5 Things You Didn't Know About President Garfield

On September 19, 1881, President James A. Garfield, who had been in office just under four months, succumbed to wounds inflicted by an assassin 80 days earlier. Here are 5 things you didn't know about President James Garfield...


Garfield Received Poor Care At The Hospital Garfield was shot by Charles Guiteau, a former Garfield supporter who believed he deserved an ambassadorship in Europe. After his letters were ignored by the Garfield administration, he shot Garfield in the abdomen at a Washington, D.C. train station. Doctors failed in removing the bullet and didn’t bother washing their hands or wearing gloves when sticking their fingers in his wound. The injury worsened and infection set in. Garfield lived for around 80 days and died on this day in 1881. Charles Guiteau was hanged for the crime the following year.

Alexander Graham Bell Attempted to Save His Life Bell was the inventor of the telephone, gramophone, and various medical technologies. He was allowed to see Garfield to use his makeshift metal detector over Garfield's body to try to locate where the bullet was located in the president’s abdomen. Bell was unsuccessful, though he reportedly did manage to detect the metal in the president's mattress.


Three Different Presidents Served in 1881 Only two times in American history have there been three presidents to server in the same year, the first being in 1841.  The three presidents who served in 1841 were Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, and John Tyler. The second time was in 1881 when Rutherford Hayes lost to James Garfield. Garfield only served from March until September 1881 when his vice president, Chester A. Arthur was elevated to the position. 

Garfield Was The Second President To Be Assassinated The first American presidential assassination was that of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865. Garfield was the second but hung on for more than two months before his death. During that 80 day period, he performed only one official act, the signing of an extradition paper.

He Was The First Left Handed President Only eight presidents have favored writing with their left hand, and Garfield was the first, but he was actually ambidextrous. It is rumored that you could ask him a question in English and he could simultaneously write the answer in Greek with one hand and in Latin with the other.  Other left-handed presidents were Barack Obama, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.

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