president garfield’s stalker, old red truck wallpaper, the scandal of the century remembered

James Abram Garfield (November 19, 1831 – September 19, 1881) served as the 20th President of the United States. He was assassinated by a stalker. If not already familiar with the story of Garfield’s election and assassination it would be tempting to come to the story with modern prejudices and current knowledge of how  political divisions can be so heated. Garfield’s stalker must have been a political adversary of some sort. Perhaps someone opposed to Garfield’s progressive civil right’s efforts or his belief in universal public education. or someone who was some kind of anarchists – who were enjoying some momentum in western politics at the time. It turned out that Garfield’s assassinate was also a Republican. Charles J. Guiteau had initially endorsed Ulysses S. Grant, but upon Garfield’s nomination as the compromise candidate Guiteau simply changed the name Ulysses in a stomp speech he gave to any passersby that would listen, to Garfield. The Stalking of the President

“Being about to marry a wealthy and accomplished heiress of this city,” Guiteau wrote Garfield, “we think that together we might represent this nation with dignity and grace. On the principle of first come first served, I have faith that you will give this application favorable consideration.” There was no heiress, however, and Guiteau was down to his last few dollars. He wrote again to ask for a post in Paris, which he said would suit him better. None of his requests were answered—a slight that, Guiteau admitted, “hurt me very badly.” He moved to Washington, where he stayed in hotels and skipped out without paying. He spent most of his days in Lafayette Park, across from the White House. He had already decided to kill the president.

At first, he thought he would do it with dynamite, but then he reconsidered. “I was afraid to handle the stuff, for fear in my inexperience it might explode in my hands, and thus tear me to pieces,” he later admitted. He also feared killing innocent bystanders, which, to him, was “too Russian, too barbarous. No! I wanted it done in an American manner.”

He considered, too, a stiletto, but conceded that the president was too strong to approach with a knife; Garfield “would have crushed the life out of me with a single blow of his fist,” he said. He finally settled on a pistol, where he “could creep up behind him and shoot him in the head, or through the body opposite the heart.”

Guiteau was certain he would be caught: “Of course I would be executed, but what of that, when I should become immortal and be talked of by all generations to come?” He borrowed some cash from a friend and spent $10 on a handsome, short-barreled British Bulldog revolver; he thought it would display well in an exhibit on the president’s assassination. He practiced firing into a fence and concluded he was a better marksman than he had thought.

Garfield would survive the initial two gun shots, he died of complications from his wounds – and the lack of modern surgical knowledge and techniques  – on a Monday, the 19th of September 1881 Garfield died.

The president was taken to the White House. Over the next 24 hours, more than 15 doctors stuffed their unwashed fingers into his intestinal wound, trying to locate Guiteau’s bullet and ultimately causing sepsis. They repeatedly injected him with morphine, causing the president to vomit; they next tried champagne, which only made him sicker. Joseph Lister, a British surgeon and pioneer of antiseptic surgery, had been advocating since Lincoln’s death for more sterile procedures and environments, but American doctors ridiculed him. “In order to successfully practice Mr. Lister’s Antiseptic Method,” one doctor scoffed in 1878, “it is necessary that we should believe, or act as if we believed, the atmosphere to be loaded with germs.”

As the weeks passed, Garfield’s body became engorged with pus. His face began to swell and had to be drained. Initial meals of steak, eggs and brandy were soon replaced by eggs, bouillon, milk, whiskey and opium. He lost nearly 100 pounds as his doctor’s starved him. Doctors inserted drainage tubes and continued to probe for the bullet; at one point, they brought in Alexander Graham Bell, who had invented a metal detector and thought he might be able to locate the slug by passing it over the president’s abdomen. All was for naught.

Garfield at 16. Photo via Wikipedia

A colorful retelling of the events leading up to the assassination here, Garfield II: A Lengthy Demise

Charles Julius Guiteau, in events delineated in a previous article, had worked himself into a frenzy over then-President James A. Garfield. Somewhat unbalanced, Guiteau had decided that Garfield was the architect of a vast conspiracy to remove a faction of his political enemies from Congress. Additionally, Garfield had done the shabbily-dressed Guiteau the disservice of not appointing him to a consul Generalship in a foreign country. In addition to being horribly unqualified, Guiteau had the social graces of a sewer drain and had been creepily hanging around the White House trying to get a job for over four months.

