Four Hundred and Eight Strong

Imagine stepping back in time to an elegant country estate, and standing on a front porch where a presidential candidate once spoke to thousands of people. Envision a quiet island corridor between Put-in-Bay and the Ohio coast, the same place where the naval Battle of Lake Erie was waged over 200 years ago. Picture yourself walking a peaceful riverside trail, where commerce and community formerly thrived upon the Ohio and Erie Canal.

These are just a few of the scenes preserved and protected by the National Park Service (NPS), and the best part is they are all right here in Ohio. And for park rangers, these scenes are just another day at the office!

The National Park Service (NPS) is an agency of the federal government, operating within the Department of the Interior. The parks that make up the system are further divided into 7 regions: Alaska, Intermountain, Midwest, National Capital, Northeast, Pacific West, and Southeast. Ohio falls within the Midwest Region, which includes parks in or near urban areas like Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, varied landscapes such as Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, and historic locations like our own James A. Garfield National Historic Site. James A. Garfield National Historic Site (or JAGA, as it is affectionately abbreviated) is one of 408 National Park Service units across the United States, plus the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Every state has at least one National Park unit (Delaware was the last state to join the list, with the addition of First State National Historical Park, which includes the First State National Monument, in March 2013).

A guided tour of the Garfield home is a must-have experience at James A. Garfield NHS!  Garfield campaigned for president from this home and property in 1880.  (NPS photo)

A guided tour of the Garfield home is a must-have experience at James A. Garfield NHS! Garfield campaigned for president from this home and property in 1880. (NPS photo)

Work within the NPS is generally divided among six main divisions responsible for various aspects of park management. Each division typically includes a chief as well as other management staff who oversee the operations. The division names and functions may vary slightly from one site to another, but the general structure and responsibilities are similar:

Superintendent’s Office

A superintendent and his or her staff oversee all park divisions and activities. This office may also work and communicate with surrounding communities and organizations.

Administrative

The administrative staff manages many functions, including human resources and payroll, budget planning, information technology, property management and acquisition, and purchasing and contracting.

Interpretation, Education, and Visitor Services

IEVS rangers are the staff with whom visitors are most likely to interact on a visit. Interpretive rangers can be found working in visitor centers, leading tours and guided hikes, presenting educational programs to students, supervising volunteers, and organizing special events. Interpretive rangers are also busy behind the scenes, planning programs, creating brochures and park literature, and keeping the park’s website and social media accounts current.

Maintenance

Maintenance employees are responsible for upkeep of the park and its facilities, whether that is cleaning and servicing the buildings and grounds used by the public, constructing and maintaining trails, or keeping areas cleared of snow in the winter months. Some maintenance staff members, like automotive technicians, work on specialized projects depending on the needs of the site.

Visitor and Resource Protection

Visitor and resource protection Rangers are the law enforcement division of a park. These rangers are trained in first aid and incident response, so that in an emergency, they can quickly reach a victim or situation and assist. They also maintain internal communications, such as radio traffic, weather-related news, and employee contact information, and monitor park security systems.

Resource and Visitor Protection park rangers are commissioned federal law enforcement officers.  They ensure that visitors can safely enjoy their national parks and that resources are protected from damage, poaching, metal detecting, harvesting, and other illegal activities.  (NPS photo)

Resource and Visitor Protection Park Rangers are commissioned federal law enforcement officers. They ensure that visitors can safely enjoy their national parks and that resources are protected from damage, poaching, metal detecting, harvesting, and other illegal activities. (NPS photo)

Resource Management

Each park within NPS has a unique set of resources, which could include historical buildings or structures, original artifacts or documents, and natural features. Resource management could involve ecosystem management, such as invasive species or water quality monitoring, or protection of cultural and historical resources, like curating a museum collection or archaeological artifacts.

Although tasks and projects are divided amongst divisions, cooperation between them is essential in order for parks to function well. Beyond these park-level divisions, there are also regional offices for each of the seven regions. These regional offices report to the Washington, D.C. offices, the highest level in the park’s organization. Regional offices may handle affairs that cannot be handled internally at the park level, while the Washington offices handle matters at the nationwide level.

Some visitors are also curious about how one comes to work for the National Park Service in the first place. While working in or visiting a park, you might encounter people with all sorts of educational backgrounds: natural resource management, biology, fisheries and wildlife, history, social science/anthropology, park and recreation management, law enforcement, museum studies, business administration, public administration, or any number of other degrees. Many park employees begin their careers as seasonal staff or interns. Still others have worked in a variety of other industries or environments, such as experience as an educator, military veteran, outdoor recreation instructor, or park volunteer, before joining the staff.

NPS in Ohio
Ohio is home to eight National Park Service units:

  • Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument (Wilberforce)
  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Cleveland-Akron)
  • Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park (Dayton)
  • First Ladies National Historic Site (Canton)
  • Hopewell Culture National Historical Park (Chillicothe)
  • James A. Garfield National Historic Site (Mentor)
  • Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial (Put-in-Bay)
  • William Howard Taft National Historic Site (Cincinnati)

Not included on this list are some of the other NPS designations that are affiliated with the National Park Service (for example, the North Country National Scenic Trail, which runs through Ohio as well as six other states).

Ohio is the birthplace or home of eight U.S. presidents!  Two of them--James A. Garfield and William Howard Taft--have National Historic Sites in the state.  This is William Howard Taft National Historic Site in Cincinnati.  (NPS photo)

Ohio is the birthplace or home of eight U.S. presidents! Two of them–James A. Garfield and William Howard Taft–have National Historic Sites in the state. This is William Howard Taft National Historic Site in Cincinnati. (NPS photo)

Types of NPS Units

Keeping track of all the different designations can be a little confusing, but not to worry—just focus on learning something, having fun, and enjoying your visit! It is helpful, though, to know a little bit about the different types of parks, so you can know some of what to expect when you take your next visit (examples of each designation are in parentheses):

National Park (Acadia)

With 59 units, National Parks are some of the most recognizable and well-known units of NPS. These are generally large, natural places having a wide variety of attributes, often including significant historic or cultural elements. Hunting, mining, and consumptive activities (like collecting fossils or plants) are not authorized within units of this variety.

This Park Ranger is observing wildlife at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.  The Park Ranger hat and uniform are almost as iconic as the landscapes and places of historical significance that Rangers interpret and protect!  (NPS photo)

This Park Ranger is observing wildlife at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. The Park Ranger hat and uniform are almost as iconic as the landscapes and places of historical significance that Rangers interpret and protect! (NPS photo)

National Monument (Fort Sumter)

A National Monument could be something constructed (like a statue or fort) or something natural (such as a geologic feature). Devils Tower in Wyoming was the first national monument, established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. The Antiquities Act earlier that year authorized the president to declare landmarks, structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest as national monuments.

National Preserve (Big Cypress)

National preserves are similar to national parks, but allow a wider range of activities within their borders, such as hunting, trapping, and oil extraction. Many existing national preserves, without sport hunting, would qualify for national park designation.

National Historic Site (Clara Barton)

Usually, a national historic site contains a single, historical feature that was directly associated with its subject. Beginning with the Historic Sites Act of 1935, a number of historic sites were established by Secretaries of the Interior, but most have been authorized by Congress.

National Historical Park (Cane River Creole)

Similar to a national historic site, historical parks may center on a particular building or place, but extend into the surrounding area and the associated structures and places.

National Memorial (Mount Rushmore)

A national memorial is commemorative of a historic person or episode, but is specific in that it does not necessarily occupy a site historically or geographically connected with the subject.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota is among the nation's best-known and most-visited national memorials.  (NPS photo)

Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota is among the nation’s best-known and most-visited national memorials. (NPS photo)

National Battlefield (Antietam)

This umbrella title includes national battlefield, national battlefield park, national battlefield site, and national military park.

National Cemetery (Poplar Grove, part of Petersburg National Battlefield)

There are 14 national cemeteries in the National Park System, all of which are administered in conjunction with an associated park unit and are not accounted for separately.

