"To Be Preserved": The Correspondence of James A. Garfield

Although an assassin’s bullet shortened his presidential administration to just six months in 1881, James A. Garfield (1831-1881) left an impressive archive of his forty-nine years, including extensive handwritten correspondence with family, friends, professional colleagues, and the public. Deeply interested in his epistolary history, Garfield collected and organized his correspondence, sometimes noting "To be preserved" on the back of letters.

Garfield’s correspondence with those in his inner circle recorded his thoughts on his private life and public activities, including the challenges he faced as a self-made man, periods of difficulty in his marriage, national issues he encountered as a member of the United States Congress (and briefly as president), and his abundant intellectual curiosity. The letters Garfield received from the wider world reflected the interests of the public at large, as well as frequent requests for jobs and assistance… including from the assassin who would later take Garfield’s life. Discover the diversity of subjects addressed in the correspondence of one of America’s more remarkable, but lesser-known presidents.