James Garfield - History

James Garfield - History

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James Garfield

Garfield's term as President was cut short by his assasination, committed by a rebuffed job seeker. He did not die immedietly, but lingered on, wounded, for two and a half months.. Elected 1880

The Early Years

Garfield was born in a log cabin in Cuyahogo County, Ohio. His father died when Garfield was 18 months old. He was a precocious child who learned to read by the age of 3 years old. Garfield attended elementary school at the local district school. He went on to attend the Geauga Academy in Chester, Ohio and the Eclectic Institute in Hiram, Ohio. He worked his way through school by teaching younger students and working as a janitor. In 1854, Garfield entered Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts as a junior. He graduated with honors in the class of 1856.

Upon graduation from Williams, Garfield returned to the Eclectic Institute first as an instructor and then, from 1857-1861, as the President of the Institute. During this period, Garfield studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1860. He was also an Ohio State Senator from 1859-1861. As a State Senator, he took a strong stand against slavery.

Garfield was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in the Union army in August 1861. He rose to the rank of Major General. He saw action in several battles, and acquitted himself well.

In 1862, Garfield was elected to Congress. Thus, in 1863, he resigned his army commission and took up his house seat. Garfield was among the most radical Republicans in the House, and called for stronger action against the Confederacy. After the war, he moderated his views, but still supported the impeachment of Johnson. Garfield was a leading House member, who dealt with financial members, and served at different times as Chairman of the House Banking and Currency Committee, Appropriations Committee and as a member of the Ways and Means Committee.

Accomplishments in Office

Garfield's administration was cut short by his assassination on July 2. Before his assassination, Garfield's efforts were mostly devoted to resolving issues of political patronage. Garfield was assassinated by Charles Guiteau, a Garfield supporter who had been denied a political appointment. Garfield was gunned down in the waiting room of the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad in Washington. He died of blood poisoning on September 17th, two months after he was shot.

The First Family

Secretary of State: James Blaine
Secretary of Treasury: William Windom
Secretary of War: Robert Lincoln
Attorney General: Wayne MacVeagh
Secretary of Navy: William Hunt
Postmaster General: Thomas James
Secretary of the Interior: Samuel Kirkwood

Major Events

The Cabinet

Secretary of State: James Blaine
Secretary of Treasury: William Windom
Secretary of War: Robert Lincoln
Attorney General: Wayne MacVeagh
Secretary of Navy: William Hunt
Postmaster General: Thomas James
Secretary of the Interior: Samuel Kirkwood



Did You Know?

First left-handed President.

First President to have his mother present at his inauguration.

Qualified for 3 Federal offices simultaneously: a Representative of the House, a Senator and President.

James A. Garfield: Impact and Legacy

Murdered within months of his inauguration, Garfield served as President too briefly for him to have left much of an impact. Still, his legacy is far more ambiguous than most people realize. His replacement of Merritt shows him not only lacking judgment but acting as a spoilsman himself. His secretary of state, James G. Blaine, conducted foreign policy in, at best, an offhand manner, adding to the burdens of his successor, Chester A. Arthur. Nevertheless, Garfield appeared to be increasingly dependent upon Blaine as his short-lived presidency emerged. Since Garfield was passionately devoted to hard money and a laissez-faire economy, it is doubtful whether he could have really coped with the recession that began in 1881. He might have advanced the cause of civil rights, but without again stationing federal troops in the South, his options were limited.

For his reputation, it might have been just as well that he died when he did. He died in the prime of his life, still politically untested. The times did not demand a President in the heroic mold, and Garfield could therefore be remembered as a martyr above all else, as one who truly gave his life for his nation.

Civil War and Congressional Career

In the summer of 1861, Garfield was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel in the Union Army. Later that year, he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general, commanding a brigade at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862.

Garfield&aposs political career continued during wartime. In October 1862, he won a seat in Congress, representing Ohio&aposs 19th Congressional District. After the election, Garfield relocated to Washington, where he developed a close alliance with Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. Garfield became a member of the Radical Republicans, led by Chase, and found himself frustrated by moderates including Abraham Lincoln.

Garfield not only favored abolition but also believed that the leaders of the rebellion had forfeited their constitutional rights. He supported the confiscation of southern plantations and the punishment of rebellion leaders.

Following President Lincoln&aposs assassination, Garfield attempted to ameliorate the strife between his own Radical Republicans and the new president, Andrew Johnson. When Johnson undermined the Freedman&aposs Bureau, however, Garfield rejoined the Radicals, subsequently supporting Johnson&aposs impeachment.



Source: National Park Service The Dickey Farm : Warren Corning and his family became residents of Mentor Township in 1810. The core of the property at the time, which is bisected by historic route 20, modern day Mentor Avenue, was owned by the Corning family starting in 1811. When James Dickey married Harriet Corning, one of the Corning family daughters, on June 5, 1835, the land was given as a wedding present. James Dickey continued to buy surrounding property and by 1848 owned a total of 117.46 acres. The Dickey family also expanded their home from the two-room log cabin, which is presumed to have been built by the Corning’s between 1831 and 1832, to a nine-room farm home in 1847. James Dickey passed away in 1855 and his wife Harriet Dickey continued to operate the farm until 1876. Shown in the image above is that same nine-room farm home as well as the barns present on the property.

Source: National Park Service

Date: ca. summer 1877-summer 1879 Front Porch Campaign: The nine-room home was a tight fit for the Garfield family. The family at that point consisted of James A. Garfield, his wife Lucretia Rudolph Garfield, their five children, Harry, James, Mary (Mollie), Irving and Abram, Garfield’s mother Eliza Ballou Garfield, and Lucretia’s father Zeb Rudolph. By 1880, Garfield had expanded the nine room farm home to a twenty-room home. Not long before the construction was completed on the home, the Garfield family made it back to Mentor on May 11, 1880. Garfield’s friend in Congress, Burke Hinsdale, reflects on this time in the Mentor home, “These were the grand years in Garfield’s life… They were years of reading, study, think and communion with friends and family. He was happy in his family, his friends and in his work.”

