James A. Garfield and the Ohio State Capitol

As the seat of government for the State of Ohio, Columbus is home to a plethora of monuments and markers to those great men and women who have made an impact in our State’s history. Chief amongst these great Americans who are honored are the eight Presidents of the United States from Ohio, including, of course President James A. Garfield.

If you visit the Ohio Statehouse (www.ohiostatehouse.gov) in Columbus, if you are on the outside… West side (High Street), northwest corner, you will see a statue called “These are my Jewels.” Under the goddess Athena, are statues of notable Ohioans of the Civil War era, including: Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, Rutherford B. Hayes, Edwin Stanton, and of course, James A. Garfield. This is one of Ohio’s formal tributes to the Civil War on the Capitol Grounds, and quite possibly near where then-State Senators James A. Garfield and Jacob Dolson Cox practiced military drill on the Statehouse grounds after Senate Session, since the statue is on the Senate side of the Statehouse (www.ohiosenate.gov).

Before he was a General, Congressman, or the 20th President of the United States, James A. Garfield was an Ohio State Senator in Columbus.  (Library of Congress)

Before he was a General, Congressman, or the 20th President of the United States, James A. Garfield was an Ohio State Senator in Columbus. (Library of Congress)

Once inside, if you meander around the first floor of the Statehouse, you will find many of the various Committee hearing rooms are named for Ohio’s eight Presidents, including Room 115 – the Garfield Hearing Room. The Governor’s Ceremonial Office, also known as the Lincoln Room (recently. named this by Governor John Kasich), is the only room in the Statehouse not named for an Ohioan. Of course, as we know, there is a special connection between Lincoln and Garfield, and Garfield was a Member of the Ohio Senate when Lincoln made a campaign stop in Columbus in 1860, and when Lincoln addressed the Legislature as President-Elect in February, 1860.

Prior to the renovation of the Statehouse in the 1990s, the names of the Ohio Presidents were painted along the top of the Rotunda, so President Garfield’s name was emblazoned upon the ceiling. However, when the Statehouse was renovated, the names were removed, as the Rotunda was restored to its original grandeur, but something better was uncovered…

A skylight dating to the early days of the Statehouse was uncovered, bearing the version of the Great Seal of the State of Ohio used during the early years of our State’s history. In that version of the seal, a canal boat is seen on the river in the seal – much the same as the version of the State Seal seen in the top, center panel of the stained glass fireplace screen in the bedroom of Eliza Ballou Garfield.

As you go throughout the Statehouse and other nearby Ohio Government buildings, you not only see references to Garfield, but to other figures in Garfield’s life, where you can start to really piece a puzzle together.

Start with Governor Salmon P. Chase, who Garfield came to admire and befriend when he was a State Senator. Governor Chase would go on to serve as President Lincoln’s Secretary of Treasury (www.treasury.gov), and Garfield would write Chase about General Phillip Rosecrans’ ineptitude as a commander, thus causing Rosecrans to be relieved of command in 1863. Governor Chase’s official gubernatorial portrait can be found in Room 201 of the Statehouse – the Office of the Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives (www.ohiohouse.gov), and the education center and museum at the Statehouse is named for Governor Chase. A bronze relief of Chief Justice (of the United States) Salmon P. Chase is located on the Grand Concourse of the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in Columbus (www.ohiojudicialcenter.gov).

Salmon P. Chase of Ohio desperately wanted to be President of the United States, but setteled for being Secretary of the Treasury under President Abraham Lincoln.  Chase worked to unseat Lincoln as the Republican nominee in 1864, and Lincoln eventually removed Chase from his cabinet and placed him on the U.S. Supreme Court.  (OhioHistoryCentral.org)

Salmon P. Chase of Ohio desperately wanted to be President of the United States, but settled for being Secretary of the Treasury under President Abraham Lincoln. Chase worked to unseat Lincoln as the Republican nominee in 1864, and Lincoln eventually removed Chase from his cabinet and placed him on the U.S. Supreme Court. (OhioHistoryCentral.org)

Governor William Dennison would be the Governor who would commission James A. Garfield as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Union Army in August, 1861, and was the Governor who succeeded Governor Chase. By the commission of Governor Dennison, Lieutenant Colonel Garfield would be placed in command of the 42nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Governor Dennison’s portrait can be found in Room 110 of the Statehouse.

The person whom has become a prime research interest of mine is Governor Jacob Dolson Cox, who, in 1866, was elected Governor of Ohio. In 1860, then-State Senator Cox was the roommate of then-State Senator Garfield, and the two of them were very close friends. As previously mentioned, Cox and Garfield would practice military drill together, and were commissioned, essentially, side-by-side. During his tenure in the Union Army, Governor Cox would also become a Union Army general, and following his time as Governor, would serve for just under two years as the Secretary of the Interior (www.doi.gov) for President Ulysses S. Grant. Governor Cox can be found in Room 110 of the Statehouse.

