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James A. Garfield

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James Abram Garfield, 1831-1881.  20th President of the United States, 1881.  Scarce, magnificent 4" x 6" cabinet photograph boldly signed J. A. Garfield

This bust portrait is one of the finest Garfield signed photographs that we have ever seen. It is not yellowed, and the surface is still glossy.  Garfield has signed with a large 3" fountain pen signature. 

The photo is an Artotype manufactured by the noted company Harroun & Bierstadt of New York, whose circular blind stamp appears in the lower right corner.  Photographer Edward Bierstadt, of Harroun & Bierstadt, was the brother of noted nineteenth century artist Albert Bierstadt. 

Bierstadt did not take the photograph, however.  The Ohio Historical Society's collection includes a print of this image mounted on a card, on the back of which appears this legend:  "Negative by H. W. Tibbals, Painesville, O. expressly for E. Bierstadt, New York. According to Ohio Photographers, 1839-1900 by Dianne VanSkiver Gagel, a photographer named Horace W. Tibbals worked in Painesville, Ohio, from 1871 to 1884.  Painesville is a small city in Lake County, east of Cleveland, some seven miles from Mentor, Ohio, where Garfield's home, Lawnfield, is located. Garfield bought Lawnfield in 1876 and lived there when he was elected President in 1880.  It thus appears that Tibbals took the photograph for Bierstadt and sent the negative to him to make the Artotype. 

The image in this photograph is used in the Bureau of Engraving and Printings official presidential portrait of Garfield, the die for which was engraved by Lorenzo Hatch in 1881.  It was also used on the 6 stamp issued in 1903.

It thus is quite possible that Garfield signed this photograph as President.  Even if Tibbals took the photograph before Garfield took office, a good amount of time would have elapsed by the time he sent the negative to Bierstadt in New York, Harroun & Bierstadt manufactured the Artotype, and the piece got to Garfield for his signature.

Regardless of its date, however, this is an absolutely stunning image of Garfield with an exceptional signature.  It belongs in the finest of presidential collections.




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