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Collection James A. Garfield Papers

About this Collection

The papers of U.S. president, army officer, lawyer, and educator James A. Garfield (1831-1881) consist of approximately 80,000 items (199,421 images), most of which were digitized from 177 reels of previously produced microfilm. Spanning the years 1775-1889, with the bulk dating from 1850 to 1881, the collection contains correspondence, diaries, speeches, records of Garfield's Civil War military service, legal records, genealogical material, college notebooks, tributes, printed matter, scrapbooks, and other material relating primarily to Garfield's career and death. Subjects include Ohio and national politics, the disputed election of 1876, tariff and national finance, Credit Mobilier of America, and the Fitz-John Porter court-martial. Other topics include education, Hiram College, the Disciples of Christ, and the Salish (Flathead) Indians. The collection also includes correspondence between Garfield and his wife Lucretia ("Crete") Rudolph Garfield; papers (1881-1889) of Garfield's daughter Mary ("Mollie") Garfield Stanley-Brown; and Garfield family correspondence.

Notable correspondents include Chester Alan Arthur, Harmon Austin, Jeremiah S. Black, J. M. Bundy, Alexander Campbell, William E. Chandler, Julius Orrin Converse, Jacob D. Cox, John Jay Curtis, Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren, Ulysses S. Grant, Mark Hopkins, William Cooper Howells, William Dean Howells, Robert Green Ingersoll, Francis Lieber, Thomas M. Nichol, Thomas W. Phillips, Whitelaw Reid, James H. Rhodes, A. G. Riddle, James S. Robinson, John P. Robison, William S. Rosecrans, John Sherman, Platt R. Spencer, and Samuel Ward.

The Index to the James A. Garfield Papers (PDF and page view), created by the Manuscript Division in 1973 after the bulk of the collection was microfilmed, provides a full list of the correspondents and notes the series number and dates of the items indexed. This information is helpful in finding individual letters or documents in the online version. Additional letters received by the Library after 1973 are not listed in this index.

A current finding aid (PDF and HTML) to the James A. Garfield Papers is available online with links to the digital content on this site.

Brief History of the Garfield Papers

"General Garfield's habit was to keep everything," Lucretia Garfield thus described her husband's relationship to his papers in a draft of a letter to Mary Abigail Dodge, who was collecting the letters of Garfield's secretary of state James G. Blaine. Garfield's custom of keeping everything reverted to the preservation habits of his mother, Eliza Ballou Garfield, who kept the first letter he ever wrote her, which he titled "The First Epistle of James." His deep interest in his own papers continued throughout his life, an interest perpetuated by his widow until her death in 1918, and then by his children.

On the backs of many letters will be found a note in Garfield's hand, "To be preserved." His diary contains numerous references to his papers. He even arranged his wife's letters and sometimes identified the correspondent. From 1863 to 1869 the Garfield papers were kept in his office in the House of Representatives, at the various residences in which the Garfields lived in Washington, and in their Ohio home. In 1876, Garfield purchased a farm near Mentor, Ohio, subsequently known as "Lawnfield." Gradually the Garfields enlarged the house, and a number of books and papers were moved to his office and library there. Garfield's presidency effectively ended when disappointed office-seeker Charles J. Guiteau shot the president on July 2, 1881.  Garfield survived until September 19, 1881, and during the interval when he lingered, Lucretia Garfield took several actions which are now reflected in the Library's collection of Garfield Papers. She sought through the press a copy of everything printed about her husband. The clippings received as a result are now in scrapbooks labeled "Eighty Days," the interval of the president's survival.

Following Garfield's death, his secretary Joseph Stanley-Brown resigned as private secretary to President Chester A. Arthur to "put in order and prepare for the biographer the letters, papers, and literary remains of the late President." The papers were finally prepared in 1885 and shipped to Mentor, where they were stored in a secure and fireproof "Memorial Room" added on to Mrs. Garfield's spacious farmhouse. Once Garfield's authorized biographer Theodore Clarke Smith completed his Life and Letters of James Abram Garfield in 1925, long-deferred decisions were made about the ultimate location of the Garfield papers. After numerous delays, James R. Garfield wrote to the Librarian of Congress on December 30, 1930, that he was sending eight boxes of papers–150 bound volumes of letters and 10 of indexes. A second and third shipment followed shortly afterwards, with subsequent gifts and purchases following through 2000.

A fuller history of the provenance of the collection was prepared for the Index to the James A. Garfield Papers, pp. v-xvi (PDF and page view) and was subsequently reproduced in the finding aid (PDF and HTML). A version appears on this website as the essay Provenance of the James A. Garfield Papers.

