Garfield Resources are All Around Us

Unlike many of our modern-day Presidents who have a Presidential Library constructed to serve as the repository for all things related to their administration, there is no central repository for everything related to the public service career and life of President James A. Garfield.

The First Lady (Lucretia Garfield) had the foresight to preserve the papers and documents of her husband’s Presidency and congressional career, and did so by creating the fireproof vault off of the Memorial Library, known as the “Memory Room.” It is, or was, the main holding place of President Garfield’s records until the President’s papers were transferred to the Library of Congress (www.loc.gov). The Garfield children, to their great credit, recognized they could not properly store and maintain the official records of their father’s career, and that the Library of Congress could. This was a donation of great value to the chronicling of a period of our nation’s history.

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)

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” (not visible here) to store the papers of his public career, thus creating the nation’s first presidential library. (NPS photo)

However, as I have found while conducting my own research for some of my presentations here at James A. Garfield National Historic Site, there is no single place where I could find all I needed. For example, this spring I gave a presentation about the State Senate career of James A. Garfield, and while I used the authoritative biography of the twentieth President, Garfield, by Dr. Allan Peskin, I also received assistance from the Ohio Legislative Service Commission (www.lsc.state.oh.us), and one of their amazing staff members, who provided to me information about the bills introduced and supported by then-Ohio State Senator James A. Garfield. Additionally, I was able to find information on the website of the Ohio Senate (www.ohiosenate.gov), and some additional information through the Ohio Historical Society (www.ohiohistory.org). Special thanks to Adam Warren, Administrative Aide to State Senator Nina Turner, who provided me with some photos of the Garfield Room in the Ohio Statehouse. I also found out that records related to the State Senate tenure of James A. Garfield can be found at the University of Akron (www.uakron.edu). This makes great sense, as Garfield represented Summit and Portage Counties in the Ohio Senate.

Seeking assistance from multiple places makes historical research even more like the assembly of a jigsaw puzzle.

Beginning with President Herbert Hoover, the National Archives and Records Administration (www.nara.gov), began to assemble the documents and artifacts of Presidential administrations into Presidential Libraries and Museums. Just last week, on May 1, the thirteenth (13th) Presidential Library opened to the public on the campus of Southern Methodist University. Located in Dallas, Texas, the George W. Bush Presidential Library is the largest of the 13 NARA Presidential Libraries. It is the central repository for the papers, artifacts, and other notable events of the tenure of our 43rd President.

The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, located in Dallas, is the newest and largest presidential library.  It was dedicated May 1, 2013.  (www.architecture.about.com)

The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, located in Dallas, is the newest and largest presidential library. It was dedicated May 1, 2013. (www.architecture.about.com)

Those Commanders-in-Chief who preceeded President Hoover, often, as in the case of President Garfield, have multiple sites, administered, often times, by multiple agencies or organizations. For example, the birth site cabin is managed by the Moreland Hills Historical Society (http://morelandhills.com); the Garfield home is a National Historic Site (www.nps.gov/jaga); and the Garfield Monument is part of Lake View Cemetery (www.lakeviewcemetery.com). Additionally, there are Garfield artifacts and papers in places such as the Hiram College Library (www.hiram.edu), the Western Reserve Historical Society (www.wrhs.org), and the Bedford Historical Society (www.bedfordohiohistory.org). Finally, one of the places near and dear to my heart, the Cleveland Public Library (www.cpl.org), also has a fairly extensive collection of Garfield-related books, speeches, and other items.

I would be remiss if I did not mention three great places to find information about President Garfield in the Washington, DC, area: the U.S. Capitol Historical Society (www.uschs.org), the White House Historical Association (www.whitehousehistory.org), and, of course, the White House (www.whitehouse.gov).

Should you come across any great sites or artifacts, we would love to hear about them. I wish you happy hunting in your quest to learn more about President Garfield, or any of our nation’s other leaders. If we can be of any further assistance to you, or if you are interested in becoming a National Park Service Volunteer, please do not hesitate to contact us through our website at www.nps.gov/jaga or by calling James A. Garfield National Historic Site at 440-255-8722.

Though he was President just a short time, James A. Garfield's life and career are integral to the history of northeast Ohio.  Visitors to James A. Garfield National Historic Site learn more about the man and his family and his career and legacy.  Visitors who tour the Garfield home are taken into the two rooms that constitute the nation's first presidential library.  (Library of Congress)

Though he was President just a short time, James A. Garfield’s life and career are integral to the history of northeast Ohio and the United States. Visitors to James A. Garfield National Historic Site learn more about the man and his family and his career and legacy. Those who tour the Garfield home are taken into the two rooms that constitute the nation’s first presidential library. (Library of Congress)

(Did you know that prior to the mid-1990’s renovation of the Ohio Statehouse, the names of the Presidents from Ohio, including Garfield, encircled the top of the rotunda inside the Statehouse? Also, during the 1990s renovation of the Statehouse, a skylight bearing the State Seal of Ohio commonly used from the 1840s to roughly the mid-1860s , was found in the top of the rotunda? I mention this because this version of the Seal can be found in the Memorial Screen in Eliza Ballou Garfield’s bedroom in the top white shield-shaped panel.)

-Andrew Mizsak, Volunteer

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2 thoughts on “Garfield Resources are All Around Us

  1. A part of the Garfield presence all around us in Cleveland is, as you know, the work of President Garfield’s youngest son Abram who was among Cleveland’s leading architects.(In practice from 1905 until 1951.) He seems to have earned this distinction in his own right. His work may not have been path breaking but it was distinguished, as a few of his surviving projects suggest, among them the Hay-Mckinney Mansion (home of the Western Reserve Historical Society,) the Hough branch of the Cleveland Public Library (now the African American Museum) and palatial home in Palm Beach called “Casa Apava.”

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