Was John Tyler Playing Marbles When He Found Out He Was Now President?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about toys and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all toy urban legends featured so far!

TOY URBAN LEGEND: John Tyler was playing marbles when he was informed that President Harrison had died and Tyler was now President.

Marbles have been a popular game for centuries, possibly even in the time of Ancient Egypt (marbles existed back then, but I am unsure if they were used as a game – I know by the time of the Roman Empire, the game of marbles existed).

Marbles were little glass balls (nowadays ceramic marbles are used) that were used to play a game (in the most popular version of marbles, known as “ringer) that involved drawing a circle in sand and then players would take turns knocking other players’ marbles out of the circle with their own marble.

But how does this involve John Tyler?

John Tyler was the running mate for William Henry Harrison in the famous 1840 United States Presidential Election that involved the famous “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too” slogan (Harrison was known as a war hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe, where U.S. forces in the Indiana Territory under the leadership of Harrison launched a pre-emptive strike on the American Indian Indian confederation led by Tecumseh – Harrison’s forces were victorious, although the highly outnumbered Tecumseh’s group). The pair were elected, defeating incumbent President Martin Van Buren (only the third sitting President to be defeated in a general election).

Tyler instantly became a major part of United States history when, after just a month in office, President William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia. For the first time in U.S. history, a sitting President was dead. Unlike today, the country was not exactly sure how to proceed, as the Constitution only says:

In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President.

So the question was – do just the DUTIES devolve to the Vice-President, or does the Vice-President BECOME the President?

Ultimately, it was the latter, but for a period in time, there was actual uncertainty as to what would happen with the Presidency.

In any event, a popular legend involving John Tyler is what he was doing when he was notified that Harrison was dead.

Just from a sampling of the internet…

Tyler was playing marbles when he learned that he was to be President.

He was on his knees playing marbles when informed that he had become president upon the death of Harrison.

So, is it true?

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