Our Nation’s Twentieth President: An exhibition to commemorate the 125th Anniversary of the Assassination of James A. Garfield has opened at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, DC. Running through September 19, the exhibit focuses on 80 days of summer of 1881, when the nation watched the wounded president:
On July 2, 1881, just one hundred days after his inauguration, Garfield entered the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station in Washington, D.C. to board a train bound for Williamstown, Ma., when Charles Guiteau fired two shots at the President. One bullet grazed the President’s right arm. The second bullet entered Garfield’s lower right back. Although mortally wounded, Garfield would linger for 80 days before succumbing to complications from the wound. Despite the best efforts of a team of notable physicians, President Garfield died on September 19, 1881.
In respect of the 80 days that President Garfield suffered, the life of this exhibit will also be 80 days. It will close on September 19, 2006, exactly one-hundred and twenty-five years to the day of President Garfield’s death.
The centerpiece of the exhibit is the 12th thoracic and 1st and 2nd lumbar vertebrae of the president, which includes a red probe showing the path of the bullet. Also on display are reproductions of a drawing of Garfield’s wound and deathbed, photos of Dr. D. S. Lamb and Dr. J. J. Woodward, two doctors from the Army Medical Museum who took charge of the examination of the president, and a drawing by Alexander Graham Bell of his “induction balance” that was used unsuccessfully to locate the bullet in President Garfield’s body.