President Garfield was faring much better. One of his chief opponents in Congress, Senator Thomas Platt, had recently been discredited in an episode involving a married lady: an opponent of Platt (and a friend to Garfield) had placed a ladder underneath the Senator’s hotel room, only to have reporters happen upon it and the Senator frolicking inside. “Suicide is the chief mode of political death,” remarked Garfield.[1] On the day of the assassination, the President was reportedly doing handstands on his son’s bed and generally being in lively spirits.

The only things that seemed to have changed since then are the knowledge of surgeons and technology.

old red truck, americana,

old red truck wallpaper 1800×1200


What was J.D. Salinger working on? The reclusive author died two years ago. We’ve learned lots about his life since, but one big question remains. This article is such a tease. It is known that Salinger carried around a notebook and spoke of his writing. After a fire in his home, it is known that he bought a fire-proof safe to keep his writings in. Other than that no one is saying what if anything publishable exists – some short stories? A new novel?

Robert C. Weaver and President Johnson

An anniversary: Photograph of Swearing In of Robert C. Weaver as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, 01/18/1966. Robert C. Weaver was the first African-American U.S. Cabinet member. Via the National Archives.


The Architect, The “It” Girl And The Toy Pistol That Wasn’t

Stanford White, a driven and charismatic man, was a founding partner of McKim, Mead and White, a firm responsible for an absurdly large portion of New York’s grandest architecture. Their legacy includes Columbia University’s main campus, the James Farley Post Office, the Brooklyn Museum, the Morgan Library, all still standing, and most famously the original Penn Station (whose demolition in 1963 is mourned by everyone in the world except two people).

Evelyn Nesbit had arrived in New York as a teenager with her debt-laden mother and acquired some notice as a model and a chorus girl. A familiar path, but in her case both the initial innocence and the heat of the spotlight were particularly pronounced. As she moved from artist’s studio to men’s-club stage and postcards of her face cropped up around the city, she relied heavily on her mother to supervise her career and social life. Her mother appears to have been clueless about both.

According to Paula Uruburu’s overheated but dishy and informative American Eve, Nesbit’s fusion of naïveté and sex appeal made her “the ur-Lolita. The very first ‘It’ girl, before anyone knew what ‘It’ was.” In photographs she looks like a cross between a younger Madeleine Stowe and Olivia Hussey, co-star of the Franco Zeffirelli film of Romeo and Juliet. These are not the kind of century-old photos that make you puzzle over changing standards of beauty.

Evelyn Nesbit

In a jealous rage Nesbit’s likely date-rapist White would murder Nesbit’s husband Harry Kendall Thaw. Thaw as not without means being the son of railroad baron William Thaw. That Nesbit was so beautiful, White’s social circle included the Rockefellers and Edith Wharton ( author of The Age of Innocence) and Thaw being a member of the elite himself, plus the lurid sexual facts and gossip, combined to make White’s murder one of history’s great scandals. Another thing that has not changed all that much is how the elite fare in the justice system. Thaw was sentenced to a home for the clinically insane, which in his case was like having a suite at the Waldorf. Short of reading a book length history, the full write-up at the link is very good. Movie buffs might remember a dramatized version of the story with the legendary James Gagney giving his next to last performance in Ragtime(1981). Also memorable for an early career making role for Elizabeth McGovern as Nesbit, currently in the Downtown Abbey series.

No Pants Subway Ride 2012

On Sunday, January 8th, 2012 tens of thousands of people took off their pants on subways in 59 cities in 27 countries around the world.” This is probably a PG-13 rating if you’re at work. I think its funny. There are even a couple good tattoos in the mix. While there were no bad reactions, some people were a little chagrined. You’re on a subway and suddenly someone not wearing their pants or skirt sits down next to you – ah, whats up with that is the least you can expect.