31 Days of History: 2 July

I was torn between two possibilities for today, so I went for the more Presidential of the two.

On 2 July 1881 (128 years ago today), the 20th President of the United States, James A. Garfield was shot at the Baltimore & Potomac Railroad Passenger Terminal in Washington, DC (The terminal no longer exists—it was demolished in 1908).

He was shot twice by Charles J. Guiteau, who was upset because his repeated attempts to be appointed as the United States consul in Paris—a position for which he had absolutely no qualifications, despite perhaps a silly-sounding French name—were repeatedly denied by Garfield. (Guitea was found guilty of assassinating Garfield, and was executed by hanging on June 30, 1882)

One bullet grazed Garfield's arm; the second bullet lodged in his spine and could not be found, although scientists today think that the bullet was closer to his lung. Alexander Graham Bell devised a metal detector specifically for the purpose of finding the bullet, but the metal bed frame Garfield was lying on made the instrument malfunction. Because metal bed frames were relatively rare, the cause of the instrument's deviation was unknown at the time.

Six months later, Garfield died from complications from his gunshot wound, making him the second of four Presidents to be assassinated (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy).

(In a very creepy side note, Guiteau's bones and more of his brain, along with Garfield's backbone and a couple of ribs, are kept at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in D.C. on the grounds of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center).

In the traffic circle at First Street, S.W., and Maryland Avenue stands the James A. Garfield Monument, designed by John Quincy Adams Ward and unveiled on May 12, 1887. At the top of the pedestal stands a statue of Garfield, surrounded by three figures that represent three earlier stages of his life, the Student, the Warrior, and the Statesmen.

The artist's initials (John Quincy Adams Ward)

The Student

The Warrior

The Statesman

1 comment:

Tim Clarke, Jr. said...


Thank you for the brief mention of the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C. I thought I would offer you and your readers this link http://nmhm.washingtondc.museum/explore/anatifacts/1_garfield.html to a brief presentation of the Museum's artifacts related to President Garfield. While the specimens are not on public display today, we did offer an exhibit in 2006, which is detailed further here http://nmhm.washingtondc.museum/news/james_garfield.html. Again, thank you for your mention of the medical museum.

Tim Clarke, Jr.
NMHM Public Affairs