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Garfied Assassin Embraced Media Circus: Lewis Lapham

The cover jacket of
The cover jacket of "Destiny of the Republic" by Candice Millard. Source: Anchor via Bloomberg

Aug. 4 (Bloomberg) -- On July 2, 1881, Charles Guiteau shot President James Garfield from behind. The first bullet sliced through his arm, while the second ripped into his back. Garfield died on Sept. 19.

(To listen to the podcast, click here.)

A classic ne’er-do-well, the jailed Guiteau was thrilled by the surrounding media circus. He gave long interviews to journalists and posed for photographs, making sure they were flattering.

Convinced he’d soon be out on bail and looking to capitalize on his new-found fame, Guiteau planned to go on a lecture tour and earn tens of thousands of dollars. He also wanted to auction off the suit he’d been wearing on the day of the shooting.

Sending his autobiography to the New York Herald, he added a note saying he wished to marry an “elegant Christian lady of wealth, under thirty, belonging to a first-class family.” All suitable candidates should get in touch with him.

He was hanged on June 30, 1882.

I spoke with Candice Millard, author of “Destiny of the Republic,” on the following topics:

1. White House Stalker

2. President Shot

3. Incompetent Doctors

4. Nation’s Grief and Rage

5. Jailhouse Celebrity

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

To contact the writer on the story: Lewis Lapham in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

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