Description of Series

The James A. Garfield Papers are arranged in twenty-two series:

  • Series 1: Diaries, 1848-1881 (Reels 1-3)
    Contains multiple volumes of a personal diary kept by Garfield from the age of seventeen to July 1, 1881, reflecting his thoughts and personality, his interests, accomplishments and defeats, and comments on people, events, life, and society. The volumes are arranged chronologically.
  • Series 2: Family Correspondence, 1839-1881 (Reels 3-4)
    Includes correspondence with Garfield's children, mother, brother, and other members of Garfield's extended family. The correspondence is arranged chronologically, and therein alphabetically.
  • Series 3: James A. Garfield-Lucretia R. Garfield Correspondence, 1853-1881 (Reels 5-8)
    Comprised of the correspondence between Garfield and his wife Lucretia (nicknamed "Crete"), beginning with their courtship and continuing through their marriage until his death in 1881. The correspondence is arranged chronologically.
  • Series 4: General Correspondence, 1852-1882 (Reels 8-106)
    Includes Garfield's personal and official correspondence, and consisting mostly of letters received. Also includes:
    • Subseries 4A, Indexes to Letters Received (Not filmed)
      Records alphabetically by the surname of writer the letters contained in Series 4, and includes the name of the writer, date received, volume number in which the letter is contained, and item number assigned to the letter. The indexes were created by Garfield's secretary, Joseph Stanley-Brown, and others.
    • Subseries 4B, Additional Correspondence and Related Material (Reels 104-106)
      The material is arranged chronologically.
    • Subseries 4C, Letters and Telegrams pertaining to Garfield's Speech on the Repeal of the Resumption Law, November 16, 1877 (Reel 106)
      The material is arranged chronologically.
  • Series 5: Recipients' Copies and Related Material, 1852-1881 (Reels 106-108)
    Consists of original correspondence received by the recipients and other materials. The materials are arranged chronologically.
  • Series 6: Letterbooks and Outgoing Correspondence, 1868-1881 (Reels 109-120)
    • Subseries 6A, Letter Press Copy Books, 1868-1881 (Reels 109-119)
      Contains letterpress copies and file drafts of outgoing correspondence. Each volume contains an index and is arranged in roughly chronological order.
    • Subseries 6B, Telegrams, 1880-1881 (Reels 119-120)
      Consists of copies of outgoing telegrams, with an index at the front of each volume. The material is arranged chronologically.
  • Series 7: Additional Outgoing Correspondence, 1854-1881 (Reels 121-122)
    Includes file drafts, printed copies, fragments of letterbooks, and other copies of Garfield's outgoing correspondence.
  • Series 8: Military Correspondence and Maps, 1861-1885 (Reels 122-123)
    Contains correspondence written by Garfield to military personnel, as well as maps, orders, records, and other military material. The material is arranged chronologically.
  • Series 9: Executive Mansion Letter List, 1881 (Reels 124-125)
    Consists of bound volumes recording letters received by President Garfield and subsequently referred to other agencies. The entries include the date the letter was received, the name of writer, the letter's place of origin, the subject of the communication, and the governmental agency to which the letter was referred. The volumes are arranged chronologically.
  • Series 10: Speeches, Articles, and Public Statements, 1850-1881 (Reels 125-128)
    • Subseries A, Public Utterances, 1850-1880 (Reels 125-128)
      Contains speeches by Garfield, with supporting notes on speeches, handwritten drafts, manuscript reading copies, printed copies, and/or clippings. The material is arranged chronologically.
    • Subseries B, Additional Speeches and Articles, 1868-1881 (Reel 128)
      Includes additional speeches and related material arranged chronologically.
  • Series 11: Notes and Memoranda, 1860-1880 (Reels 128-133)
    Includes correspondence and printed matter that is arranged chronologically.
  • Series 12: Law Cases, 1865-1877 (Reels 133-136)
    Composed of legal briefs, records of trials, notes, drafts, and memoranda, including cases argued before the Supreme Court of Ohio, the United States Patent Office, and the United States Supreme Court. The material is arranged chronologically.
  • Series 13: College Notebooks, 1849-1875 (Reels 136-137)
    Contains six notebooks, dated 1852 to 1856, consisting of lecture notes, names of classmates, essays, and other school material. A seventh volume deals with student life, including college programs, school catalogs, examinations, and licenses of marriages Garfield performed.
  • Series 14: Financial Papers, 1853-1881 (Reels 137-142)