Source: National Park Service

Date: ca. Fall 1880 The House in the News : As people learned of Garfield’s nomination, and of his newly constructed home, visitors started to go to the home. These visitors came by foot, came by carriage, and the train tracks that ran through Garfield’s land also aided in people’s ability to come to the site. The numbers started to increase as people learned that Garfield was addressing the public on his porch. There were instances where the people that came, did not want to travel back home by foot or they would miss their train back home. So many times people would camp out on Garfield’s lawn, take food from his orchards, and leave the next day. These events are what ultimately led the news reporters to refer to the house as Lawnfield. Many of the reporters were welcomed into the Garfield foyer for additional questioning and photographs of the home. In many instances however, the reporters may have had the opportunity to speak with Grandma Garfield and his daughter Mollie as seen in the image above.

Source: National Park Service

Creator: Frank Leslie's Illustrated News Paper

Date: 1880 Winter Evening at Lawnfield : As the campaign continued the family ultimately decided to stay in Mentor as opposed to returning to Washington. Garfield continued to run his front-porch campaign well into the fall season of that year. Garfield ended up being in the campaign office on November 2, 1880, when he found out that he had won the vote for New York, ultimately giving him a total number of votes to win the election. The Garfield family then stayed in the home throughout the winter of that year, spending what ended up being the only Christmas together as a whole family in the Mentor home. Garfield reflects in his diary about this time in the home and what the future may hold, “I close the year with a sad conviction that I am bidding good-by to the freedom of private life, and to a long series of happy years, which I fear terminate with 1880.”

Source: National Park Service

Date: 1881 The Garfield Fund : During the time from after Garfield had been shot and his death, a subscription fund was created to help support what ultimately would be Lucretia and the children. The fund was created by Cyrus Fields, the founder of the Trans-Sub Atlantic Telegraph [and eventual Telephone] Line. Mr. Fields paid the money to have news reports posted in papers all across the country, encouraging people to donate to the fund what they could to help support the president’s young wife and children. Lucretia was forty-nine when Garfield died and the kids were all between eight and eighteen years old. The fund continued past the time of Garfield‘s death as well as past the time of the funeral and ultimately ended on October 15, 1881. News reporters constantly kept up to date on the donations to the Garfield Fund. This clipping from the New York Times shows the reporting on the total success of the Fund.

Date: October 18, 1881 Memorial Library Expansion : A majority of the construction for the new section of the home was done between 1885 and 1886, as pictured above.Lucretia continued to make changes to both the interior as well as the exterior of the house. Some of these changes included various versions of the front and east porches of the property, taking out original windows and adding bay windows, as well as adding stained glass in the home. She also added some ornamentation to the home with elements primarily in the Queen Anne style, to take it away from the original vernacular style farmhouse. Lucretia also changed the exterior by painting the home. During Garfield’s time, the house had always been white with black shutters and a black slate roof. Lucretia painted the house a grey color with grey-blue and red accents and a red wood shingle roof. These colors fell in line with a much more high Victorian color scheme. With this additional work done to the home, Lucretia also added additional buildings to the property.

Source: National Park Service

Date: 1886 J. Wilkinson Elliott Landscape Plan : Part of Lucretia’s efforts to create more of an estate aesthetic to her property included a comprehensive landscape plan of the property. The plan that was created for the property by J Wilkinson Elliott, never actually came to full fruition. What did come about however, was Lucretia’s desire to connect all of her family’s properties together. Directly to the east was Harry Garfield’s home which the family referred to as Eastlawn. To the west of Lucretia’s home was the second oldest son, James R Garfield’s home, which was referred to as Hollycroft. The landscape plan provided the opportunity for all of the properties to be interconnected with garden paths. There was also a minimum number of entrances from the street to the properties. From Mentor Avenue, there are two entrances marked by large stone pillars. These pillars are at the far west and far-east of what would have encompassed all of the Garfield properties and were set far enough apart to allow carriages through them. There are also smaller, narrower set pillars that would have marked walking paths from the street onto the property.

Source: National Park Service

Date: June 1900 Lucretia Garfield and her Family : Once Lucretia passed away in 1918, what to do with the home became a great debate amongst the Garfield children. Mollie Garfield reflects on the quarreling, “…it has turned out just as mother feared- the farm would become a white elephant or rather a creature that devours incessantly.” When Uncle Joe, Lucretia’s brother, passed away in 1935, the children were forced to deal with the situation head-on. The decision the children ultimately reached was that the best thing for the home and its contents was for it to be donated and run as a museum for the enjoyment of future generations. James R. Garfield served on the Board of Trustees for the Western Reserve and thought the group might be a good fit. The rest of the Garfield children were relieved and Mollie even reassured her brother that “… little mother would have approved.”

Source: The Garfield Collection, Cleveland Memory Project

Date: 1917 The Western Reserve and Lake County Years : The WRHS quickly had to decide what they were going to do with the home and how the museum was going to be run. In the spring of 1936 the WRHS began preparations to the main house so that it could be open to the public for the summer. The WRHS during this time received an anonymous donation of $10,000 by a group of “Cleveland gentleman” to help alleviate the costs of the repairs that were necessary to prepare the home for visitation. The home opened to the public in late August. Over the course of the month of September, there were 2,500 visitors that came through the Garfield house museum.

