10 Interesting Facts About James Garfield

10. Garfield was a southpaw

Garfield was the first left handed president. He was also the first ambidextrous president. It is said you could ask him a question in English and he could simultaneously write the answer in Greek with one hand and in Latin with the other.

9. Garfield was the last of the log cabin presidents

Garfield was the last of seven presidents who were born in a log cabin.

8. Garfield’s mother was a first

President Garfield’s mother was the first president’s mother to attend her son’s inauguration.

7. One of three presidents in 1881

Only two times in American history have there been three presidents in the same year. The first time was in 1841. The second was in 1881 when Rutherford Hayes relinquished the office to Garfield. When Garfield died later that year, Chester Arthur became president.

6. Garfield was a preacher

James Garfield is the only president to ever have been a preacher. He was a minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

5. Garfield campaigned in German

Garfield was the first president to campaign in multiple languages. He often spoke in German with German-Americans he encountered along the campaign trail.

4. Garfield liked triangles

A book was published in 1940 containing 370 proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem. One of these came from Garfield who discovered a unique proof of the theorem using a trapezoid.

3. Garfield juggled Indian clubs

To stay in shape and build muscles, James Garfield liked to juggle Indian clubs, a popular exercise device during the late 19th and early 20th century. The clubs were shaped like bowling pins and were swung in patterns as part of an exercise routine.

2. Uniquely elected

Garfield is the only person in American history to be a U.S. Representative, a Senate-elect and a President-elect all at the same time. In 1880, while serving as a U.S. Representative, he was elected to be Ohio’s next Senator. At the 1880 Republican Convention, he campaigned for John Sherman (brother of General William Sherman) to win the nomination. However, after 36 votes Garfield himself unexpectedly became the nominee and went on to win the Presidency by a margin of only 10,000 popular votes. To date, he is the only sitting member of the House of Representatives to be elected President of the United States.

1. Garfield was the second president to be assassinated

On July 2, 1881, President Garfield was shot by Charles J. Guiteau who was disgruntled because of his unsuccessful attempts at securing a federal post. The bullet lodged near his spine and could not be found by doctors. Alexander Graham Bell invented a metal detector to try to find the location of the bullet but the machine kept malfunctioning, apparently due to the metal framework of the bed Garfield lay in. Because of the rarity of metal bed frames at the time, the cause of the malfunction was not discovered. It is believed that the constant probing of the bullet wound with unsterile instruments led to blood poisoning and eventually death. Garfield died on September 19,1881, becoming the nation’s second president to be assassinated. In the eighty days between the shooting and his death, he performed only one official act, the signing of an extradition paper.

16 thoughts on “10 Interesting Facts About James Garfield”

  1. Uniquely elected should have stated that he was elected without seeking the presidency. That he was nominated by his party at the Republican National Convention while giving a speech to support General Sherman for president, and that he never intended to be president at all. This is pretty profound.

    1. Thanks for your input Haley. We have updated the article to explain the uniqueness of Garfield’s election in greater detail.

  2. He was an outstanding man who would have been great as President if he had the time, He has not been remembered by history as well as he should have. Wish we had more dedicated politicians like him, in learning more about him and the things he did accomplish is amazing even today. I would like to have seen more facts about his life here.

    1. Thanks Sandy, we have more information coming soon for each of the Republican presidents.

  3. You forgot the part about the navy engineer and simon newcomb creating one of the first airconditioners it has been prove true

  4. James A. Garfield was an awesome president. I am doing a prodject on him. I am glad i picked James A. Garfield. Have a nice day! 🙂 Love,

  5. I am currently doing a report on James A. Garfield. In my opinion i think he would have been a great president for our nation. I think he would have made a big difference if he hadn’t have been killed.

  6. I Evangelist Bill Lang say we need God in America Psalms 33:12 Blessed is the Nation who’s God is the Lord! WE need more Presidents who are Ministers.

  7. Here’s another interesting fact about our 20th President: He graduated from Williams College in 1856, and was headed back to Williamstown, Mass., for his 25th class reunion when he was shot in the Washington train station.

    His son, Harry Augustus Garfield, graduated from Williams in 1885 (having started his freshman year just two weeks after his father died), and was inducted as the eighth president of the College in 1908.

  8. When James A. Garfield was 16 years old, he worked as a hoggee on the Ohio and Erie Canal. Canal boats were towed by mules or horses, and the hoggee was the person who kept the animals moving.

  9. Some historians doubt he was as disinterested as you claimed about receiving the nomination. But like most great people, the more you read about them, the more human they become. He was truly a great man in his own right. A great loss.

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