On the subject of President Grant, he too, has a hearing room named after him, since he was an Ohio-born President. Additionally, the likeness of President Grant can be found in the Grand Concourse of the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center, located on Front Street, where he can be found amongst the Presidents, Speakers of the US House of Representatives, and Chief and Associate Justices of the US Supreme Court from Ohio. Additionally, Grant Street in Columbus is named for President Grant. As we mention on the tours when we are near the Parlor, President Grant came to the Garfield home in Mentor with New York Senator Roscoe Conkling to resolve some political issues amongst them. President Grant is one of two other Presidents to have spent time at the Garfield Home.

Jacob Dolson Cox was an abolitionist who helped organize the Republican party in Ohio.  He was a Union general during the Civil War, Governor of Ohio, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and a member of the U.S. House of Representative.  (Wikipedia.com)

Jacob Dolson Cox was an abolitionist who helped organize the Republican party in Ohio. He was a Union general during the Civil War, Governor of Ohio, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and a member of the U.S. House of Representative. (Wikipedia.com)

Another Ohio Governor tied to James A. Garfield was the governor directly succeeding Governor Cox. Rutherford Birchard Hayes served as Governor from 1868-1872). Governor Hayes would become President in 1877 despite losing the popular vote to New York Governor Samuel Tilden, as a 15-Member Electoral Commission, on which then-Congressman James A. Garfield served, would choose Hayes by a partisan vote of 8-7 (Pictures of the Commission are located outside “The General’s Snuggery,” on the North Wall on the second floor). Hayes would then become the third of eight Presidents from Ohio, and has a hearing room named after him in the Statehouse. Additionally, his likeness can also be found on the Grand Concourse at the Moyer Judicial Center. In President Garfield home, a portrait of President Hayes hangs in the “General’s Snuggery” on the second floor. (NOTE: More on President Hayes can be found at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont (www.rbhayes.org). Hayes Hall at Bowling Green State University is also named for President Hayes.) President Hayes’ portrait is not on display in the Statehouse.

The Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, where James A. Garfield served as a State Senator before entering the Union army during the Civil War.  While serving as a State Senator, Garfield was still also the Principal of the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, which is now Hiram College.  (Photo by the author)

The Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, where James A. Garfield served as a State Senator before entering the Union army during the Civil War. While serving as a State Senator, Garfield was still also the Principal of the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, which is now Hiram College. (Photo by the author)

In 1880, a future Ohio Governor and President would come to hear then-Congressman James A. Garfield give one of his famous front porch speeches, and then in 1896, develop his own brand of them. In 1880, William McKinley, would come to Mentor to listen to Congressman Garfield address a crowd of supporters. William McKinley would go on to become Governor from 1892-1896, and President from 1897-1901. Like Garfield, McKinley would get shot by a deranged individual and succumb to his wounds. His official gubernatorial portrait hangs in Room 121 of the Ohio Statehouse, and a bronze relief of President McKinley can be found in the Moyer Judicial Center.

The Chief Justice of the United States who administered the Oath of Office to President Garfield was fellow Ohioan Morrison Waite. Chief Justice Waite’s relief can be seen on the East Wall of the Moyer Judicial Center’s Grand Concourse. In our Visitor Center, Chief Justice Waite can be seen administering the Oath to President Garfield in the main exhibit area.

Edwin M. Stanton served as President Abraham Lincoln’s second Secretary of War, and later as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. In addition to being one of the “Jewels” on the statue on the Statehouse grounds, Justice Stanton’s likeness can be seen in Grand Concourse of the Moyer Judicial Center along the East Wall with the other Supreme Court Justices. In the President’s home, Secretary of War Stanton can be found twice on the Second Floor… in his individual portrait to the left of President Lincoln’s on the West Staircase, and also standing sitting, facing President Lincoln in the Emancipation Proclamation lithograph.

The Garfield Hearing Room in the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.  Note the portrait of James A. Garfield on the wall.  (Photo by the author)

The Garfield Hearing Room in the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. Note the portrait of James A. Garfield on the wall. (Photo by the author)

Many of these historical figures had significant roles in the life of James A. Garfield. In putting this piece together, one can start to see how close-knit, even amongst those who differed with each other, the political world is.