Source: The Garfield Collection, Cleveland Memory Project

Date: 1936 Lawnfield Publicity : The interpretation of the Garfield home as done by the LCHS from 1938 to 1984 was done in contract with WRHS. The main interpretation done at the home did consist of house tours and pamphlet interpretation for visitors, and with a house museum made available to visitors as well on the third floor of the home. The main story being told at the site during this time was the life of James A. Garfield, hence the emphasis to the Lawnfield title for the site, and more broadly the time periods which he lived. LCHS also used the Garfield home as a headquarters building and as a space to interpret general county history.

Source: The Garfield Collection, Cleveland Memory Project

Date: 1891 Governmental Interest : The site of the Garfield home was evaluated in a major governmental projects, including the national Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings. The survey documented a brief history of Garfield career, his relationship with the farm, and a physical analysis of the site. Another federal recognition the site received was its designation on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. The nomination was completed by Frederick Crawford on behalf of the Western Reserve Historical Society. The site was also documented as a part of the Historic American Building Survey. The survey of Lawnfield, however, was done after the early run of the HABS program in 1931, and was not actually completed until 1985. This documentation included architectural renderings of the entirety of the home, many of the other structures on the property, and photographs, as seen above. With the site now having national recognition, it was brought before Congress to be inducted as a National Park.

Source: Library of Congress

Creator: Historic American Buildings Survey

Date: 1985 Restoration of the Garfield Home : Congress allocated $12.5 million for the restoration of the home. At this point there were a series of researched options that the NPS could take to address all the restorations and other site concerns. The plan that was ultimately decided however was a compromise of all of the created plans but stuck to the original $12.5 million budget. This allowed for not only the restoration on the interior and exterior of the home to be addressed, as seen above, but also provide funding for the ground and adaptive reuse of many of the historic structures on the property to fit NPS needs. For example, the carriage house is now the Visitor Center for the site. The Tenant house is now the headquarters building for the NPS administrative staff, and the barn buildings have ben repurposed for both maintenance needs as well as additional classroom spaces for programming.

Source: National Park Service

Date: 1996 The Reopening of the Garfield Home : The restoration of the Garfield home was complete in 1998, and the site re-opened to the public on June 19, 1998. The night before there was a Garfield Family Reunion, where over 100 members of the family spanning multiple generations came to celebrate the reopening of their ancestor’s beloved home. The main day consisted of a large ceremony with live music and people all over the site. There was an open house for visitors to finally see the finished interior, and when they were done people were able to enjoy the other historically restored buildings on the site. The line to get into the home wrapped around the whole east side of the house, and people were parking at the mall and walk down to the site. There were even people from the Post Office doing same day cancellations commemorate the event. Although the restoration had faced both good and bad press during the work itself, the reopening of the home was ultimately met with a positive response from the Mentor community and beyond.

Source: National Park Service

Date: 1998 The National Park Service Mission : As the National Historic Site has developed over the past ten years, the NPS staff is striving to make sure the interpretation of the Garfield home is appropriate and accurate, but also engaging and thought provoking to the visitors of the site. The NPS has designated the period of significance for the Garfield home to start with James A. Garfield Campaign in 1881 and continuing past his death and through a majority of his family’s life in the home, up to 1904. This allows the Park Rangers to tell not only Garfield’s story and his significance to history, but also about his wife and the children and what they have done for his legacy. Part of this legacy includes the grand memorial library that Lucretia created. The historically recreated library, as pictured above, is today considered the first Presidential Memorial Library.


In 1940, the United States Department of the Army reserved 21,418 acres (87 km 2 ) for the construction of two facilities: [3] The Ravenna Ordnance Plant, near Ravenna and the Portage Ordnance Depot, near Windham. The facilities officially opened on March 23, 1942, although the Atlas Powder Company commenced operations there on August 18, 1941. During World War II, the two facilities were combined as the Ravenna Arsenal. [1] [3]

The Ravenna Arsenal had an immediate effect upon the communities of Portage County. Over 14,000 people were employed at the Arsenal during World War II, [2] and the village of Windham was chosen as the site to house many of these workers. Windham experienced a population boom as a result its growth of over 1200% was the largest of any U.S. municipality in the 1950 Census, as was reported in the June 1951 edition of National Geographic Magazine. [4]

At the end of World War II, the facility was placed on "standby" status. In November 1945, control of the facility was transferred from Atlas Powder to the U.S. Army. The facility continued to be in operation on a limited basis. [1]

During the Korean War, the Ravenna Arsenal resumed full operations. In 1951, Firestone won several defense contracts, among which was operation of the facility under a subsidiary, Ravenna Arsenal, Inc. The facility once again was placed on standby in 1957. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the forerunner to NASA, then commenced aeronautical experiments at the facility. [1] Among these experiments was aircraft crash testing, which led to the development of an inerting system to prevent jet fuel fires. [5]

The Ravenna Arsenal was used for the last time for the production of ammunition during the Vietnam War. In 1971, the facility was again placed on standby. Ammunition at the facility was then demilitarized, a process which continued until 1984. [1] It also was part of ammunition refurbishment and minor research and development projects until 1992. [6]

After years of inactivity, the facility became a Superfund site and plans to burn some of the buildings at the site were being discussed. However, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) work group recommended that the Army not burn the buildings due to the high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the paint. [7] Cleanup of the site is expected to continue through 2018. [8]

Meanwhile, transfer of the facility was ultimately made to the Ohio National Guard, although there were several intermediate caretakers. In 1983, Firestone sold its contract to Physics International Company. Ten years later, Mason & Hangar-Silas Mason Company, Inc. assumed caretaker status. [1]

The Ravenna Training and Logistics Site of the Ohio National Guard began as a tenant unit of the Army facility, which at that time was officially designated the Ravenna Army Ammunition Plant (RVAAP). 16,164 acres (65 km 2 ) of the facility were included in the RTLS tenancy by May 16, 1999. On January 16, 2002, transfer of this land was made to the RTLS, and the RVAAP became a tenant site of the RTLS – essentially switching the roles of the two facilities. [1] The site is now known as Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center and currently occupies approximately 93% of the land originally covered by the RVAAP. [9]

