Volumes 1-12: 1848-1873

President James A. Garfield (1831-1881) used his diary to record the challenges he faced as a self-made man, his activities, intellectual curiosity, accomplishments and defeats, family life, travels, and comments on the people, events, and society of his time. Learn more about the rich inner life of one of America’s more remarkable, but lesser-known presidents.

The twelve volumes in this section of the diary cover the formative years of Garfield’s life. They begin with his determination to attain higher education, including at the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute in Ohio and Williams College in Massachusetts, while becoming an educator himself. These volumes also document Garfield’s rocky courtship and troubled early married life with wife Lucretia (“Crete”) Rudolph Garfield before the couple found true happiness in the late 1860s. Garfield recorded in his diary the start of his political career in Ohio, as well as his service in the U.S. House of Representatives (R-OH) beginning in late 1863. Significant gaps in Garfield’s diary exist for the Civil War period, with only one volume briefly covering several months in 1863. (Some of the wartime communications recorded in this volume were later copied by Garfield’s secretary, Joseph Stanley-Brown.) Volume 9, covering July-November 1867, follows Garfield’s experiences while traveling in Europe. Beginning in 1872, another handwriting style regularly appears, as secretary George U. Rose transcribed many diary entries on Rep. Garfield’s behalf. This section concludes in 1872, with Garfield’s reflections on the political landscape, the personal impact of the Credit Mobilier scandal, his family life and love for his wife, and the physical toll of middle age.