Murder of a President Examines the Life – and Death – of James Garfield | CET Connect

Murder of a President Examines the Life – and Death – of James Garfield

Posted by Elyssa Steffenson on

James A. Garfield, arguably one of the most extraordinary men ever elected president, was shot at a train station on the morning of July 2, 1881. The first doctor arrived at the station within five minutes and nine more were there within the hour, but it wasn’t enough. As Garfield fought for his life, his medical team — led by the questionable Doctor Bliss — administered archaic and unsanitary measures, rejecting the method of antisepsis that had been recently discovered by the British surgeon Joseph Lister. Garfield was transported back to the White House and Bliss assumed control, refusing assistance or opinions from other doctors. 

As Garfield’s life hung in the balance, the nation remained riveted to news reports, and thousands of letters of support poured in for the ailing president. Even Alexander Graham Bell, the recent inventor of the telephone, worked around the clock to invent the first metal detector, a device capable of finding the bullet.

Follow the bizarre story of James Garfield’s life, the aftermath that followed his death and the impact on a nation with American Experience: Murder of a President at 9pm Tuesday, Feb. 9, on CET and ThinkTV16.