In “Assassin on Trial” (June/July 1981) author John M. Taylor declared that “it is difficult today to convey the grief and outrage” that greeted the assassination of President James A. Garfield by Guiteau in 1881. For some, however, grief was tempered by the clang of the cash register.
Take, for example, the son of Nathaniel Currier, of the New York printmaking firm of Currier & Ives. Garfield, shot on July 2, died of his wound on September 19; on September 21, Currier’s son wrote to his father to break the good news: “The demand for Garfield pictures is perfectly overwhelming, it surpasses everything. We took twelve hundred and twenty-five dollars in hard cash over the counter today!! We could have sold more but we could not get them.…”
Four days later, the news was even better: “Our cash sales for the week have been very heavy. A rough estimate would be thirty-five hundred dollars for the last five days. … We have not been able to strike a balance as all our spare time has been devoted to getting money into the bank. Silver, greenbacks, and nickels have flowed in like a mountain torrent.
“At times the store has been so packed with buyers that you had to elbow your way through to the back part. We had to barricade to keep the crowd in the front part of the store.
“At times they yelled so for pictures that the neighbors were scared and put their heads out of the window to see what the matter was.…”
These two letters, along with eightyeight others written by Currier between 1881 and 1885, were recently acquired by the Archives of American Art in Washington, D.C.