Gettysburg National Cemetery is part of Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.  It was at the dedication of this cemetery that President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863.  (NPS photo)

Gettysburg National Cemetery is part of Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. It was at the dedication of this cemetery that President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863. (NPS photo)

National Recreation Area (Santa Monica Mountains)

Recreation areas are generally found on a large body of water (it could be an unnatural lake, such as Lake Mead) that provides opportunities for aquatic activities like swimming, kayaking, and fishing, and/or they are located near a highly urban area. Like national parks, they often combine historical, cultural, and recreational resources.

National Seashores (Cape Cod), Lakeshores (Apostle Islands), and Rivers (Mississippi)

Ten national seashores have been established on the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts, some developed and some relatively primitive. Hunting is allowed at many of these sites. National lakeshores, all located on the Great Lakes, are very similar to national seashores in terms of use.

National rivers include subcategories, like national river and recreation area, national scenic river, and wild river, to name a few. The first, Ozark National Scenic Riverways in Missouri, was authorized in 1964 and others were established following passage of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968.

National Parkway (Blue Ridge)

Parkway refers to a roadway and the adjacent parkland. Parkways are intended for scenic motoring along a protected corridor and often connect cultural sites.

This is a commemorative poster from Blue Ridge Parkway's 75th anniversary back in 2010.  We love the retro look of this poster!  (www.rangerdoug.com)

This is a commemorative poster from Blue Ridge Parkway’s 75th anniversary back in 2010. We love the retro look of this poster! (www.rangerdoug.com)

National Trail (Ice Age National Scenic Trail)

National scenic trails and national historic trails are the titles given to these linear parklands (over 3,600 miles) authorized under the National Trails System Act of 1968. National trails often cross the boundaries of several states within a wider region, and may intersect other park sites.

Other Designations

Some units of the National Park System have unique designations, like the President’s Park (White House), Prince William Forest Park, and City of Rocks National Reserve. Some parks, like Denali in Alaska, combine two designations (National Park and Preserve), while others, like Cuyahoga Valley, were authorized to change their official designation at some point (from National Recreation Area to National Park).

Finally, NPS also helps to manage, through providing technical and financial support, other historically significant, affiliated sites that may or may not fit within the official count of NPS units:

National Historic Landmarks are nationally significant, historic places designated as such by the Secretary of the Interior. To date, there are over 2,500 NHLs across the United States. The National Park Service helps to guide this process and assists with existing sites. The James A. Garfield home is both a National Historic Landmark as well as a National Park Service site.

National Register of Historic Places is the most inclusive category. Sites on this list number over 85,000. The National Park Service administers the NRHP, which includes historic districts as well as individual sites such as parks, town halls, hotels, residences, schools, churches, post offices, theatres, bridges, hospitals, farms, submarines, mills, research facilities, industrial plants, armories, and more. These sites can be federally, privately, or locally owned and operated. All National Historic Sites and National Historical Parks are on this register.

Remember to keep an eye out for the iconic arrowhead logo–you’ll know that you’ve found a National Park!

The Arrowhead is the official logo of the National Park Service.  Look for it on your travels around the country!  There are 408 units of the National Park System to visit, learn from, and enjoy!  (NPS)

The Arrowhead is the official logo of the National Park Service. Look for it on your travels around the country! There are 408 units of the National Park System to visit, learn from, and enjoy! (NPS)

-Katelin McArdle, Park Ranger

Mourning President Garfield

“The waves of emotion that swept over the country, moreover, were fed not only by the fact that America’s president had been attacked…but that that president had been Garfield.”
-Candice Millard, Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President
President James A. Garfield was only in office just four short months before Charles Guiteau’s attempted assassination. While his time as President was brief, his effect on the nation was not. Out of the many things that stand out about James A. Garfield, his effect on the nation is one that must not be over looked. His death has been compared that of John F. Kennedy. Both were bright, articulate, hopeful presidents who had set out to unite America.
On July 2, 1881, President Garfield became the second president to be shot. Walking through Washington, D.C.’s Baltimore & Potomac train station, heading toward his New England-bound train, President Garfield was shot twice by Charles Guiteau, a man who until recently had hoped to work for the President.

Charles Guiteau shot President James A. Garfield on July 2, 1881.  Secretary of State James G. Blaine was standing next to the President when Guiteau attacked.  Secretary of War Robert T. Lincoln was about 40 feet away and walking toward Blaine and Garfield.  (

Charles Guiteau shot President James A. Garfield on July 2, 1881. Secretary of State James G. Blaine was standing next to the President when Guiteau attacked. Secretary of War Robert T. Lincoln was about 40 feet away and walking toward Blaine and Garfield. (Library of Congress)

In 1881, Presidents did not have guards surrounding them or security escorts when traveling. Americans believed the President should be accessible to everyone. The only guard between the President and the people when he was at the White House was his secretary, Joseph Stanley- Brown. Even President Garfield, desperate to cling to any remaining freedoms after taking office, argued that he needed no more protection than the average American.
This mindset, the ability to relate with the general public, was one of the things the nation loved about Garfield. He was human to them, someone with whom nearly everyone could identify. He had grown up in extreme poverty in northern Ohio. His father had died young, and that left only his mother to raise him and his older siblings. He attended school, much of which he paid for by working before and after his classes. Entering the army during the Civil War, he rose up the ranks to become a Major General, only leaving to take a seat in Congress to which his fellow Ohioans had elected him while he fought. However, he remained a farmer and a family man, constantly challenging his children both physically and intellectually. These facts made him different than many of the presidents before him. His life story made him relatable to the average citizen. He welcomed all to his farm in Mentor, Ohio. During his campaign he spoke to all with the same tone of respect, regardless of their place in society.

1880 view of the Garfield home and property, which became the focal point of Garfield's 1880 presidential campaign. (Wash drawing by delineator L.C. Corwine, Library of Congress)

1880 view of the Garfield home and property, which became the focal point of Garfield’s 1880 presidential campaign. (Wash drawing by delineator L.C. Corwine, Library of Congress)

It was Garfield as a person, not a president, that made his death heartbreaking to many Americans. With his death, Americans united with a common feeling of loss, and a common sense of patriotism that had not been seen since before the Civil War, if ever before that.
For many, President Garfield represented not just who America was, but also what it hoped to become. With his death, Americans lost the figurehead they had made Garfield, and that loss was felt by all, regardless of race, gender, or statehood. He was someone who would not tolerate discrimination but also managed to make many in the South feel as though the government was their government, too. This was something they had not felt in years. His background allowed him to connect to the pioneers heading west, while also relating to the immigrants arriving from the east. James A. Garfield was someone that many Americans not only trusted, but loved almost as family.
For 80 days, from the shooting on July 2 to his death on September 19, the public read every newspaper and waited for each bulletin from the President’s doctors hoping for news of Garfield’s recovery. With the announcement of his death, the entire nation mourned, and many traveled to the Washington, D.C. Over 100,000 people went to the nation’s capital to view the President’s body. Everyone from poor farmers to wealthy women and African American laborers came to pay their respects. Mollie Garfield, the president’s daughter wrote in her diary about how the whole city was covered in black. From the White House to the poorest homes, the city was in full mourning. Many who could not afford anything more tore up black clothing and hung it in their windows.

The White House with mourning decorations in September 1881, after the death of President James A. Garfield.  (Library of Congress)

The White House with mourning decorations in September 1881, after the death of President James A. Garfield. (Library of Congress)

Americans were not inactive in their mourning. Over $300,000 was raised to help Lucretia and her children. Hundreds of people wrote letters sending their condolences to Lucretia, many of which she kept in the Memorial Library she created after her husband’s death. Large amounts of memorabilia for the late president were also made, and could be seen in many homes across the country. His monument at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio was one of the biggest and most elaborate mausoleums of its time. People wanted a lasting memorial to Garfield, much like his wife wanted when she created the Memorial Library at their home in Mentor.

