The first log cabins in America were built near the mouth of the Delaware River in the late 1630s. They were erected by settlers from Sweden and Finland, where log cabins had been built for hundreds of years. The cabins caught on quickly with other New World settlers. The typical log cabin had just one or two rooms. The walls were made of logs laid horizontally and notched at the ends, so that they interlocked where they met at the corners.
Mud, clay, stones, and chips of wood filled gaps between the logs. Rough-cut boards or tree bark served as roofs.
As the U.S. became industrialized, the log cabin came to symbolize all the hardships and virtues of pioneer life. Politicians boasted that they had grown up in log cabins on the frontier. Three presidents really did: James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, and James Garfield.
President William Henry Harrison, elected in 1840, was called “the Ohio farmer” and used the log cabin as a symbol in his campaign. But he was actually born in a mansion in Virginia.