-Andrew Mizsak, Volunteer

The Remarkable Roscoe: Friend and Nemesis of Presidents (Part I)

 Arguably, the greatest adversary James A. Garfield ever encountered in his national political career was the New York senator and political boss, Roscoe Conkling. Conkling, a man who thrived on battling perceived enemies, was also one of the most colorful political figures of Reconstruction and the Gilded Age. Two descriptions of Conkling, one modern and one contemporary, make the point well. David M. Jordan, Conkling’s most recent biographer, captured an unforgettable presence and a most striking personality:

“‘Lord Roscoe,’ many called him, and he carried himself like a member of the higher peerage. Roscoe Conkling steps from the pages of history angry, haughty, larger than life. Although he was vindictive and overbearing, he was handsome, intelligent, and capable of orating for hours at a time without losing either a word of his memorized speech or a listener; gaudy as a peacock, he makes the political leaders of our era pale into shadows in comparison. He was not a pleasant man, but he stirred strong emotions, and he had a considerable impact on American history.”

Roscoe Conkling was a Senator from New York and one of the most powerful political figures in the United States during much of the 1870s and early 1880s.  (Wikipedia.com)

Roscoe Conkling was a Senator from New York and one of the most powerful political figures in the United States during much of the 1870s and early 1880s. (Wikipedia.com)

Less charitably, Conkling’s bete noire in politics, James G. Blaine, delivered a salvo at Conkling on the floor of the House on April 30, 1866, that made the two men adversaries for the rest of their careers. Sneered Blaine after several exchanges between the two:

“The contempt of that large-minded gentleman is so wilting; his haughty disdain, his grandiloquent swell, his majestic, super-eminent, overpowering turkey-gobbler strut has been so crushing to myself and all the members of this House that I know it was an act of the greatest temerity for me to venture upon a controversy with him.”

These withering remarks were aimed at a dynamic, very influential political personality, someone who was taken very seriously in his day. The Conkling-Blaine rivalry dominated Republican Party politics throughout the late 1860s, 1870s and early 1880s.

Roscoe Conkling was born on October 30, 1829 (just weeks after his future political acolyte, Chester Alan Arthur) in Albany, New York. Little is known of his earliest years, but biographer Jordan notes that by age fourteen, young Roscoe’s interest in politics had taken root. At age sixteen, he was studying law in Utica. At twenty, he was committed to the abolition of slavery. In this commitment, he had something in common with James A. Garfield, whose own antislavery sentiments were just beginning to emerge at this time. 

James G. Blaine made himself one of Conkling's lifelong enemies when he insulted Conkling in an 1866 speech on the House of Representatives floor.  The two would square off against one another many times over the following 15 years.  (Politico.com)

James G. Blaine made himself one of Conkling’s lifelong enemies when he insulted Conkling in an 1866 speech on the House of Representatives floor. The two would square off against one another many times over the following 15 years. (Politico.com)

The future Senator from New York was physically impressive. He stood six feet, three inches tall, was “erect and muscular,” and blond. He sported a “Hyperion” curl on his forehead that was the delight of political cartoonists; at a time when the sartorial standard for men was black, Conkling made an elegant figure, sporting colorful vests of yellow or lavender and light-colored trousers. He was an advocate of physical fitness, a skilled and avid horseman and an enthusiast for boxing. 

Conkling was also blessed with intelligence and physical appeal. Though married to Julia Seymour in 1855 (she the sister of Horatio Seymour, a future governor of New York and the 1868 Democratic presidential nominee), many women found him attractive. He “exud[ed] animal vigor, even sexuality,” according to David Jordan. Altogether, the pride he took in his physical and oratorical prowess was part and parcel of his political mystique.

Like Garfield, Conkling possessed a driving need for “self-improvement.” He read a great deal – Shakespeare, Milton, Macaulay, and Byron. According to David Jordan, he possessed “a prodigious memory” by which he could “reproduce verbatim” much of what he read. 

Elected to Congress in 1859, his acid tongue shortly found a target in President James Buchanan during the secession crisis of late 1860. Buchanan, he said, was “petrified by fear, or vacillating between determination and doubt, while the rebels snatched from his nerveless grasp the ensign of the Republic, and waved before his eyes the banner of secession…”

Though he had supported Seward for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination, he believed as Lincoln did, that slavery in the United States would be eventually abolished. Early in the war, he favored President Lincoln’s idea of compensated emancipation – paying slaveholders to free their slaves. Even so, Conkling was a fiscal conservative, and opposed financing the war with paper money. He was for “sound money,” that is, money backed by gold. Here was another view he shared in common with James Garfield. 

For a man who descended the pages of history with the unsavory reputation of a corruptionist, Conkling was seen early in his career as “an opponent of all sorts of jobbery and corruption.” And in fact, he does not seem to have been politically corrupt. He does not appear to have benefitted financially from his political wire pulling.

