Key Dates

1858 Garfield is elected to the Ohio State Legislature.

1862 Garfield is elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

1880 Garfield is elected President.

1881 James A. Garfield is shot by Charles Guiteau. Garfield survives for more than two months. Garfield dies of blood poisoning.

1881 Sept. 19th Chester A. Arthur becomes President.  

James A. Garfield
20th President

James A. Garfield was born in Orange Township, Ohio on November 19, 1831.

President Garfield was the last of seven Presidents born in a log cabin.

James A. Garfield served as an officer in the Civil War.

Garfield was the only man in U.S. history who was a congressman, senator-elect, and a president-elect at the same time.

He campaigned for the presidency from the front porch of his house. Candidates didn't campaign at that time.

James A. Garfield won election by less than10,000 votes.

His mother, Eliza Ballou Garfield, was the first mother of a president to live in the executive mansion. She was also the first mother to attend the Presidential Inauguration.

President Garfield was the first President to review an inaugural parade in front of the White House.

Lincoln's son, Robert Todd, was Garfield's secretary of war.

Garfield was the first ambidextrous president. He could even write Greek with one hand while writing Latin with the other.

James had a dog named Veto.

Garfield died of blood poisoning, from doctors probing one of his wounds with bare fingers and unsterilized instruments. Some experts think Garfield would have lived if the doctors did nothing. Garfield's doctor Willard Bliss inserted his finger and instruments into Garfield's wound. Neither his finger or the instruments were sterile.

One of the doctors who attended Garfield at the train station was Charles Purvis. He was one of the first black men to receive medical training at a university. He recommended that blankets be wrapped around the President and that hot water bottles be place under his feet. Thus he became the first black doctor to treat a President of the United States.

At the White House Garfield was also treated by "Mrs. Dr. Edson. She was one of the first female doctors in the U.S. and perhaps the first woman doctor to treat a President.

It took Garfield 11 weeks to die after being shot by assassin Charles Guiteau on July 2, 1881. He died on September 19, 1881 in Elberon, New Jersey. He was 49 years and 304 days old.


President Garfield
James A. Garfield's Assassination.
Library of Congress

Garfield's wife, Lucretia, was all most killed in a train accident on her rushed trip back to Washington. A bar connected the wheels of the train broke loose and tore up the track and rails for two miles before the train could be stopped.

James A. Garfield is one of four Presidents who was assassinated.

He was the second President to be assassinated.

James Garfield's Vice President was Chester Arthur (1881) became President after Garfield's death. Arthur was sworn in by a New York judge at 2:15 a.m. on September 20.

His wife created a library on the second floor of their hume in Mentor, Ohio. The library would become the first Presidential Library.

After Garfield's death Congress passed the Pendleton Act which created the civil service and reduced the number of jobs appointed by the President.

James Garfield is buried in Lake View Cemetary in Cleveland, Ohio.


"Assassination can no more be guarded against than death by lightning, and it is best not to worry about either." James Garfield.




  • The Presidents of the United States. 22 September 2004
  • Davis, Gibbs and Ilus. David A. Johnson. Wackiest White House Pets. New York: Scholastic Press, October 2004
  • James, Barber and Amy Pastan. Smithsonian Presidents and First Ladies. New York: DK Publishing, 2002
  • Harnsberger, Caroline Thomas. Treasury of Presidential Quotations. Chicago: Follett Publishing Company, 1964
  • Kane, Joseph Natan. Facts about the Presidents from Washington to Johnson. New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 1964.
  • National Park Service Web Site on Presidential Trivia:

Additional Sources:


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Additional Reference: Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard.  





This page was last modified: January 31, 2012