carolina for political reasons.) Regardless of the state of his birth, given the buildings in the area it is likely he was born in a log home.
William Henry Harrison is famously associated with log cabins, but never lived in one. Harrison was the first to actively campaign for the presidency, and his detractors, mocking his advanced age and supposed senility, said “give him a barrel of hard cider and a pension of two thousand a year and he will sit the remainder of his days in his log cabin.” Harrison spun this attack around, branding himself “the log cabin and hard cider candidate,” in order to more appeal to the everyday people of the west despite his affluent upbringing. In the end, Harrison won the election but died of pneumonia a mere month after taking office.
In the middle decades of the century, a great number of Presidents were born in log homes. Zachary Taylor was born in 1784, possibly on his grandmother’s home on a farm in rural Virginia. This may have been in a log home, but the evidence is inconclusive. Millard Fillmore, who assumed the presidency on Taylor’s death, is the first President who was definitively born in a log home, located in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Skipping Franklin Pierce, Fillmore’s immediate successor, the next president, James Buchanan, was also born in a log cabin in Cove’s Gap, Pennsylvania.
Abraham Lincoln, who followed Buchanan, is undoubtedly the President most associated with log cabins. Lincoln was born in a one room log cabin in Kentucky in 1809. Lincoln’s father, Thomas, was a skilled carpenter and could build a simple one room log cabin in as little as four days. Thus, when the Lincoln family moved to Indiana, Thomas constructed another log cabin there. Lincoln lived in this cabin from the age of seven to twenty-one, and the log cabin imagery is now indelibly associated with Lincoln.
Some sources claim that Ulysses S. Grant was born in a log home, but his birth house is actually a framed building with wood siding. James Garfield, who was born in 1831 outside of Cleveland and became President in 1881, was the last President born in a log home.
So, while the popularity of many presidents is hotly debated (but we won't get into that...), one thing we're very sure of, is that the appeal, charm, and enduring nature of the log cabin in America is unanimous. It's an image and an ideal that keeps log home fans enthralled. And, while Real Log Homes may not be as old as the United States, or its early leaders, we are proud to have been manufacturing log homes and log cabins in the USA for 50 years. If you're ready to begin planning your log home home or log cabin, contact Real Log Homes today to get started. With our precision manufacturing techniques and top-notch materials, who knows, maybe in a few hundred years people will be posting images of your log home and talking about the great people who lived there.