History In Ink®  Historical Autographs


James A. Garfield

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Stunning, pristine signature of Garfield

James Abram Garfield, 18311881.  20th President of the United States, 1881.  Signature, J. A. Garfield / Hiram / Ohio, on a 2¼” x 4” card. 

This is a magnificent signature of Garfield in brown ink.  Garfield has added his home town, Hiram, Ohio, beneath his signature. 

This signature comes from a collection assembled during the 1870s and 1880s.  Many of the signatures were obtained in person.  To our knowledge, this signature has never been offered on the autograph market before.

Garfield received the Republican presidential nomination on June 8, 1880, on the 36th ballot, the longest Republican National Convention ever.  A dark horse, compromise candidate, Garfield was nominated after the convention deadlocked in a race among former President Ulysses S. Grant, Maine Senator James G. Blaine, former Ohio Senator John Sherman—whom Garfield had supported—and others.  Ultimately, both Blaine and Sherman threw their support to Garfield, to the dismay of New York Senator Roscoe P. Conkling, Grant’s staunchest supporter.  Following Garfield’s nomination, the delegates, led by Garfield’s Ohio delegation, nominated New Yorker Chester A. Arthur, a stalwart with close ties to Conkling, for Vice President.  Garfield went on to defeat General Winfield Scott Hancock, the Democratic nominee, in the general election by a razor-thin margin that one source shows as 1,898 votes in the popular vote.  Garfield won the electoral vote, however, by a larger margin of 214-155.

On July 2, 1881, just under four months after he took office, Garfield was shot by an assassin in Union Station in Washington, D.C.  He died September 19, 1881, making his presidency the second shortest in American history.  Garfield’s autograph material from his presidency is rare, and consequently letters such as this one, written as the Republican nominee, are a nice substitute.

This signature has an uncommon curlicue at the beginning of the “J,” with which Garfield evidently experimented, if only briefly.  A virtually identical signature sold at RR Auction, Catalog 443, Item 80, in December 2014.  Another, with a smaller curlicue, signed as a free frank while Garfield was a member of Congress, is illustrated in Stephen Koschal, James A Garfield: A Signature Study With A Focus On His Presidential Signatures 80 (2011).

This piece is in very fine condition.  The card is crisp and white and retains its original sheen, and there are no markings or mounting traces on the back.  Were it not for a tiny bend in the upper right corner, we would grade it extra fine.  It is perfect for framing and would be beautiful in a framed display.

Unframed.  Please ask us about custom framing this piece.

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