On September 11, 2007, the facility was opened to invited guests and members of the news media for a tour. At this tour, it was revealed that the RTLS would eventually encompass the 21,500 acres (87 km 2 ) formerly known as the Ravenna Arsenal. At that time, only 1,000 acres (4.0 km 2 ) remained under RVAAP control. [10]

Camp Garfield is currently being looked at as the location of a proposed Eastern United States missile defense site. [11] It was renamed for James A. Garfield, the 20th President of the United States, on October 18, 2018. Garfield lived in Portage County for many years prior to his election as president, and as a state senator in the 1860s, helped appropriate funds to create the Ohio volunteer forces, the precursor to the Ohio National Guard. [12]

The essayist Scott Russell Sanders spent part of his childhood living on the grounds of the Ravenna Arsenal. The Arsenal figures prominently in his memoirs The Paradise of Bombs (1987) and A Private History of Awe (2006).

The Hole in the Horn Buck is officially listed as the second largest non-typical white-tailed deer of all time by the Boone and Crockett Club. The buck’s antlers score 328 2/8 non-typical points. The name of the buck derives from the mysterious hole in the buck’s right antler. It was later claimed by eyewitness, George Winters, to be caused from a piece of chain-link fence that pierced the antler shortly before it died. The world record white-tailed deer was stuck under the fence to the Ravenna Arsenal in 1940.

The site can be seen in Marvel's 2014 film Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

James A. Garfield National Historic Site Programs

This program traces James Garfield’s various attitudes toward African-Americans, his interactions with African-Americans while in the Union army and in Congress his eloquent and determined support of the civil, political, and voting rights of blacks during Reconstruction and in the years that followed.

The 1st Front Porch Campaign

In 1880, presidential candidate James A. Garfield did something revolutionary: made himself available to the public, greeting them right from the front porch of his Mentor home! Observe the contrasts between Garfield’s presidential campaign and that of our current president.

The Death of President James A. Garfield

President James A. Garfield served just four months in office before being shot by Charles Guiteau on July 2, 1881. The president lingered for over two months, finally dying on September 19, 1881. This program details the circumstances of the shooting, the president’s medical care, and his death and funeral.

Funeral of the Century

Though not as noted in history as the Lincoln funeral, President Garfield’s lavish funeral on September 26, 1881 was at the time called “the funeral of the century.” Recount the Garfield funeral in detail and see images of a number of original artifacts from the solemn ceremony.

The Garfield Family Tree

Did you know there are still hundreds of Garfield descendants today, including many still in the Cleveland area! This presentation will focus on exploring the vast Garfield family tree, both past and present.

James A. Garfield: Passionate Reader

James A. Garfield was a devoted reader of books on all different subjects. Learn more about what he liked to read and the many books displayed in the Memorial Library and elsewhere in the Garfield home!

Mr. Garfield’s Neighborhood in Mentor, Ohio

You know that President and Mrs. Garfield’s home is on Mentor Avenue here in Mentor, but what other buildings and homes surrounded their property during their years here? This program, based on our popular neighborhood walking tour, will tell you!

“My Dear Mrs. Garfield”: Sympathy Letters to Lucretia Garfield after the President’s Death

Learn more about and hear excerpts from some of the thousands of sympathy letters Lucretia Garfield received after her husband’s assassination.

Mollie Garfield in the White House

March is Women’s History Month! Commemorate it with this talk about Mollie Garfield, only daughter of President and Mrs. Garfield. The program is based in part on the diary 14-year-old Mollie kept in 1881 while living in the White House!

Garfield Home Restoration, Part I and II

The year 2018 was the 20th anniversary of the Garfield home re-opening to the public in June 1998 after a renovation and restoration of several years. Learn more about what was done to improve the home over 20 years ago!

Victorian America

A Ghoulish Affair: Victorian Halloween Traditions

From All Saints Day to All Hallows’ Eve, the holiday of Halloween has seen many changes over the years. Séances, interest in the supernatural, and game-filled parties are just a few of the ways Victorian era Americans celebrated what we now call Halloween. Learn more about how they helped shape the spooky holiday we celebrate today!

Merry Ghost Christmas: Exploring Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories

Reading beloved classics like Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol conjures up images of spirits from the past haunting the present. But that story isn’t the only one about Christmas ghosts during the Victorian era. Learn more about some lesser-known ghostly tales that were read by the fireside during the Christmas season!

Murder Most Foul!

The turn of the last century brought us two of the most shocking murders in our history. Surprisingly, each case involved a famous American architect (thankfully NOT presidential son/career architect Abram Garfield!) and his mistress. Hear all the details in this informative and eye-opening program!

Pine Trees, Poinsettias, and Plum Pudding: The Birth of Holiday Traditions

Celebrate the holidays by learning how some of our most cherished holiday traditions came to be. Also discussed will be how the Garfields celebrated the holidays in their Mentor home!

The Lives of Domestic Servants in the 1800s

The Garfields were a middle class family before President Garfield’s death, but they often had a domestic servant or two working for them here in Mentor. Learn more about the jobs, living conditions, wages, and societal vies of domestic servants during the Victorian Era. Also hear about Mary Jane Gallagher, Mrs. Lucretia Garfield’s longest-tenured house-keeper!

“What Did Garfield Eat?”: Foods of the Victorian Era

Americans of the Garfields’ time ate very differently than we do today. Learn more about some of the foods and cooking methods used during the Victorian era.

“Which Fork Do I Use?”: Dining Etiquette in the Gilded Age

If you’ve seen shows like “Downton Abbey” you know that dining etiquette was very different a century or so ago than today! Learn more about the many rules that governed how food was served and consumed in Gilded Age America.