Lucretia Garfield had the Memorial Library constructed in 1885-86 to preserve her husband's book collection and memory for herself and their children.  She added the

Lucretia Garfield had the Memorial Library constructed in 1885-86 to preserve her husband’s book collection and memory for herself and their children. She added the “Memory Room” to store the papers of his public career, thus creating the nation’s first presidential library. (NPS photo)

Garfield was the last president to be born in a log cabin. He was the last of many things, but the first of many more. More important than any of Garfield’s achievements during his brief presidency was the impact he had on the American people. His death truly united citizens as Americans. A man who in life had made everyone feel welcome in the United States in death made them feel as though they truly were the United States.

-Rachel Gluvna, Volunteer

Six Unusual Abraham Lincoln Facts and Rumors, Part II

  • Abraham Lincoln was an enthusiast of General Zachary Taylor.

Zachary Taylor would only serve for a brief sixteen months as President of the United States until his untimely death. On July 4, 1850, after consuming large quantities of green apples and cherries with cold milk on a hot day in Washington, he became severely ill with gastroenteritis. He became progressively worse until he died on the night of July 9, 1850. Before his death, it is said his last noble words were, “I have always done my duty. I am ready to die. My only regret is for the friends I leave behind me.”

Before he was president, he led a distinguished career as a general in the Mexican- American War. He delivered crushing blows to the Mexican Army at the battles of Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, Monterrey, and Buena Vista, gaining him national fame. Taylor was endeared to his men and junior officers for his modest attitude, fortitude, selflessness, and care for their welfare that also transcended to the public. His name became linked to George Washington and Andrew Jackson, viewed as a man of the people who took up the sword to protect the freedom of all Americans.

Zachary Taylor gained fame as an American commander during the Mexican-American War.  He won the presidency as a Whig in 1848 and died in office in July 1850.  Abraham Lincoln was a Whig before becoming a Republican in the 1850s.  (Library of Congress)

Zachary Taylor gained fame as an American commander during the Mexican-American War. He won the presidency as a Whig in 1848 and died in office in July 1850. Abraham Lincoln was a Whig before becoming a Republican in the 1850s. (Library of Congress)

On July 25, 1850, the forty-one year old Illinois Congressman, Abraham Lincoln, was asked to present the eulogy for the deceased general and president. In his eulogy, he pronounced that Taylor’s most admirable trait was his “dogged incapacity to understand that defeat was possible.”  Lincoln stated that, “His rarest military trait, was a combination of negatives—absence of excitement and absence of fear. He could not be flurried, and he could not be scared.”  Lincoln acclaimed Taylor had a knack to defy any odds stacked up against him, “It did not happen to Gen. Taylor once in his life, to fight a battle on equal terms, or on terms advantageous to himself—and yet he was never beaten, and never retreated. In all, the odds was greatly against him; in each, defeat seemed inevitable; and yet in all, he triumphed.”

Ulysses S. Grant was also an avid admirer of Zachary Taylor, serving as a young lieutenant in his army during the Mexican-American War. Grant commendably declared, “No soldier could face either danger or responsibility more calmly than he.” Grant stated that he most admired Taylor because of his simplicity, lack of pretension, and directness of expression. He specified that these qualities are more rarely found than genius or physical courage. It is though-provoking to wonder that while Grant slugged away with General Lee in the spring of 1864, if his distinguished calm bearing and casual appearance described by fellow officers was emulated from his old idol.

  • Abraham Lincoln considered two promising candidates for command of the Army of the Potomac before the battle of Gettysburg in 1863. 

It took President Lincoln until 1864 to find the right commander to lead his Union armies. Is it possible he had the opportunity to select an efficient leader beforehand? The unsuccessful generals appointed to high command in the East Theater of the war read like a laundry list (McDowell, McClellan, Fremont, Banks, Pope, Burnside, and Hooker). Listed below are two possible candidates rumored to have been offered command of the Army of the Potomac, both killed before the end of the war. 

Major General John Fulton Reynolds (1820-1863)

Admiring Reynolds after the war, General Winfield Scott Hancock noted that, “I may take this occasion to state that, in my opinion, there was no officer in the Army of the Potomac who developed a character for usefulness and ability, in the highest grades of command, superior to that of General Reynolds, and had he lived to the close of the war he would most probably have attained the highest honor in that army.”

Reynolds graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1841, and later served in the Mexican-American War. He was brevetted to captain for gallantry at Monterrey and Buena Vista. By 1863, the “soldier general” had risen through the ranks of the Army of the Potomac to the command of the First Corps.

Lincoln offered the command of the Army of the Potomac to Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds before the battle of Gettysburg.  Fearing he would face too much political interference from Washington, Reynolds did not accept.  (Library of Congress)

Lincoln offered the command of the Army of the Potomac to Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds before the battle of Gettysburg. Fearing he would face too much political interference from Washington, Reynolds did not accept. (Library of Congress)

Following the defeat at Chancellorsville in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln contemplated the removal of Major General Joseph Hooker, the current commander of the Army of the Potomac. On May 31, Reynolds, whom Hooker described as “the ablest man officer under me,” took leave and travelled to Washington to discuss the leadership of the Army of the Potomac with Lincoln. He was most likely selected to meet with Lincoln due to his high esteem among his colleagues, and his reputation for staying out of politics. When bluntly asked by Lincoln if he would be interested in command of the Army of the Potomac, Reynolds made it apparent that unless he was given free rein from political control, he would prefer to decline. Unable at the time to comply with his demands, Lincoln reluctantly ordered the recommended choice of Reynolds, General George G. Meade, to replace Hooker on June 28.

On the morning of July 1, 1863, Reynolds was commanding the “left wing” of the Army of the Potomac, on its march toward Gettysburg. He was supervising the placement of the Second Wisconsin Regiment, when a rebel bullet smashed into the back of his head, killing him instantly. When Meade heard of the death of Reynolds, he was almost brought to tears. It is fascinating to wonder how history may have been altered if the aggressively-minded Reynolds had been in command of the Army of the Potomac following the defeat of General Lee at Gettysburg.

Major General Israel Bush Richardson (1815-1862)

Israel Richardson graduated in the same West Point class as Reynolds, the class contributing twenty-three generals to the war. He served in both the Seminole Indian War in Florida and the Mexican-American War. He earned the nickname “Fighting Dick” during the Mexican-American War for his fortitude in battle. Richardson, also a “soldier’s general” had risen from regimental command to division command by 1862. He was said to have a voice that “rang out above the shrilling of trumpets.” While in battle, he was remembered to have “went under fire with as much nonchalance as ordinary people go to breakfast.”

During the battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862, Richardson’s division was tasked with breaking the Confederate center at the Sunken Road. While supervising his artillery fire near the front, he was gravely wounded from an enemy shell fragment.

Following the battle of Antietam, President Lincoln arrived to meet with General McClellan. He was visibly frustrated with the cautiousness McClellan exhibited in following up to destroy Robert E. Lee’s army. The displeased president felt that the Army of the Potomac acted only as “McClellan’s bodyguard.” On October 4, Lincoln made a special visit to the wounded Richardson, who was housed at McClellan’s HQ.

Gen. Israel B. Richardson was a West Point graduate and Mexican-American War veteran.  He was wounded by a shell fragment at the September 1862 battle of Antietam and died two months later.  (Wikipedia)

Gen. Israel B. Richardson was a West Point graduate and Mexican-American War veteran. He was wounded by a shell fragment at the September 1862 battle of Antietam and died two months later. (Wikipedia)

Captain Charles Stuart Draper, one of Richardson’s aides, was also wounded and housed in the same bedroom as Richardson. Draper recalled the conversation that took place between Richardson and Lincoln. He claimed that Richardson spoke to Lincoln on such topics as the future of the nation, and that he gave his opinions on strategy and army personnel. They also spoke on the cautiousness of McClellan. Draper recorded that during their conversation, Lincoln assured Richardson, that if he lived, he would be selected to succeed McClellan in command of the Army of the Potomac.