    Includes financial records organized into four groups according to type of material. The first group consists of account books; the second of bills, receipts, and personal expense accounts; the third of deeds, insurance papers, stocks, bonds, and canceled checkbooks; and the fourth includes Lucretia R. Garfield's financial papers. The material is arranged chronologically within each group.
  • Series 15: Scrapbooks, 1855-1885 (Reels 142-147)
    Composed of scrapbooks of bound newspaper clippings. The volumes are arranged by subject and therein chronologically.
  • Series 16: Shorthand Notebooks and Notes, 1871-1881 (Reels 147-163)
    Consists of bound and unbound shorthand notes. The unbound notes cover the period when Garfield served in the U.S. House of Representatives. The notes are arranged chronologically within subject groups as received.
  • Series 17: Miscellany, 1849-1881 (Reels 163-169)
    Includes a variety of materials arranged into the following subseries:
    • Subseries 17A, Diaries and Letters of Eliza Garfield, 1861-1880 (Reel 163)
    • Subseries 17B, School Days of Children, 1870-1881 (Reels 163-164)
    • Subseries 17C, Family Tree Charts and Miscellany (Reel 164)
    • Subseries 17D, Family History, Notes, and Record, 1857-1881 (Reel 164)
    • Subseries 17E, Record of Letters Received, 1864-1881 (Reel 164)
    • Subseries 17F, Index Rerum, 1854-1880 (Reels 164-165)
    • Subseries 17G, House and Senate Bills, 1860 (Reel 165)
    • Subseries 17H, Appropriation Bills and Campaign Poetry and Lyrics, 1872-1880 (Reels 165-166)
    • Subseries 17I, Executive Journal and Index to Speeches and Scrapbooks, 1852-1881 (Reel 166)
    • Subseries 17J, Daily Press Releases, 1881 (Reel 166)
    • Subseries 17K, Telegrams, Dispatches and Codebook, 1876-1879 (Reels 166-167)
    • Subseries 17L, Blaine and Lieber Copies of Letters, 1868-1881 (Reel 167)
    • Subseries 17M, Transcripts, 1856-1881 (Reels 167-168)
    • Subseries 17N, List of Callers, Fund Subscribers, and Photostats, 1881 (Reel 168)
    • Subseries 17-O, Garfield's Editing of Secret Instructions of Frederick II to His Inspector Generals, List of Public Utterances, 1849-1881 (Reel 168)
    • Subseries 17P, Fitz-John Porter's Trial, 1862-1880 (Reels 168-169)
      Only the annotated passages in printed matter were microfilmed.
    • Subseries 17Q, Calling Cards, 1872-1881 (Reel 169)
    • Subseries 17R, Printed Matter (Reel 169)
      Only the annotated pages in this material were microfilmed.
    • Subseries 17S, Fragments, 1850-1881 (Reel 169)
    • Subseries 17T, Dockets and Miscellany, 1866-1881 (Reel 169)
    • Subseries 17U, Catalog of Garfield's Library, 1872-1884 (Reel 169)
  • Series 18: Memorials, 1881 (Reels 170-173)
    Consists of oversize volumes containing memorials prepared in honor of the late president. The volumes are arranged as received.
  • Series 19: Commissions (Reel 173)
    Contains oversize volumes of legal, military, political and other commissions and licenses issued to James A. Garfield, arranged by type of material.
  • Subseries 19A, Photographs of Garfield, and his family and friends (Reel 173)
    Consists of two volumes, the first containing photographs of James A. Garfield and the second of his family and friends.
  • Series 20: Bound Newspapers, 1881 (Reels 173-177)
    Includes bound volumes containing issues of the Cincinnati Commercial, Cincinnati Gazette, Cleveland Leader and Herald, New York Herald, New York Times, Washington Star, Washington National Republican, and Washington Post published in 1881.
  • Series 21: Addition, 1775-1889 (Not filmed; scanned from originals)
    Contains general correspondence, a letterbook, printed matter, and family papers. The material is arranged by the year the addition was added to the collection, and then alphabetically by type of material, and therein by subject, topic, or name of person. The general correspondence in the 1980 Addition includes originals and reproductions of letters to or from William E. Chandler, John Curtis, William C. Howells, Albert M. Pratt, and others. The family papers in the 1980 Addition include diaries, letters, and a wedding announcement of Garfield's daughter, Mary ("Mollie") Garfield Stanley-Brown. The diary begins in 1881 and recounts the death of her father. The 2014 Addition consists of a hand-written volume containing recollections of the life of James A. Garfield as dictated by his brother, Thomas Garfield, and written by Thomas's wife, Mary Jane.
  • Series 22: Oversize, 1775-1881 (Not filmed; scanned from originals)
    Consists of oversize printed matter and genealogical material that were arranged and described according to the series, containers, and folders from which the items were removed.
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