Victorian Christmas Music

Christmas songs and carols are one of everyone’s favorite holiday traditions, and that was the case in Victorian America as well. Learn about the origins of some of the most famous and beloved Christmas and holiday tunes.

Victorian Weddings

Many modern brides don’t realize that the wedding traditions today are steeped in history, some dating back to ancient Roman times. Become enlightened about the customs and fashions of weddings during America’s Victorian period.

Photography in the Victorian Era (Part 1 and Part 2)

The art of photography developed and improved rapidly during the Victorian era. This presentation will explore the history of photography in the United States and how it evolved during and after the Civil War!

  • The Battle of Gettysburg
  • The Battle of Spotsylvania
  • The Siege of Atlanta
  • Fort Sumter: April 12, 1861
  • The Battle of Antietam
  • The Battle of Fredericksburg
  • Sherman’s March to the Sea
  • Grant and Lee
  • Postwar Careers of Important Civil War Military Leaders
  • The Life of Frederick Douglass
  • Jefferson Davis: A Survey
  • Women of the Civil War: Clara Barton and Dr. Mary Walker
  • Women of the Civil War: Soldiers and Spies
  • Lincoln
    • The Life of Abraham Lincoln
    • Re-Electing Lincoln in 1864
    • The Lincoln Assassination
    • The Emancipation Proclamation
    • Deconstructing the Gettysburg Address
    • The Early Republican Party, the Civil War, and America’s Westward Expansion
    • The Election of 1864
    • History of the Grand Army of the Republic

    Arts, Culture and Society

    • Civil War Photography Part 1 & 2
    • Important Books and Authors of the Civil War
    • Art Inspired by the Civil War
    • The Laws of War and the Special Challenges of Civil War
    • Christmas in Camp during the Civil War
    • Notorious Prisons of the Civil War
    • The Postwar Years of Grant, Lee, and Other Civil War Soldiers
    • James A. Garfield in the Civil War and Reconstruction
    • A Slave No More: Two Narratives of Emancipation
    • Reinventing Freedom: The Importance of the 14 th Amendment
    • The “Lost Cause” and Civil War Memory
    • The National Park Service and Battlefield Preservation
    • An Armchair Tour of Civil War Sites in the National Park Service
    • Cleveland’s Soldiers and Sailors Monument
    • The Significance of June 19
    • Civil War Archaeology

    An Armchair Tour of National Parks Commemorating American Arts and Culture (Part 1 and Part 2)

    Everyone knows national parks for history and natural beauty, but did you know that national parks also commemorate great writers, artists, architects, and more? Learn about sites that interpret Edgar Allan Poe, Eugene O’Neill, Carl Sandburg, and more!

    The Picturesque Rural Victorian Home

    Following the picturesque movement and the Gothic revival in Europe, American architects shunned the simplicity of prior architectural styles, leading to the variety seen in the Carpenter Gothic style up to the “gingerbread” Victorian homes across the United States. Advances in woodworking technology and accessibility of these plans meant that even county builders and carpenters could build ornate homes. We can still see the remnants of this time in ornamental front porches and detailed woodwork in the gables of homes dating to the 1860s-1900s. Learn about the origins of Victorian architecture in the U.S. and growth in areas like Mentor, Ohio!

    President James A. Garfield once described his wife, Lucretia, as having “faultless taste”. The home she lovingly made for her family over a century ago, today stands fully furnished and restored as Mentor’s own James A. Garfield National Historic Site. Learn more about Mrs. Garfield’s taste and style as well as the decorative trends of the Victorian era as we explore the beautiful and impressive art of the Garfield’s beloved “Lawnfield”.

    Louis Tiffany’s Interiors

    Son of a wealthy designer, Louis C. Tiffany expanded and created his own style. This program will explore Tiffany’s art and his work to make interior designs, stained glass, and more for the wealthy and middle class alike.

    The Garfield Home Restoration, Parts 1 and 2

    The year 2018 is the 20 th anniversary of the Garfield home re-opening to the public in June 1998 after a renovation and restoration of several years. Learn more about what was done to improve the home 20 years ago!

    Who’s NOT Buried in Grant’s Tomb?: Presidential Tombs, Monuments, and Memorials

    Tombs, monuments, memorials…all meant to honor heroes, but what’s the difference between them? Enjoy a presentation about the various monument and memorials built to honor and remember American presidents.

    Inaugural Ball Gowns & Fashions of America’s First Ladies

    Trace inaugural balls throughout American history, highlighting the fashions worn through the centuries. We’ll also take a look at President Garfield’s inaugural celebration, held at the “new” Arts and Industries Building at the Smithsonian Institution.

    Mourning Assassinated Presidents

    Four U.S. presidents-Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy-have been assassinated. Learn more about the mourning rituals of those time periods, the public funerals for each man, and the ways in which their lives have been remembered.

    A Proper Washington Welcome

    How does Washington, D. C. welcome new residents to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? The answer: with a ball, of course! Trace inaugural balls throughout American history, highlighting the fashions worn throughout the centuries.

    America's Best Idea--History of the National Park Service

    This program will provide information about the agency’s founding in 1916 and the history of the conservation movement and ethic in the United States. Large Victorian homes required domestic workers and servants to keep them running. Learn more about the lives, jobs, and difficulties of these servants, including some of those that worked in Mentor for James and Lucretia Garfield!

    History of the Western Reserve

    When James Garfield’s family arrived in Ohio, it was an area of wilderness and desolation, but it held promise for hard working pioneers. Learn about this history of this area we call the Western Reserve, and the role it played in the development of northeast Ohio.

    The “Tough Stuff” of American History: Interpreting Controversial History in America’s National Parks

    When they hear the term “national park,” most people think of beautiful views, wildlife, hiking, and camping. But national parks also interpret American history—both the triumphant and the controversial. Learn more about some of the difficult American history being studied and interpreted in your national parks.