If Draper’s testimony holds true, Lincoln would have certainly found his “fighting general” as early as 1862. However, on November 3, Richardson died of his wounds. Remarkably, Lincoln waited almost six weeks until the death of Richardson before convincing the timid Ambrose Burnside to take the job. The consequence of this selection ended in the December 13, 1862 battle of Fredericksburg and the useless waste of 12,000 Union soldiers’ lives.

  • President Lincoln offered the Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi a field command. 

In the summer of 1861, Abraham Lincoln was interested in seeing if the Italian revolutionary leader Giuseppe Garibaldi would be willing to offer his services to the Union cause. Garibaldi would be able to play a critical role in the war effort by helping to “lend the power of his name, his genius, and his sword to the Northern cause.” Garibaldi was internationally known as the “Hero of Two Worlds” taking part in revolutionary movements in South America and Italy. In 1860, Garibaldi had led his “red shirts” in military campaigns on the Italian mainland hoping to initiate the formation of a unified Italy.

President Lincoln thought he might lure Garibaldi to the United States to fight for the Union, but Garibaldi's demands were far too high.  America would have no Italian Lafayette during the Civil War.  (Wikipedia)

President Lincoln thought he might lure Garibaldi to the United States to fight for the Union, but Garibaldi’s demands–including immediate emancipation of slaves–were far too high. America would have no Italian Lafayette during the Civil War. (Wikipedia)

Rumors began to circulate in Union newspapers that Garibaldi was on his way to take command of the Union army by 1861. James W. Quiggle, the American consul in Belgium, sent a letter to Garibaldi in June 1861 presenting this interest. He stated that “the papers report that you are going to the United States to join the Army of the North in the conflict of my country. If you do, the name of La Fayette will not surpass yours. There are thousands of Italians and Hungarians who will rush to join your ranks and there are thousands and tens of thousands of Americans who will glory to be under the command of the ‘Washington of Italy.’” Garibaldi politely denied such a claim, but the thought of it appealed to the Italian general.

In the end, Garibaldi’s demands were too much for the Lincoln administration. Garibaldi wanted to be appointed to the supreme command of all the Union armies, ranking even above the aging Lieutenant General Winfield Scott. The Lincoln administration was only willing to offer him the rank of major general. He also demanded that all slaves in North American be immediately emancipated. He desired to wage a war for equal rights in North America. Emancipation was not of primary importance to President Lincoln this early in the war. The love affair between the Italian revolutionary and the American public was not meant to be.

-Frank Jastrzembski, Volunteer

Six Unusual Abraham Lincoln Facts and Rumors, Part I

Abraham Lincoln is one of the most studied individuals in human history and is ranked by most historians as the greatest American president.  He and James A. Garfield knew one another; in fact, President Lincoln may have encouraged Garfield to resign from the Union Army and take a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in late 1863 when Garfield was trying to decide between staying in the Army or going to Congress.

President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.  (Library of Congress)

President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. (Library of Congress)

Here are some interesting, fun, and little-known tidbits about Abraham Lincoln.

  • Abraham Lincoln presented a pair of engraved Colt pistols to a revolutionary Algerian religious and military leader.

Abd el-Kader (1808-1883) was a religious and military leader who led the struggle against French colonialism in Algeria during the 1830s-1840s. He delivered a number of stunning defeats to the French Army, and forced them to commit a tremendous amount of manpower and material to suppress his revolution. After he was finally captured and imprisoned, he renounced the war and was later pardoned by Napoleon III. He was exiled to Damascus to live out the remainder of his life.

In July 1860, conflict erupted in Damascus between the Muslim and Christian populations. The Christian quarter was targeted and attacked, leading to the deaths of nearly 3,000 people. Abd el-Kader had previously warned the French consul of an imminent eruption of violence. When violence broke out, the Muslim former freedom fighter sheltered large numbers of Christians, including the heads of several foreign consulates, in his own home. He sent his eldest sons into the streets to offer any surviving Christians shelter. Many survivors testified that Abd el-Kader was instrumental in saving them from certain death.

Reports soon spread through the Christian world of the prominent role Abd el-Kader had played in sheltering the Christian refugees. The international community applauded his effort. The French government bestowed on him the Legion of Honor, and the Order of Pius IX was given to him from the Vatican. Two Colt pistols were delivered from Abraham Lincoln to Abd el-Kader in a box made of bird’s eye maple bearing the inscription, “From the President of the United States, to his Excellency, Lord Abdelkader.” They are currently on display in an Algerian museum.

These two Colt pistols were delivered to Algerian leader Abd el-Kader from Abraham Lincoln.  (Wikipedia)

These two Colt pistols were delivered to Algerian leader Abd el-Kader from Abraham Lincoln. (Wikipedia)

  • Abraham Lincoln offered the Texas governor and former general, Sam Houston, a commission as a major general and command of all the U.S. forces in Texas. 

The man that had fought so hard to bring Texas into the Union twenty-six years before appealed to his fellow Texans to not let it secede in 1861. The pro-union governor of Texas, Sam Houston, refused to swear allegiance to Confederacy and was subsequently unseated from his position. Before he was removed from office, Abraham Lincoln had attempted to win Sam Houston over to the Union cause. Abraham Lincoln sent a secret message to Houston offering military assistance, carried by George H. Giddings, a San Antonio merchant. The message revealed that President Lincoln was offering to appoint Houston a major general in the United States Army. He also authorized Houston to recruit 100,000 men, and if possible, hold Texas in the Union until naval and army support arrived. 

Houston summoned four of his closest friends together at his mansion and read them Lincoln’s offer. Only one of the men advised him to accept Lincoln’s commission and attempt to hold Texas in the Union. Following the advice of his other three friends, the 68-year old Houston tossed the letter into the fireplace. He then proclaimed, “Gentlemen, I have resolved to act in this manner on your advice, but if I was ten years younger I would not.” In an attempt to avoid bloody conflict on the subject of secession in Texas, Houston and his wife quietly left for Huntsville, Texas. Houston soon after died there on July 26, 1863.

In a speech on April 19, 1861, Houston had forewarned a crowd of the destruction that the war would bring to the South. “Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win Southern independence if God be not against you, but I doubt it.”

This image of Sam Houston was taken around 1859, just two years before the start of the Civil War.  (National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)

This image of Sam Houston was taken around 1859, just two years before the start of the Civil War. (National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)

  • Abraham Lincoln nearly fought a broadsword duel! 

In 1842, Abraham Lincoln became engaged in a heated debate with James Shields over the defaulted state bank in Illinois. In one instance, Lincoln publically accused Shields of womanizing. Lincoln stated, “His very features, in the ecstatic agony of his soul, spoke audibly and distinctly–Dear girls, it is distressing, but I cannot marry you all. Too well I know how much you suffer; but do, do remember, it is not my fault that I am so handsome and so interesting.” Public slandering was viciously conducted between the two politicians.

This caused the hot-headed Shields to challenge Lincoln to a duel. The duel was scheduled to be held in Missouri, where dueling was still legal. Since Lincoln was challenged by Shields, he was allowed to choose the weapons used in the duel. Lincoln’s first choice was a cavalry broadsword! This choice did have some rational foundation. Lincoln was aware that he would be able to handle a broadsword better than a pistol. He stated, “I didn’t want the d—-d fellow to kill me, which I think he would have done if we had selected pistols.” Lincoln,who stood 6’4″ tall, against Shields at 5’9″ tall, would hold the advantage with the cumbersome weapon.

On September 22, the combatants met at Bloody Island, Missouri. In a demonstration before the duel was scheduled to commence, Lincoln swung his sword high above his head and sliced a tree branch in two. This act was mean to display the immensity of Lincoln’s reach and strength to the smaller, but fearless, Shields. The men eventually surrendered to reason, and the two level-headed men called a truce.

