How Did President Garfield Die??

Have you ever wondered? President Garfield felled–but not by a bullet!

On July 2, 1881, President James Garfield was shot by a disgruntle federal job seeker, Charles Guiteau. Although nonfatal, these two shots eventually caused President Garfield’s death, due to the lack antiseptic procedures during his treatment. President Garfield’s doctor probed the abdominal wound with his fingers and failed to locate the bullet in his body!

The tragedy of President Garfield was detailed in countless newspapers across the United States in the summer of 1881, which triggered nationwide concerns on causes of infection and protection of public health. This week, our blog will chronicle the assassination of President Garfield by featuring one newspaper illustration every day! Join us for the “live” updates–and then register for a free event!

This unfortunate story will be concluded by our panel, CONVERSATIONS: Presidents, Public Health, and Pre-antiseptic Medicine,  on Thursday, September 15th in the Dittrick Museum/Allen Library Powell Reading Room. Brandy Schillace, PhD and TEDx speaker, will give the history. Eric Rivet, Western Reserve Historical Society Curator of Collections and Exhibits and Scott Frank, Director of CWRU Master of Public Health Program and Director of Shaker Heights Health Department, will join us in the discussion!

mondaySource: Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “The tragedy at Washington — the night-watch before the Executive Mansion.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1881 – 1881. 

On the night of July 8, 1881, worried citizens congregated in front of white house, waiting for news on President Garfield’s health. At 9:30 am on that same day, the President was assassinated by Charles Guiteau at a railroad station in Washington D.C.. On his trip to his Alma Mater, Williams College, for a speech, the President received two shots upon entering the waiting room at the station. However, it was later reported that none of the bullets hit Garfield lethally. Guiteau was arrested before he could walk out of the train station and he soon surrendered to the police.

Although shocked, Garfield remained conscious after the assassination. He was transported back to the White House for medical treatment. In the following months, the regular bulletins issued by the President’s doctors kept the concerned public updated on his health condition. Stay tuned!!