    The Life of Frederick Douglass

    Frederick Douglass was for many years the most famous black man in America. Born a slave, he escaped to the North and became a passionate, articulate voice for abolition of slavery and the civil and political rights of African Americans.

    This isn’t a Road Show: The Divide between Antiques and Artifacts

    As American material culture becomes ever more present, people start to wonder what their family's possessions may be worth. What may hold sentimental value to one might hold no historical value to another. This talk will discuss how museum curators and collections managers decide what does and does not get preserved and the thoughts and issues that surround it. Do YOU have anything a curator might want now or in the future?

    The White House has played host to an incredible eighteen weddings since 1812!While only one was for a sitting president, nine were for presidential children. Others have been for presidential siblings, relatives, and friends. Hear stories about some of the biggest and most glamorous weddings ever in the United States!

    Ohio’s Emma “Grandma” Gatewood became the first American hiking celebrity in 1955 when, at age 67, she told her children she was “going for a walk.” That “walk” ended up being the entire 2,168 miles of the Appalachian Trail. She was the first woman to hike the entire trail solo and in a single season—and she then did it two more times! “Grandma” Gatewood was a founding member of Ohio’s Buckeye Trail Association the Buckeye Trail passes through Mentor! Join us as we discuss and appreciate the accomplishments of Ohio’s “Hiking Grandma”!

    Network to Freedom: Connecting James A. Garfield to the Underground Railroad

    In 2017, James A. Garfield NHS had the honor of being designated a site on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. This program, administered by the National Park Service, coordinates and integrates places across the country associated with the Underground Railroad. Embark on a journey to discover the Network to Freedom, and the Garfield site's connection to it. Come away knowing about other sites across the country, including several in Northeast Ohio.


    President James A. Garfield, a resident of nearby Mentor, Ohio, was shot in Washington, D.C., on July 2, 1881. He died on September 19, 1881. Garfield himself had expressed the wish to be buried at Lake View Cemetery, [2] [3] [4] and the cemetery offered a burial site free of charge to his widow, Lucretia Garfield. [5] [a]

    Mrs. Garfield agreed to bury her husband at Lake View. [7] Even before Garfield's funeral, plans were laid by his friends and admirers for a grand tomb to be erected at a high point in the cemetery. [8]

    The Garfield Memorial Committee selected the highest point in the cemetery in June 1883 for the president's final resting place. [9] Lake View Cemetery built a road around the memorial in early 1885, and began work on cutting a road from the Euclid Gate to the memorial site later that fall. The cemetery also began work on making improvements to the landscape, water, and drainage around the site. [10]

    The tomb was designed by architect George Keller [11] in the Byzantine, Gothic, and Romanesque Revival styles. [12] All the stone for the monument came from the quarries of the Cleveland Stone Company, and was quarried locally. [13] The exterior reliefs, which depict scenes from Garfield's life, [11] were done by Caspar Buberl. Its cost, $135,000 ($3,900,000 in 2020 dollars), was funded entirely through private donations. [14] Part of the memorial's funding came from pennies sent in by children throughout the country. [15]

    The round tower is 50 feet (15 m) in diameter and 180 feet (55 m) high. [16] Around the exterior of the balcony are five terra cotta panels with over 110 life size figures depicting Garfield's life and death. [17]

    The interior features stained glass windows and window like panes representing the original 13 colonies, plus the state of Ohio, along with panels depicting War and Peace [17] mosaics deep red granite columns and a 12-foot (3.7 m)-tall white Carrara marble statue of President Garfield by Alexander Doyle. An observation deck provides views of downtown Cleveland and Lake Erie.

    Construction on the memorial began on October 6, 1885, [18] and it was dedicated on May 30, 1890. [19]

    The caskets of the President and Lucretia Garfield lie in a crypt beneath the memorial, along with the ashes of their daughter (Mary "Mollie" Garfield Stanley-Brown [1867–1947]) and son-in-law Joseph Stanley Brown. [16] Lucretia Garfield died on March 13, 1918, and was interred in the Garfield Memorial on March 21. [20]

    Since the Garfield Memorial was private, the committee overseeing its operation charged an entry fee of 10 cents per person to defray its maintenance costs. [6]

    In late October 1923, the Garfield National Monument Association turned the Garfield Memorial over to Lake View Cemetery. Most of the Monument Association's members had died, and its charter did not permit for a self-perpetuating board. After accepting title to the memorial and its land, Lake View Cemetery immediately ended the practice of charging a 10 cent ($2 in 2020 dollars) admission fee to the memorial. [21] Lake View also began cleaning, repairing, and rehabilitating the memorial. [21] [22]

    Lake View Cemetery spent $5 million in 2016 and 2017 conserving, repairing, and upgrading the memorial's structural elements. This included reinforcing beams and columns in the basement. [23]

    In 2019, the cemetery began a multi-million-dollar project to clean the exterior and repoint any damaged or missing mortar. [23] It is the first time in the memorial's history that the exterior has been cleaned. [12]

    The memorial closes every winter on November 19 (President Garfield's birthday) and reopens in April. [23]

    Portrait of a Winning Dark Horse

    Both men were, in a sense, "accidental" chief executives: Garfield was a dark horse who had presidential ambitions but no real expectations of achieving them in the spring of 1880, and Arthur was elevated to the office by the assassin's bullet. The battle of that year's Republican nominating convention was supposed to take place between James G. Blaine and former President Ulysses S. Grant, a sign of a badly factionalized Grand Old Party. Behind Grant's third-term bid was the force of New York's imperious and arrogant Senator Roscoe Conkling, leader of the so-called Stalwart Republicans, undeviatingly loyal to the Radical Republican shibboleths of Grant's presidential heyday — the "bloody shirt," so-called carpetbag and black rule in the South, hard money, and high tariffs. Opposed to Conkling was Senator James G. Blaine, former Speaker of the House, a man of vast charm and, it was persistently suspected, little principle. Blaine's followers were allegedly (but not always actually) less Radical and therefore clubbed Half-Breeds.

