James A. Garfield

I’m going to begin this blog in a manner many blogs do: I’m going to talk about James A. Garfield. On July 2, 1881, at around 9:30 am, , the 20th President of the United States of America was shot on a train platform.

The assassin, Charles Guiteau, was upset that he was passed over as the Embassador of France, a failed newspaperman, plagiarizing author and a dubiously credentialed lawyer. He was also probably the only person not to get lucky in the Oneida “free love” Community in upstate New York, leaving the commune with the ignoble nickname of “Charles Gitout.” Guiteau bought the gun, which had an ivory inlaid handle, that killed Garfield specifically because he thought they would look good on display. It was, of course, lost after the shooting.

One bullet grazed the President’s arm and the other lodged in his back. Garfield, who was walking next to his old friend and Secretary of State James G. Blaine, crumpled almost immediately. Blaine exclaimed, using in my opinion preternatural poise, “My God. This man has been assassinated! What is the meaning of this!?”

I love reading about weird historical stories like this, but what struck me most is Blaine’s exclamation. If my dear friend and political rival were shot in front of me, I doubt I’d be able to utter all those syllables. Instead, I’d probably shout something semi-coherent like “What the fuck.” Then again, I gather is the sort of the starched-collar 19th century equivalent of shouting “What the fuck!” This gave me the image of a sneering youth in spats and a top hat, waiting for his hansome cab, typing “WITMOT” into his steam powered cell phone.

This blog will be dedicated to whatever historical strangeness I find, with a special emphasis on America’s most forgotten President.

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