President Garfield’s Condition: July 2, 1881, 12 PM

Portraits of Garfield's six doctors surround an illustration of the President on his sickbedEXECUTIVE MANSION,
July 2, 1881.

12 M.
The President is somewhat restless, but is suffering less pain. Pulse 112. Some nausea and vomiting have recently occurred. Considerable hemorrhage has taken place from the wound.


This post is one of a series reenacting the official bulletins released to the public by the physicians to President Garfield during his illness after the shooting on July 2, 1881.


  1. Did President Garfield really receive the best medical care available at the time? Wasn’t there soon controversy over the attending physicians’ refusal to more carefully examine the wound anticeptically?

    1. Thanks for your comment! It is true that by 1881 Pasteur and Lister, among others, had already made their great contributions to medicine with the germ theory of disease and promotion of antiseptics to prevent infection. However, these important insights were met with great resistance both in the United States and Europe. Ironically, less than a decade after Garfield’s death, the germ theory would be fully embraced by the American medical profession. While there certainly were advocates for antiseptic methods in Garfield’s day, these physicians represented a small minority. At the time of his injury, Garfield was treated by highly regarded surgeons who followed mainstream medical practices. Antiseptic techniques were considered “experimental” medicine. We will be addressing the issue of Garfield’s medical care and the resulting controversy in future posts.

      1. Your explanation is much more nuanced than what appeared in the original article. Your explanation is what I have come across in my own previous reading. I recall that the President’s cousin, Dr. Silas Boynton, and Mrs. Garfield’s physician, Susan Edson, were quite concerned that antiseptic techniques were not being employed. Thanks for your reply.

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