James Shields, who nearly fought a broadsword duel with Abraham Lincoln.  (National Archives)

James Shields, who nearly fought a broadsword duel with Abraham Lincoln. (National Archives)

Shields would go on the serve as a general in the Mexican-American War, where he was severely wounded at the battle of Cerro Gordo in 1847. He also served as a general in the American Civil War (appointed by Lincoln), where he was also gravely wounded at the battle of Kernstown in 1862. When a naïve army officer questioned Lincoln about the incident in 1865, he was said to have replied, “If you desire my friendship, you will never mention it again.” It would be interesting to wonder how history would have been altered if Lincoln would have killed Shields, or vice versa. Lincoln would not have been the only future president to have killed a man in a duel. That honor was bestowed on Andrew Jackson.

(Check back soon for Part II of this article!)

-Frank Jastrzembski, Volunteer

James A. Garfield and the Lincoln Assassination

One hundred and fifty years ago, on April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth committed what many consider the last tragic and violent act of the American Civil War.  That evening, he snuck into the presidential box at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., where President and Mrs. Abraham Lincoln were enjoying the third act of the comedy Our American Cousin.  Booth was a well-known actor from a family of well-known actors, and he had little trouble gaining access to the box.  He drew a small Derringer pistol, pointed it at the back of Lincoln’s head, and pulled the trigger.

As the theater erupted into noise and chaos, Booth leapt from the box onto the stage, supposedly screaming “sic semper tyrannis” (thus always to tyrants) as he jumped.  Despite breaking his leg when he landed, Booth escaped.  He was tracked down and killed by federal troops in Virginia almost two weeks later.  The mortally wounded President Abraham Lincoln was carried across the street to the Petersen House, where he died about nine hours after being shot.  His hopes and plans for a lenient, easy Reconstruction of the South died with him.  Radical Republicans in Congress quickly wrested control of Reconstruction from President Andrew Johnson and inflicted a harsh, punitive program on the South that led to more than a century of hard feelings and distrust.

John Wilkes Booth murdered President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865.  Booth hailed from Maryland and was a Confederate sympathizer.  His plan to avenge the South by killing Lincoln failed since Lincoln intended to offer the South a lenient Reconstruction policy.  Lincoln's death allowed Radical Republicans in Congress to impose a harsh, punitive Reconstruction instead.  (Wikipedia Commons)

John Wilkes Booth murdered President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. Booth hailed from Maryland and was a Confederate sympathizer. His plan to avenge the South by killing Lincoln failed since Lincoln intended to offer the South a lenient Reconstruction policy. Lincoln’s death allowed Radical Republicans in Congress to impose a harsh, punitive Reconstruction instead. (Wikipedia Commons)

James A. Garfield was a 33-year old freshman congressman when Lincoln was murdered.  A former Union general, Garfield had been nominated by Ohio Republicans and won election to the House of Representatives while still in the field with the army.  He left the military at the end of 1863 to take his seat in the House.  On April 14, 1865, Garfield was on a trip to New York City.  He learned of Lincoln’s death the next morning and wrote to his wife, Lucretia: “I am sick at heart, and feel it to be almost like sacrilege to talk of money or business now.”  Though Garfield had disagreed with President Lincoln on several issues, he was clearly distressed by the violent death of the man whose leadership had seen the United States through its darkest days.

Over the years, a story emerged about Garfield’s actions in New York after learning of Lincoln’s death.  Like so many other places across the North, New York City was in chaos after the news of the President’s murder began to spread.  Anger, sadness, and fear gripped many of the city’s residents as suspicions of a conspiracy and the expectation of more killings ran rampant.  Supposedly, a mob of some 50,000 people filled Wall Street and screamed for the heads of southern sympathizers.  As the story goes, the crowd had just resolved to destroy the offices of The World, a Democratic newspaper, when a single figure appeared above them on a balcony and began to speak:  “Fellow citizens!  Clouds and darkness are round about Him!  His pavilion is dark waters and thick clouds of the skies!  Justice and judgment are the establishment of His throne!  Mercy and truth shall go before His face!  Fellow citizens!  God reigns, and the Government at Washington still lives!”

These are the words supposedly spoken that day by Congressman James A. Garfield.  A supposed eyewitness to this event reported “The effect was tremendous,” and that Garfield’s words brought calm to the crowd (and saved The World’s office from destruction, one assumes).  This witness then turned to someone close to ask who the speaker was, and was told, “It is General Garfield of Ohio!”

James A. Garfield entered the Union army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1861.  In December 1863, Major General Garfield left the army to enter the U.S. House of Representatives.  He wore his general's uniform when he first arrived in Congress.  In April 1865, Garfield was in New York City when he learned of Lincoln's assassination.  (Dickinson College)

James A. Garfield entered the Union army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1861. In December 1863, Major General Garfield left the army to enter the U.S. House of Representatives. He wore his general’s uniform when he first arrived in Congress. In April 1865, Garfield was in New York City when he learned of Lincoln’s assassination. (Dickinson College)

This story became famous and, as historian Allan Peskin relates, “an enduring aspect of the Garfield mythology.”  Regularly re-told by newspapers under the heading “Garfield Stills the Mob,” it was widely circulated in Garfield’s later political campaigns, including his 1880 run for the presidency.  Sadly and ironically, it was also regularly mentioned in memorial pieces after Garfield was, like Lincoln, murdered by an assassin.  However, like so many great stories, there is little reliable evidence to suggest that it happened as reported.

Several things about the story make it unlikely to be completely true.  First and foremost, despite being a lifelong diarist and letter writer, James A. Garfield himself never mentioned it.  Surely some version of it would have made it into a letter or diary entry at some point.  There was also no spoken or written tradition within the Garfield family that lent any authority to this event.  (Garfield himself may have elected not to discount the story after he saw how valuable it was during campaigns.)  Secondly, the same story with nearly the same quotes from Garfield later gained traction as having taken place during the Gold Panic of 1869.  James A. Garfield was nowhere near New York City during that event, but eyewitnesses still claimed to have watched him speak from a balcony and calm thousands of panicked stockbrokers.  Finally, Garfield’s eldest son, Harry A. Garfield, tried unsuccessfully to authenticate the story by searching the archives of New York newspapers.  Allan Peskin writes: “Both the Tribune and the Herald covered the Wall Street meeting and gave what purported to be verbatim accounts of a speech delivered by Garfield.  Although both versions contain echoes of the famous speech, neither version matches the eloquence or brevity of the speech of the legend, nor is there any indication that Garfield’s words pacified an angry mob although, according to the Herald, a lynch mob was calmed shortly before the meeting by Moses Grinnell.”

New Yorkers reading the New York Herald were greeted by this Saturday, April 15, 1865 front page announcing the murder of President Abraham Lincoln.  Supposedly, James A. Garfield "stilled the mob" later that day with a speech that, in all likelihood, he did not actually deliver but that has grown over time  to be part of the Garfield legend.  (historicpages.com)

New Yorkers reading the New York Herald were greeted by this Saturday, April 15, 1865 front page announcing the murder of President Abraham Lincoln. Supposedly, James A. Garfield “stilled the mob” later that day with a speech that, in all likelihood, he did not actually deliver but that has grown over time to be part of the Garfield legend. (historicpages.com)

So what are we to make of this story?  In all likelihood, it is just that: a story.  Garfield may very well have offered a few words to the New York crowd that day, but the image of him calming an angry mob with religious allegories and assurances that the federal government would survive the calamity of Lincoln’s death is very likely a myth.  Like so many events in history, the story took on a life of its own, especially when Garfield became both a presidential candidate and then a martyred leader.  While the story makes Garfield a more appealing and attractive historical figure, it ultimately does him a disservice by making us appreciate him for something that never happened.  There is plenty to admire about James Garfield; we don’t need apocryphal stories to make him more appealing.

-Todd Arrington, Chief of Interpretation & Education

Finding History’s Forgotten Women with the National Register of Historic Places, Part II

To conclude Women’s History Month, we have one more forgotten woman to re-acquaint ourselves with: Anna Mary Robertson Moses. Readers may not recognize this accomplished artist by her formal name, but if I share her nickname, “Grandma Moses”, many might recall this sprightly American folk painter whose artwork was popularized during the mid-twentieth century.