    The actual contest between the groups was over power and personality rather than ideology. Both Conkling and Blaine wanted control of the patronage, and they were like-minded in their disdain for the good-government and civil-service reformers, who had bolted in 1872 (as Liberal Republicans) and returned in 1876 to exert a strong influence in the administration of Hayes. Because Hayes had publicly condemned the spoils system, pursued corrupt officeholders, and pulled federal troops out of the South (abandoning southern Republicans to their dismal fate), he was anathema to both Stalwarts and Half-Breeds and, although an incumbent, stood no chance of renomination.

    None of the three groups — Half-Breeds, Stalwarts, and Reformers, sometimes called Independents — was strong enough to win alone, a fact that became apparent after a few ballots. Convention brokers would have to build a majority (379-vote) coalition behind someone other than Grant or Blaine. One of the contenders was Ohio's John Sherman, brother of the general and secretary of the treasury but the aging and colorless Sherman had too many liabilities. The politicos began to make overtures instead to his campaign manager, Senator James A. Garfield of Ohio. Garfield was, of course, supposed to be steadfast to his man's cause and to reject such bids, but he did not.

    As a candidate, he had far greater assets than Sherman. He was born poor (in 1831) in rural Ohio, helped support a widowed mother, and worked briefly as a barge driver, creating the perfect title for Horatio Alger's campaign biography: From Canal Boy to President. He had traveled far from the tow-path, too. For a time after graduation from Williams College, he had been a professor of classics and then president of what later became Hiram College. He went into politics as an antislavery Republican in 1859 but left a seat in the Ohio legislature to see action in the Civil War, where he rose to be an unusually competent political general. That gave him first-class credentials to win election to the House (1863) and then to the Senate (1880).

    Garfield was, to some extent, a perfect moderate. He read widely (and unobtrusively) without its visibly affecting his Christianity, his Republicanism, or his general laissez-faire orthodoxy. He was not so much a scholar in politics as a politic scholar. He was flexible enough about the tariff and civil service reform to be a Half-Breed but sound enough on the money question and the bloody shirt for the Stalwarts to live with him. He worked hard and was respected by his colleagues. He had enough ambition to move ahead in party ranks and enough self-doubt (well concealed) to avoid the kind of strutting that came naturally to a Conkling and that multiplied enemies.

    On the thirty-sixth ballot, Garfield was nominated. Following custom, he immediately made a bid for unity by seeking for the vice presidency a member of the "defeated" Stalwarts. The choice of Chester A. Arthur was somewhat breathtaking, for he was no ordinary Stalwart but Roscoe Conkling's widely known lieutenant — or as many of Conkling's opponents more unkindly put it, his creature. In fact, he had been head of the New York Customhouse, the great fount of Stalwart patronage, and had been fired (to Conkling's undying rage) by President Hayes in a cleanup move. (Interestingly enough, Garfield himself did not make the offer it came through a lieutenant. Conkling ungraciously and unsuccessfully advised Arthur to "drop it as you would a red hot shoe from the forge," since Garfield was bound to lose.) The reformers in the party had to swallow hard, but as one of their chief journals, the Nation, consolingly put it, there was no place in which Arthur's "powers of mischief will be so small as in the Vice-Presidency."

    The Democrats nominated a candidate with no previous political experience — General Winfield Scott Hancock, sardonically described by the New York Sun as "a good man, weighing two hundred and eighty pounds." Both of the major-party platforms waffled on the issues of the tariff and civil service, and both repeated standard party pieties. A third force was in the field, the Greenback party, demanding not only inflation but such far-reaching measures as the eight-hour day, a graduated income tax, and federal railroad regulation, but its appeal was negligible.

    If there was any incident of significance during the election summer, it was a meeting (5 August) of Garfield and Blaine with Stalwart leaders in New York City, at which, apparently, all the Republican factions agreed to cooperate in return for an appropriate sharing of offices. Conkling did not attend but did give his sanction and later visited (and campaigned for) Garfield in Ohio. The terms of the "Treaty of Fifth Avenue" were unrecorded and later disputed, with fateful results for Garfield's short administration. Garfield was also helped by a war chest that came from businessmen and Republican officeholders, who were "assessed" a percentage of their salaries, a practice shared in by the Democrats.

    The campaign and election were scarcely noteworthy, except possibly for the closeness of the popular vote. Out of 9.2 million ballots cast, Garfield's final lead was a mere 7,368 — not exactly a mandate. When the results were counted, he had won comfortably by 214 to 155 in the Electoral College, without carrying a single southern state, evidence of the final burial of Reconstruction. (The key electoral votes were the 35 of New York had they gone to Hancock, the decision would have been reversed — a fact that Conkling did not forget.) Moreover, although the Republicans regained control of the House, the Senate was split exactly evenly between the two parties. Garfield therefore began more or less shackled. Even before his inauguration, the problems posed by his initial appointments fully justified one of his diary entries for November: "There is a tone of sadness running through this triumph."

    The Best Biographies of James A. Garfield

    Who would have guessed that a president of so little fame and so brief a tenure in the White House would prove such an interesting biographical subject?

    Despite what I perceived to be long odds, each of the three biographies of James Garfield I read were both interesting and meritorious. And one of them is among the most popular three or four books on any president at the moment.

    Somewhat in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln, Garfield was born into poverty and worked diligently to better himself through education. But where Lincoln heard the clarion call of the legal profession, Garfield was drawn to teaching and, soon, the Union army. Both Lincoln and Garfield were drawn into national politics in mid-life, and both of their presidencies were cut short by a madman’s bullet.