Conkling dressed very well and was described as "strutting" rather than walking.  This led to him being regularly mocked as a "dandy" and a "peacock," as depicted in this Thomas Nast cartoon.  (Jackdaw Cartoons)

Conkling dressed very well and was described as “strutting” rather than walking. This led to him being regularly mocked as a “dandy” and a “peacock,” as depicted in this Thomas Nast cartoon. (Jackdaw Cartoons)

Conkling was regarded as “a consistent and warm personal friend of President Lincoln.” This was probably an exaggeration. In 1864, when Conkling was running for reelection, some local Republicans wanted another candidate. Abraham Lincoln endorsed him in a letter that read in part, “I am for the regular nominee in all cases… no one could be more satisfactory to me as the nominee in that District, than Mr. Conkling. I do not mean to say there are not others as good as he is… but I think I know him to be at least good enough. Given the divisions in the Republican Party at the time, Lincoln was choosing his words carefully.

Whether for reasons of humanity or because it was the “politically correct” stance to take, Conkling opposed the “Black Codes” of the South that restricted the employment opportunities and geographical movement of blacks. He insisted that the southern states repudiate the Confederate debt and the right to secede. He helped to write the 14th Amendment, which gave blacks citizenship. Like Garfield, he insisted that the southern states ratify the 15th amendment, which granted black men the right to vote, before they could be readmitted to the Union. To demonstrate his support for the first black member of the Senate, he made it a point to escort Mississippi Senator Blanche K. Bruce about the chamber when other white senators shied away.

Like other Republicans, Conkling became increasingly bothered by the leadership style of Andrew Johnson, and supported his impeachment. When Johnson took his national “Swing ‘Round the Circle” during the 1886 election, Conkling referred to the president as an “angry man, dizzy with the elevation to which assassination has raised him, frenzied with power and ambition…”

Conkling developed close ties with Johnson’s successor, Ulysses S. Grant. He admired Grant’s service during the war and became a loyal ally. The two men worked well together. Conkling supported Grant’s cabinet appointments, his Reconstruction policies, and the president’s efforts to annex Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic) to the United States. Conkling supported Grant’s appointment of Thomas Murphy to be Collector of New York in 1870, and Grant approved Conkling’s recommendations for other New York appointments.

Murphy proved to be a less than scrupulous public official. In 1871 he was forced out of his position. Conkling recommended the honest, efficient, and courteous Chester Alan Arthur as his successor, and Grant made the appointment. And unlike Murphy, Chester Arthur was no party hack. He ran the port well, and through it he helped Roscoe Conkling build and maintain a political machine in New York.

Chester Alan Arthur was Collector of the Port of New York until fired for corruption by President Rutherford B. Hayes.  He was a Conkling loyalist and acolyte who owed most of his political connections and success to Conklng.  (Wikipedia.com)

Chester Alan Arthur was Collector of the Port of New York until fired for corruption by President Rutherford B. Hayes. He was a Conkling loyalist and acolyte who owed most of his political connections and success to Conklng. (Wikipedia.com)

Revelations of waste and scandal during the first Grant administration led to a revolt within the party in 1872. Well-born gentlemen, newspaper editors, and politicians (in both parties, really) stressed the need to appoint government workers on the basis of merit, not political loyalties. Conkling was threatened by such talk of reform. He had built a political machine in New York based on his ability to control who received federal jobs. To him, Civil Service Reform was more properly “snivel service reform.”Concern over Grant’s administration meant that there was no chance that he would be his party’s nominee for a third term in 1876. That year’s contested nominating convention put forth Governor Rutherford B. Hayes as the Republican choice to succeed Grant. Hayes was perceived as a reformer, but Conkling was unimpressed. He dragged his feet during the campaign, and probably for that reason Hayes lost New York.

The election results were so close, and there was so much controversy over voting irregularities in the South, that the winner of the Hayes-Tilden was disputed. Conkling was a principal author of the legislation that created a Congressional commission to resolve the election. But although he was a Republican, Conkling believed that Democrat Samuel Tilden was the rightful victor. Consequently, he referred to Hayes as “Rutherfraud B.Hayes.” No love was lost between the two men.

Samuel Tilden was the Democratic governor of New York when he ran for president in 1876.  He won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes in a bitterly contested election.  (Wikipedia.com)

Samuel Tilden was the Democratic governor of New York when he ran for president in 1876. He won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes in a bitterly contested election. (Wikipedia.com)

In 1878, Hayes removed Chester Arthur from the Collectorship. The move was part reform-minded and in part payback. Hayes and his Secretary of State, New Yorker William Evarts, wanted to build a new Republican machine in the Empire State loyal to the reformers. So, the bad blood between Hayes and Conkling persisted into the 1880 election cycle.

