How did Garfield Die? [Part 5]

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Friday: (Harper’s Magazine, Volume 25, 673)

On September 26, 1881, President Garfield’s body arrived in Cleveland, Ohio, (not far from his home in Mentor). The engraving above shows Garfield’s catafalque, solemnly escorted by honor guards and mourning citizens. Many felt they had lost more than a man; they had lost the promise of equity he represented. At the autopsy after Garfield’s death, people found that the bullet did not strike any major organs, arteries or veins. Today, historians of medicine generally agree that Garfield’s wound was not lethal, but caused by infection introduced, sadly, by his own physician. In the wake of the catastrophe, germ theory gained wider acceptance–and so, perhaps due to Garfield’s sad but high-profile case, more lives were later saved by antiseptic medicine. Garfield was permanently buried at Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland, and his monument still stands as a testament to this chapter of medical history–the transition to modern antiseptic!

How Did President Garfield Die? [Part 4]

Continuing our series on Garfield’s death – join us for the talk Thursday.

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Thursday: (Harper’s Weekly)

On September 19, 1881, President Garfield died in a New Jersey seashore cottage. He only survived 79 days after the shooting, with his weight falling from 225 pounds to only 130 pounds from July to September. Over a dozen doctors had participated in Garfield’s treatment, including many distinguished surgeons like David Hayes Agnew of the University of Pennsylvania, and Frank Hamilton of Bellevue Hospital Medical College. However, Dr. Bliss would  not allow any others to provide their input. His lack of understanding on the antiseptic methods resulted in poor care that would lead ultimately to Garfield’s death. The wood engraving above was published 5 days after the President’s death; a double page spread (and hand colored), it depicts Garfield lying in the state, adorned with white roses.