The Bizarre Final Days Of President James Garfield

by Midnight Fremason Contributor
Todd E. Creason

President James A. Garfield
"The chief duty of government is to keep the peace and stand out of the sunshine of the people."

~James A. Garfield
Columbus Lodge No. 246, Ohio

After serving as a General in the United States Civil war, and later serving nine consecutive terms in the House of Representatives, James A. Garfield was elected President of the United States.  His political life looked promising.  But just four months after his inauguation, President Garfield was shot by attorney, Charles Giteau, on the platform of a Washington rail station on July 2, 1881.  Geiteau was angry that Garfield hadn't granted him a consular post he had had sought.

Badly wounded, President Garfield was taken to the White House, and physicians from all over the country were called in hopes of saving the President's life.  For two months, physicians held a round-the-clock vigil over the President, but one problem perplexed them--they couldn't find the bullet. 

Alexander Graham Bell
 Finally it was suggested, that since doctors couldn't solve the problem, perhaps another brilliant mind could.  They sent for Alexander Graham Bell--the inventor of the telephone.  Perhaps his newest invention, the metal detector, would be able to do the job. 

Bell came at once, but each time he passed his induction-balanced electrical device anywhere near the President--it went haywire.  Baffled, Alexander Graham Bell finally gave up.  The President died a short time later, on September 19th, 1881, from an infection caused by that elusive bullet.

Some time after Garfield's funeral, Alexander Graham Bell suddenly realized what the problem was.  In order to make the President more comfortable, he had been placed on a bed with metal coil springs.  It was the bed's springs that had interferred with his device.  Had President Garfield been resting on the more common bed of the period, a feather bed, who knows how the course of history may have been changed.


Todd E. Creason, 33° was the original Midnight Freemason. In early 2012, Todd expanded his popular blog The Midnight Freemason into a collaborative effort Midnight Freemasons. Todd is the Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and a member of both the Scottish Rite, and York Rite. He's also a member of the Ansar Shrine (IL) and Charter President of the Illini High Twelve in Champaign-Urbana (IL) 

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