Hayes was not a candidate for reelection, but Grant was urged to seek a third term. Though he was genuinely interested in a third term, reformers in the Republican Party were determined to prevent it. Within the New York Republican Party, State Senator William H. Robertson was a leader in the anti-Grant forces. Robertson’s maneuverings at the Republican Convention in Chicago figured large in denying Conkling’s man Grant a third presidential bid. The “beneficiary” of the deadlocked convention was of course James A. Garfield, a man closely associated with Conking’s primary adversary, President Hayes.

(“Stay tuned” for Part II, where the Conkling-Garfield dispute and Conkling’s life after politics will be discussed.)

 -Alan Gephardt, Park Ranger

The President James A. Garfield Death Mask

On display in the James A. Garfield National Historic Site visitor center is the bronze death mask and hand of President James A. Garfield. The mask weighs 7 1/2 pounds, and the hand 2 1/2 lbs.

It was common practice into the 20th century for a plaster facial impression to be made moments after the death of a famous person. Sometimes the hand was cast as well. The purpose was to capture the last image of the person to use in later portraits or statues. After President Garfield died on September 19, 1881, the family asked the famous sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, to make a death mask of President Garfield. 

This death mask of Presdient Garfield was sculpted by renowned sculptor Augusts St. Gaudens after the President's death on Sept. 19, 1881.  The President's face appears gaunt; he had lost about 100 pounds between being shot on July 2 and his death.  This death mask can be viewed in the visitor center museum at James A. Garfield National Historic Site.  (Photo courtesy of Jim Steinhart)

This death mask of President Garfield was made by renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens after the President’s death on Sept. 19, 1881. The President’s face appears gaunt; he had lost nearly 100 pounds between being shot on July 2 and his death 80 days later. This death mask can be viewed in the visitor center museum at James A. Garfield National Historic Site in Mentor, Ohio. (Photo courtesy of Jim Steinhart)

To create the mold, Saint-Gaudens would first have covered the deceased President’s face with lard and then painted several layers of plaster over it. When the plaster dried, the sculptor would have removed the plaster impression and taken it to his studio and used it to create a mold, which would later be used to create another mold that would be cast in bronze. The family had the last mold destroyed so that no other copies could be made.

Saint-Gaudens was an Irish-born American sculptor of the Beaux Arts period. He designed monuments to Civil War heroes such as William Tecumseh Sherman, Abraham Lincoln, and Robert Gould Shaw. He designed the $20 double eagle gold coin and the $10 Indian head gold coin.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens, show here in his studio, is probably the best-known American sculptor (though he was born in Ireland).  Today, you can visit his home and studio, which are preserved as Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, New Hampshire.  Find it online at www.nps.gov/saga.  (Smithsonian Institution American Art Museum)

Augustus Saint-Gaudens, show here in his studio, is probably the best-known American sculptor (though he was born in Ireland). Today, you can visit his home and studio, which are preserved as Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, New Hampshire. Find it online at http://www.nps.gov/saga. (Smithsonian Institution American Art Museum)

Masks have been in existence since the time of the Egyptian pharoah Tutankhamun, whose solid gold burial mask is an object of extreme beauty. At the end of many remarkable lives, historic figures such as Shakespeare, Washingon, Napoleon, Newton, Beethoven, Lincoln, and Lenin were immortalized with death masks.

Since the 13th century, death masks have helped sculptors of tomb effigies, but in medieval France and England real death masks were used for the royal funeral effigies that lay in state. Only Britsh examples still exist, because those in France were destroyed during the French Revolution.

This plaster of one of Saint-Gaudens' most famous sculptures is on display at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in New Hampshire.  It depicts Col. Robert Gould Shaw (on horseback) leading the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, the all-black unit famously depicted in the popular film "Glory."  (Boston College)

This plaster of one of Saint-Gaudens’ most famous sculptures is on display at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in New Hampshire. It depicts Col. Robert Gould Shaw (on horseback) leading the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, the all-black unit famously dramatized  in the popular film “Glory.” (Boston College)

Before the widespread availability of photography, the death mask was also used as a forensic tool to aid relatives in identifying a desceased body if the loved one was a missing person who had already been buried. One such mask recorded the face of an unidentified 16 year-old woman found drowned in the Seine in Paris in the 1880s. She was considered so beautiful that reproductions of the mask became very popular. In 1960, the face of ResuciAnni, the world’s first CPR training mannequin, was modeled after this drowned young woman.

-Pat Coil, Volunteer