James Garfield, the 20th president of the United States, holds many “firsts” in American history.
He was the first presidential candidate to launch a “front porch campaign,” inviting supporters and the press to his home to hear his speeches, rather than traveling to deliver his message. As a result, reporters christened his home “Lawnfield.”
Elected in 1880, Garfield wielded his executive power against political corruption. His efforts helped improve public perception of the White House, which had been tarnished by excesses of the Reconstruction.
But Garfield’s hard-line stance against political favoritism may have cost him his life. On July 2, 1881, he was shot by an attorney who had been denied a political appointment. He died of infection six weeks later.
Garfield’s assassination led to another first at Lawnfield—the construction of what some consider the first presidential library. Garfield’s wife commissioned the Memorial Wing to house her husband’s papers in 1885.
James Garfield National Historic Site includes Lawnfield, the Memorial Wing, and a museum located in the Carriage House. You can walk freely around the grounds, and even enjoy a picnic on the lawn.
Did You Know:
Alexander Graham Bell attempted to locate the bullet lodged in President Garfield’s body with an improvised metal detector called an induction-balance device. Unfortunately, the device didn’t work.