    Lincoln’s presidency witnessed the entirety of the Civil War before an assassin ended his second term as president. But James Garfield barely had time to appoint a cabinet and vanquish a power-hungry Republican rival before being shot just months into his first term.

    I was surprised and delighted to find the story of this 200-day president so interesting. And I found myself wondering what might have been had he lived. Several generations of historians have pondered the same.

    *The first biography I read was “Dark Horse: the Surprise Election and Political Murder of President James A. Garfield” by Kenneth Ackerman. Published in 2003, this book proves to be a political thriller almost exclusively focused on the last sixteen months of Garfield’s life.

    Ackerman’s account of the 1880 Republican National Convention in Chicago is absolutely captivating and the book’s pace rarely slows during its 453 pages. His accounting of the bitter political rivalry between fellow Republicans James Blaine and Roscoe Conkling is terrific. And it sets the stage perfectly for Ackerman’s description of the power struggle which later erupted between President Garfield and Senator Conkling.

    As a presidential biography this book’s key weakness is its lack of coverage of most of Garfield’s life. And although it is tempting to assume that not much of consequence happened during his first forty-eight years, that is hardly the case. Nonetheless, this is an incredibly compelling narrative that will thrill all but the most hard-core of historians. (Full review here)

    *The second biography I read was “Garfield: A Biography” by Allan Peskin. Published in 1978, this was the first comprehensive biography of Garfield in four decades and was published just weeks before Margaret Leech’s biography “The Garfield Orbit” (which was completed after her death and is on my follow-up list).

    In many ways, Peskin’s biography of Garfield typifies the perfect presidential biography. It is comprehensive, provides penetrating insight into its subject and proves informative without becoming dull or tedious. Despite its age it is easy to read and digest.

    Its key flaws are a relative lack of focus on Garfield’s personal life (which leaves him more two-dimensional than he deserves) and a failure to provide more historical context. Often Peskin is so focused on Garfield’s “bubble” that national events of great importance are not articulated. But overall, Peskin’s “Garfield: A Biography” is excellent. (Full review here)

    *The last biography of Garfield I read was “Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President” by Candice Millard. Published in 2011, this popular narrative currently ranks as one of the most popular books of any kind on any president. Though it falls somewhat short as a presidential biography, the attention it receives is well-deserved.

    “Destiny of the Republic” has nearly all of the drama of Ackerman’s book, but with a tighter focus on Garfield’s assassination, poor medical care and death…and less emphasis on his politics. But where Ackerman fails to cover Garfield’s early life at all, Millard merely provides it with glancing coverage. Only Peskin’s biography thoroughly covers the first 95% of Garfield’s life.

    But what Millard provides is unique: a damning and insightful indictment of the medical care Garfield received after being struck by an assassin’s bullet. She nicely weaves together the stories of Garfield, his assassin, his doctor and Alexander Graham Bell in a way that is interesting and informative.

    To a lesser extent she also tells the stories of other important political figures such as Garfield’s vice president. But for Millard, politics are secondary to the science of life and death. And she clearly believes that Garfield could have lived to finish his term in office. Although imperfect as a presidential biography, “Destiny of the Republic” is entertaining, provocative and intensely interesting. (Full review here)

    ***During my journey through Garfield’s biographies I discovered another biography I need to read: Margaret Leech’s “The Garfield Orbit” which was unfinished when she died in 1974. Harry Brown completed the biography and it was published in 1978. Some observers have suggested it is superior to Peskin’s biography so I’m particularly curious to see how it compares. But, alas, that may have to wait until 2016. Or later.

    Best Biography of James Garfield: Allan Peskin’s “Garfield: A Biography”

    James A. Garfield

    James Abram Garfield was the twentieth President of the United States.

    Garfield was born on November 19, 1831, in Orange, Ohio. Garfield's father died in 1833, and James spent most of his youth working on a farm to care for his widowed mother. At the age of seventeen, Garfield took a job steering boats on the Ohio and Erie Canal.

    Garfield received minimal schooling in Ohio's common schools. In 1849, he enrolled in the Geauga Seminary in Chester, Ohio. After briefly serving as a teacher, Garfield attended the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (now Hiram College) in Hiram, Ohio. He transferred to Williams College, in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and graduated in 1858. He returned to Hiram College in that same year as a professor of ancient languages and literature. He also served as Hiram's president until the outbreak of the American Civil War. In 1859, Garfield began a political career, winning election to the Ohio Senate as a member of the Republican Party.

    During the Civil War, Garfield resigned his position at Hiram College and joined the Union Army. He began as lieutenant-colonel of the Forty-Second Ohio Volunteer Infantry and fought in the Battles of Shiloh and Chickamauga. He resigned from the army on December 5, 1863, with the rank of major general.

    Garfield resigned his commission because Ohio voters had elected him to the United States House of Representatives. He served nine consecutive terms in the House of Representatives before he was elected President of the United States in 1880. In Congress, Garfield was a supporter of the Radical Republicans. He opposed President Andrew Johnson's lenient policy toward the conquered Southern states and demanded the enfranchisement of African-American men. He was appointed by the Ohio legislature to the United States Senate in January 1880. He declined the office, because he was elected president a few months before he was to claim his seat in the Senate.

    Garfield served for only four months before he was shot by Charles J. Guiteau. Guiteau had sought a political office under Garfield's administration and was refused. Angered by his rejection, Guiteau shot Garfield while the president waited for a train in Washington, DC. Garfield lived for two more months, before dying on September 19, 1881. While Garfield accomplished little as president, his death inspired the United States Congress and his successor, President Chester A. Arthur, to reform the public service system with the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act in 1883. Rather than having the victors in an election appoint unqualified supporters, friends, or family members to positions, the Civil Service was created to assure that at least some office holders were qualified for their positions.


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