Anna Mary Robertson Moses called herself "Grandma Moses" and began to paint later in life just for something to do.  She soon gained national fame for her paintings.  (Wikipedia)

Anna Mary Robertson Moses called herself “Grandma Moses” and began to paint later in life just for something to do. She soon gained national fame for her paintings. (Wikipedia)

Grandma Moses, a self-proclaimed moniker when she had grandchildren, briefly dabbled in the arts before her husband Thomas’s death. It was only when her hand became too arthritic that her sister Celestia suggested that Anna start to paint instead. Anna followed her advice. One statement of hers that is often quoted is that if she hadn’t started painting, she would’ve raised chickens; meaning that painting was something just to keep herself occupied. She gave away her paintings or occasionally sold them to local stores as décor for $5.

"Joyride," by Grandma Moses, 1953.  (www.theartnewspaper.com)

“Joyride,” by Grandma Moses, 1953. (www.theartnewspaper.com)

By the end of Anna’s career, she had created over 1,000 paintings, become a household name, was associated with advertisements by having her works depicted on products like tiles, dishes, and fabrics, received the Women’s National Press Club Trophy from President Harry Truman, and became an American phenomenon. Her paintings were mostly of memories from her childhood and married life, which were the years most important to her. Typically the paintings showed an expansive landscape with multiples figures in the front, often conducting a task she had done or seen on the farm. Art critics often spoke of her work with disdain, but the American people couldn’t seem to get enough. In a time when people feared atomic bombs and memories of the Great Depression lingered, Grandma Moses depicted a life with which many Americans wanted to identify. Her work was also in great contrast to the then-current art movement known as Cubism (popularized by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso), but still had an air of modernity with her flat figures, which as her work progressed became more abstract.

"The Old Hoosick Bridge," by Grandma Moses (www.mydailyartdisplay.wordpress.com)

“The Old Hoosick Bridge,” by Grandma Moses, 1947.   (www.mydailyartdisplay.wordpress.com)

Anna Mary Robertson Moses died in 1961. In August 2012, Mt. Airy, her home in Augusta County, Virginia, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This Shenandoah home was first constructed around 1840 while under the ownership of Major James Crawford, and was later associated with Anna Moses and her husband Thomas. Mt. Airy was the first house Anna and Thomas owned. They purchased it for $6,000 and lived there from January, 1901 to September, 1902.  Anna started creating pictures in the 1930’s from her memories as a farm wife both in Virginia and the New York Hoosick Valley, and it is thought that many of those paintings depicted life at Mt. Airy.

Mt. Airy, in Augusta County, Virginia, was Grandma Moses's home for a short period in the early 1900s.  The home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.  (National Park Service)

Mt. Airy, in Augusta County, Virginia, was Grandma Moses’s home for a short period in the early 1900s. The home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012. (National Park Service)

-Allison Powell, Park Ranger

Finding History’s Forgotten Women with the National Register of Historic Places, Part I

As you may be aware, March has been designated as Women’s History Month. I’m proud to say that I was alive when this national “holiday” was born – can’t say that for most! Congress authorized President Ronald Reagan to proclaim Women’s History WEEK to begin on March 7, 1981. Authorizations continued over the next five years, until March 1987 when Women’s History MONTH was designated. Every president since has been authorized by Congress to continue this annual tradition, which brings us to today.

Certainly women should be celebrated all year long. However, there are a number of women throughout our history that deserve special mention because of their contributions to society, and these are the stories told throughout the month of March. In honor of these stories and the women behind them, I’d like to introduce you to three women who you may be familiar with, but perhaps forgotton about, over time.

How did I choose three women out of the myriad of women who are worthy of note?  Easy – I referred to a wonderful program administered by the National Park Service: the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The NRHP is the “official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation…it is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archaeological resources” (www.nps.gov/nr/). This website lists sites which are devoted to women’s history, as well as those for African Americans, aviation, the Shakers, Lewis and Clark, and dozens of others. These sites are offered as travel itineraries for the purposes of visiting thematically-grouped history sites.

So off we go on an armchair tour of the first of a few forgotten Women in History!!

Elizabeth C. Quinlan House, NRHP Listing 2013
In an age of measure-and-sew clothing that required multiple trips to tailors and fittings, or having the skill to sew your own clothing, Elizabeth Quinlan introduced to American women in Minneapolis, and eventually around the country, a new way of shopping for clothing. Could this passion have been fueled by the fact that Quinlan could not sew and never made a dress in her life?

Elizabeth C. Quinlan was known as the "Queen of Minneapolis" and was one of the most successful businesswomen of her era.  (ForgottenMinnesota.com)

Elizabeth C. Quinlan was known as the “Queen of Minneapolis” and was one of the most successful businesswomen of her era. (ForgottenMinnesota.com)

The Young-Quinlan Company was the first women’s ready-to-wear shop west of the Mississippi River. Opened in 1894, Ms. Quinlan filled her shop with the latest pre-made fashions from Paris, New York City, and Florence, among other iconic fashion cities. Her start in the industry was modest; in 1879 she earned $10 a week as a clerk in a dry goods store in downtown Minneapolis, and 15 years later she was one of the company’s top sales people, making more money than any of her male counterparts. Her ability to spot a style hit, her entrepreneurial work and innovative practices elevated her reputation nationally, and these skills propelled her store into the national spotlight. In 1937 she was offered a job in New York City making double her salary at the Young-Quinlan Company, which she proudly declined, saying her decision to stay in Minneapolis was “the best day’s work I ever did.”

Quinlan expanded to a new location in 1926, constructing a five-story, $1.25 million building with 250 parking stalls underground and an elevator which brought customers directly to each floor. Always thinking ahead, the core of the store was built to accommodate seven additional floors, and Quinlan also requested of the architect that the design be easily converted into office space if the store failed.

The Young-Quinlan Company store in Minneapolis around 1908.  The store moved to a new , larger location in 1926.  (ForgottenMinnesota.com)

The Young-Quinlan Company store in Minneapolis around 1908. The store moved to a new , larger location in 1926. (ForgottenMinnesota.com)

At the time, the store was considered the largest women’s specialty shop in the country. In addition to the latest women’s fashions, the store also displayed special displays and touring exhibits. In 1932 Quinlan brought a collection of rare imperial treasures from Russia to the auditorium on the 5th floor, and exhibited the $150,000 Hattie Carnegie gown encrusted with 40,000 pearls. Popular actresses of the time, including Ethel Barrymore and Lynn Fontanne, were frequent visitors to the store.

During her career, Elizabeth Quinlan was an important player in national and local civic work, and a supporter of charities and cultural groups. She founded the Business Women’s Club in 1919, was an advisory board member for the Salvation Army, and served on the National Recovery Administration board, which was part of a New Deal program that advocated raising minimum wage, among other policies. As a side business, she became the director of a taxicab company because she wanted a safe taxi system for women and children. In 1935 she was listed as one of the top 16 businesswomen in the United States by Fortune magazine.

The “Queen of Minneapolis” died in 1947, and The Young-Quinlan Company closed in 1985. The home in the Lowry Hill neighborhood of Minneapolis, where Elizabeth Quinlan lived from 1925-1947, was added to the NRHP in 2013. After brief ownership by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the home was returned to private ownership in 1981.

This is the home in which Elizabeth C. Quinlan lived  for the last 22 years of her life, from 1925-1947.  The home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.  (Wikipedia Commons)

This is the home in which Elizabeth C. Quinlan lived for the last 22 years of her life, from 1925-1947. The home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013. (Wikipedia Commons)

Elizabeth C. Quinlan’s legacy lives on in many ways:  through The Elizabeth C. Quinlan Foundation which supports educational institutions and their activities, and social service organizations and their programs, and the still-standing Young-Quinlan Company store, located at 513 Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis. Quinlan’s “perfect gem” was saved from demolition in 1985. After several million dollars of restoration work, the building now houses offices and retail outlets. I think Elizabeth Quinlan would approve of that!

Stay tuned for more Women’s History Month sites in the coming weeks!

