Little bits of history keep popping up as we continue to catalog the manuscript backlog. Last week I happened upon a folder that simply stated, “telegram, E.K. Winship to J.R. Hawley, 1881”. What I had found was a message concerning the assassination attempt on the President!
On July 2, 1881, Charles Guiteau took two shots at President James A. Garfield at the Baltimore and Potomac train station. Soon thereafter, E.K. Winship sent his telegram to General Joseph R. Hawley in Hartford, Connecticut, conveying the news. He mentioned that the “bore of pistol admits finger” and that “Surgeon General Barnes says doubtless fatal.” Hawley had been a General in the Civil War; after the war he served as Governor of Connecticut for one term, and from 1881-1905 Hawley was a United States Senator and a Republican leader. He was also a newspaper publisher. Garfield lingered 11 months before he finally succumbed to an infection, attributed to the doctor exploring the “bore of pistol admits finger” without sanitizing his hands. How far modern medicine has come since then. But how little progress, really, we have made in protecting public figures from people who have an agenda.
Another collection in our library contains additional information on the Garfield assassination. It is the correspondence of Frank Trusdell, a journalist assigned to the White House to await the President’s death. These fascinating letters are in the Clark and Hathaway Families Papers, 1834-1940 (Ms 90839).