For more information on The National Register of Historic Places, please visit www.nps.gov/nr

Elizabeth C. Quinlan: http://forgottenminnesota.com/2014/03/the-queen-of-minneapolis/

Elizabeth C. Quinlan Home: http://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/wom/2013/Elizabeth_quinlan_House.htm

-Allison Powell, Park Ranger

James A. Garfield: Man of Many Presidential Firsts

Who was the first President depicted on a postage stamp?   George Washington

Who was the first President born a United States citizen?  Martin Van Buren

Who was the first President to be left handed?  James Garfield??

That’s right.  Eight Presidents are known to be left-handed, and James A. Garfield was the first. In fact, President Garfield holds quite a number of presidential firsts.

(But first, a presidential last: Garfield was the last President to be born in a log cabin.  Orange Township, Ohio, could have been considered the American frontier when Garfield was born there in 1831.  The modern village of Moreland Hills now makes up this part of the old township, and maintains a replica cabin as Garfield’s birthplace.)

Garfield was the first, and to-date only, sitting member of the U.S. House of Representatives to be elected President.  He was a long-serving member of the House, completing nine terms representing Ohio’s 19th Congressional District before resigning to become President.  Garfield was also a U.S. Senator-elect for Ohio at the time, making him the only man in U.S. history to be a sitting Representative, Senator-elect, and President-elect at the same time!

Garfield is the first, and again the only, President to be a clergyman.  Prior to embarking on a career in politics, young Garfield was a lay minister of the Disciples of Christ.

James A. Garfield was a man of many presidential firsts!  This intense image of him is one of our favorites here at James A. Garfield NHS. (Library of Congress)

James A. Garfield was a man of many presidential firsts! This intense image of him is one of our favorites here at James A. Garfield NHS. (Library of Congress)

He was the first President to successfully use a front-porch campaign strategy.  As was customary for a politician at the time, Garfield spent the 1880 Presidential Campaign tending to his private affairs.  In his case, this was a 150-acre farm in Mentor, Ohio, where he lived with his wife and five children.  Garfield’s reputation for public speaking preceded him, encouraging 17,000 visitors to travel to his home to hear him talk.  Not wanting to be rude, Garfield would stand on his front-porch to speak to the dozens, or sometimes hundreds, of visitors assembled on his lawn nearly every day during that summer and fall.

During one of these speeches, Garfield became the first President to have campaigned in two languages when he spoke to a group of German-Americans using their native tongue.

At his inauguration on March 4, 1881, President Garfield accomplishes three more firsts. He was the first President to review the Inaugural Parade from in front of the White House.  At the inauguration itself, Garfield became the first President to have his mother be in attendance.  Outgoing President Hayes gave up his seat so that Eliza Garfield could sit next to her son.  (President Garfield’s first action after completing the Oath of Office was to bend down and give his dear mother a kiss on the cheek.)  Later that night, President Garfield’s Inaugural Ball became the first public event to be held at the Smithsonian Institution’s newly constructed Arts and Industries Building.

Garfield’s presidency ended after just 200 days. He succumbed to an infection from a gunshot wound and shoddy medical care (no, not first, but second assassinated President, after Abraham Lincoln).  His death, at 49 years of age, made him the first President to die before age 50.

Following her husband’s death, Mrs. Lucretia Garfield contributed her own Presidential first.  In a desire to make sure that her husband was not lost to history and forgotten, she initiated a project to gather as many of Garfield’s Presidential papers as possible.  Prior to this exercise, Presidential papers were considered to be private property of the men who held the office.  Upon leaving the presidency, they would gift some papers to friends, maybe even destroy many others.  By bringing the Garfield papers together into one collection, Lucretia set the precedent for future Presidents- in a manner of speaking, the Garfield collection was the first Presidential library.

Mrs. Lucretia Garfield was understandably concerned that history would forget or ignore her husband due to his short presidency.  By building the first presidential library, she ensured that James A. Garfield's memory and legacy would live forever.   (Library of Congress)

Mrs. Lucretia Garfield was understandably concerned that history would forget or ignore her husband due to his short presidency. By building the first presidential library, she ensured that James A. Garfield’s memory and legacy would live forever. (Library of Congress)

Lucretia’s desire to put together a collection of her late husband’s work, and the mere recognition of President Garfield’s ‘firsts’ have ensured that her fears did not come true. President James A. Garfield continues to be remembered, admired, and studied.

-Benjamin Frayser, Volunteer

Political Satire and the 1880 Presidential Campaign

There’s no denying that the internet and social media play a prominent role in the way we access news today, and the type of news we choose to follow.  This is especially true when it comes to politics and modern presidential campaigns. With this seemingly endless stream of information, there is no shortage of criticism and humor directed at politicians. Whether it’s good or bad, most Americans have likely even come to expect it!

So what about presidential campaigns of the 19th century? Did such witty criticism of the nation’s potential commander-in-chief exist then, too? The answer is, of course, a resounding “yes.”  While Americans of the day certainly were not inundated with updates via Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media site (there weren’t even radios for inquisitive citizens to gather information from), that doesn’t mean humor was absent from political campaigns of the period.

Humorous criticism has always been a staple of political campaigns, in varying degrees of seriousness, and there was no lack of it in James Garfield’s successful campaign of 1880. The most prominent satirical periodical of the day was Puck Magazine, and Garfield often found himself on the receiving end of the publication’s commentary and political cartoons during his campaign. From Credit Mobilier to DeGolyer Pavement and the “salary grab” of 1873, Garfield’s congressional career provided ample ammunition for journalists of the day to criticize.

This image of Garfield and some of the scandals of his political career was entitled "It Makes Him Sick."  It appeared on the cover of the August 18, 1880 issue of Puck Magazine.  (Puck/University of Michigan)

This image of Garfield and some of the scandals of his era was entitled “It Makes Him Sick.” It appeared on the cover of the August 18, 1880 issue of Puck Magazine. (Puck/University of Michigan)

Simultaneously, Garfield’s opponent was not immune from critics. Democratic candidate Winfield Scott Hancock was just as frequently at the center of the magazine’s jokes, despite the fact that it was generally more sympathetic to the Democratic Party. Yet while I found the comics and commentary poking fun at the two candidates to be rather even, while combing through editions of the magazine from the 1880 campaign I stumbled upon something a bit more unusual.

Democratic candidate Winfield Scott Hancock was not spared the satirical treatment in 1880, either, as this Puck cartoon shows.  (Puck/University of Michigan)

Democratic candidate Winfield Scott Hancock was not spared the satirical treatment in 1880, either, as this Puck cartoon shows. (Puck/University of Michigan)

While I expected to see the presidential candidates lambasted, I was not expecting to see anything targeting their spouses. Yet that’s exactly what I found in the July 21, 1880 edition. Starting with Mrs. Garfield, the writers at Puck weave an intricate story of a woman more impressive than even her husband! Of course upon closer examination it’s less about her actual accomplishments and more a grossly exaggerated fiction of the soon-to-be First Lady.  From holding four patents for boiling potatoes, to entering West Point at the age of 71 (!) – only to subsequently give up her military duties to marry James Garfield at the age of 74 – the magazine creates the image of a comically overambitious woman.

The reason behind this exaggeration and why Puck chose to portray Mrs. Garfield in such a light is unclear, though perhaps it becomes clearer after reading the magazine’s description of Mrs. Hancock. Whereas Mrs. Garfield’s life and accomplishments were impossibly unrealistic, Mrs. Hancock is presented as possessing qualities “quite important enough, in a quiet, unobtrusive and domestic way to set a noble example to the women and children of the universe.” Unlike Mrs. Garfield, whose accomplishments have “shaken the world to its foundation,” Mrs. Hancock is presented to the readers as the epitome of a virtuous American woman. Setting a noble example, Puck sees Mrs. Hancock as the more suitable of the two to fulfill the duties of First Lady, as she provides the American public with a character to which any woman would aspire.

This lengthy article satirized Mrs. Lucretia Garfield during the 1880 presidential campaign.  Was this really directed at her, or at her husband?  (Puck/University of Michigan)

This lengthy article satirized Mrs. Lucretia Garfield during the 1880 presidential campaign. Was this really directed at her, or at her husband? (Puck/University of Michigan)

So why the criticism of Mrs. Garfield? Was there something particularly loathsome about her character that prompted the editors at Puck to attack her? Looking through other sources of the time, from Cleveland’s Plain Dealer to The New York Times, Lucretia Garfield is notably absent from any criticism related to her husband, and is even referred to as a “quiet, thoughtful, and refined woman” by the Times. Using a little leeway, perhaps it’s not that Puck is not actually ridiculing her, but rather using her as a way to poke fun at her husband and his rise from “canal boy” to presidential candidate.

However, that is just my conclusion. Whether the authors of this humorous article were truly looking to mock Mrs. Garfield, or to find an alternative way to satirize her husband, we may never know. The one conclusion we can draw is that political satire is certainly not new to American political campaigns or candidates. Whether Lucretia Garfield deserved to bear the brunt of this joke or not is almost irrelevant, as this article clearly illustrates that satire was becoming a prominent voice in American politics, and anyone was fair game.

-James Brundage, Museum Technician

Holidays with the Garfields

The Holiday Season (Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day) means different things to different people.  Some will devoutly observe the sanctimony of the holidays; others will conduct personal reflections on the changing year.  Often, these will be mixed with cherished opportunities to spend time with family and friends.

Though some traditions and customs may have changed over the years, James A. Garfield also observed the holiday season, celebrating with family and friends and reflecting on his accomplishments throughout the past year.

An avid diarist throughout the majority of his life,  Garfield often wrote details of his thoughts on the holidays each year.  Reviewing these diary entries reveals many things both interesting and a little surprising.

James A. Garfield was a dedicated diarist and left behind many recollections of the holiday season.    (Library of Congress)

James A. Garfield was a dedicated diarist and left behind many recollections of the holiday season. (Library of Congress)

New Year’s Day appears to be of more importance to Garfield than did Christmas and Thanksgiving.  He spent many New Year’s Days evaluating the previous year’s achievements and looking at opportunities for personal improvement.

Wednesday, December 31, 1851 – I have perhaps done as well during the past year as could have been expected, but I can do better next time- let me try.

Monday, December 31, 1877 – The year has been an eventful one in many ways, particularly in the line of my public and private life. I shall be curious to see whether it is the culmination of my strength, for I have reached the top of the ridge according to the ordinary calculations of human life.

On some years he included personal reflections that were quite somber.

Thursday, December 31, 1857 – I feel that I am not so good a man in heart as I once was.  Perhaps the business of living is the business of growing hardened to many things in life…I fear that my heart does not pray as it ought.  Oh my God, may the sins of this closing year be blotted from the great book of thy remembrance, and my soul be fitted for heaven.

Friday, January 1, 1875 – I fear (the past) two years have taken away something from my cheerfulness and buoyancy of spirit.  I shall try to resist the shadows and court the sunshine.

The center of Garfield's life during the holidays was, of course, his wife, Lucretia Rudolph Garfield, and their children.   (Library of Congress)

The center of Garfield’s life during the holidays was, of course, his wife, Lucretia Rudolph Garfield, and their children. (Library of Congress)

However, Garfield was not always melancholy around New Year’s Day.  He also enjoyed the social opportunities of the holiday.  As a young man, he noted New Year’s Eve, 1849, was spent at Chagrin Falls, Ohio.  It should not be too hard to imagine 18-year old James celebrating the holiday as young men are likely to- by laughing with friends and chatting with pretty girls.

Perhaps his oddest holiday season came in 1858, when he spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve in intellectual debate with renowned traveling debater William Denton on the proposition that life on Earth exists not by direct, creative power but by progressive development.  Each gave 20 half-hour speeches in Chagrin Falls between December 27 and 31.  Both men claimed victory in the debate, but the experience won Garfield considerable experience, confidence, and local acclaim.

As for Christmas holidays, Garfield does not record much thought on the day in his diary.  As a young man, he typically spent the day at school or church in the morning, then with family in the evening.

Friday, December 25, 1857 – Classes as usual.  But few are gone away ‘to Christmas’.  Spent the evening at (future father-in-law) Brother (Zebulon) Rudolph’s.  A very pleasant time.  Read The Culprit Fay to the company.

As his family life evolved, Garfield wrote frequently of the joy he found in spending time with his wife and children.

Friday, December 25, 1874 – …at an early hour we listened to the exclamations of delight from the children at the presents which has been distributed during the night…I am glad to notice that Harry and Jimmy have…awakened to the love of reading.

Saturday, December 25, 1875 – Spent the day home with the children, who were delighted with their Christmas Gifts.  Crete (Lucretia) and I joined them in their games and made a very pleasant day of it…I did hope to get away to New York for a part of this vacation, but I enjoy being at home more than ever before.  I am glad this is so, although it probably indicates the advance of old age.

Sunday, December 24, 1876 – Attended church with Mother, Crete, Mollie, Irvin and Miss Mays. In the evening attended to the Christmas things and read from  (Alfred Lord Tennyson’s) In Memoriam.

Monday, December 25, 1876 – I read to Crete and Miss Mays poems from…In Memoriam which relate to Christmas…their beauties grow upon me at each reading.  I have, for many years, sung  “Ring out, Wild Bells” to a rude air…which Crete is good enough to say is excellent music.

The Garfields had a large family consisting of five children and James's mother, Eliza Ballou Garfield.  In 1879, Lucretia's father, Zeb Rudolph, came to live with them as well.  (Library of Congress)

The Garfields had a large family consisting of five children that survived to adulthood and James’s mother, Eliza Ballou Garfield. In 1879, Lucretia’s father, Zeb Rudolph, came to live with them in their Mentor, Ohio home as well. (Library of Congress)

The holidays were not always so serene for Garfield though.  As a prominent attorney and U.S. Congressman, other affairs frequently kept him busy and away from home.  In 1873 Garfield traveled to Boston on Christmas Eve to take and review testimony for a court case over disputed land in the city.  He spent Christmas Day there in preparation for the trial.  A few years later, in 1879, Garfield was in New York for New Year’s Eve, and longing for home.

Thursday, January 1, 1879 – I am homesick as a boy to be with the dear ones (at home) today.

Indeed, Garfield’s favorite way to spend the holidays was with his family and friends.

Thursday, December 31, 1857 – This evening we went to Bro. Rudolph’s with Crete…we read (George D.) Prentice’s Closing Year. How thrilling!!

Wednesday, December 31, 1873 – Sat up with Crete and watched the old year out.

Sunday, December 31, 1876 – After dinner read to the children from Audubon concerning the wild turkey, its character and habits.  In the evening…read Tennyson’s New Year’s and Christmas Poems until near midnight.  The clock struck the new year before we went to sleep.

Thursday, November 29, 1877 – Spend the day at home…read, wrote, played with the children and enjoyed our home Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, December 24, 1879 – spent several hours with Crete and the boys (Harry and Jimmy) getting Christmas things for the children and our friends.

Friday, December 24, 1880 – …the whole family was ready at six-ten (in the morning) to meet the dear boys (Harry and Jimmy, returning home from boarding school), who bounded in at 6.15 joyful and joy giving. 

The Garfields purchased their home in Mentor, Ohio in 1876 and only spent a few holidays seasons here before James Garfield's presidency and death.  Mrs. Garfield owned the property the rest of her life and spent many holidays here with her children, grandchildren, and extended families.  We have no evidence or photos describing how they decorated the home (if at all) during the holiday season.  (NPS photo)

The Garfields purchased their home in Mentor, Ohio in 1876 and only spent a few holiday seasons here before James Garfield’s presidency and death. Mrs. Garfield owned the property the rest of her life and spent many holidays here with her children, grandchildren, and extended family. Unfortunately, we have no evidence or photos describing how or if they decorated the home during the holiday season. (NPS photo)

Even though Garfield wrote about his holiday experiences some 150 years ago, it is clear many traditions and customs never get old and change.

-Benjamin Frayser, Volunteer