Lot 23: James A. Garfield Spectacular ALS
8th February 2017
Spectacular ALS, signed three times, “James,” four pages on two adjoining sheets, 6.5 x 8.75, July 17, 1854. The 23-year-old Garfield writes from Williams College to A. S. Hayden, president of his alma mater Hiram College (then called the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute). In part: "My dear Bro. Hayden, In writing to you and sister Hayden, I feel as if I were addressing parents rather than mere friends, and assuming that a history of my pilgrimage will be acceptable to you, I will give it briefly. After visiting with my mother and friends a few days…I went via Niagara Falls…and stayed 24 hrs. viewing the watery wonders of the stunning cataract. The next morning left for the East and that evening stopped at Bro. Craines in Butler…I heard the Rev. Antoinette Brown preach to the congregation under her charge. She is a speaker of some power, but seems to me, to have built a reputation more upon the novelty of her course than the power of her mind. I found that my energies were considerably relaxed and concluded to spend a few days in recreating before commencing the work of study—not wanting to travel on the Fourth on account of the crowded and reckless excursions of that day…Finding a great competition between the different lines of Steamer by which the fare to NY was only 50 cents, I concluded to go there…I enjoyed the scene of a golden sunset on the noble Hudson. It is certainly all that travelers have described it to be, the ‘Rhine of America.’ But doubtless you have seen its castle-crowned heights and towering palisades. The next morning we were in the city and spent the day in visiting the Crystal Palace, Barnum’s Museum of Natural Curiosities, lately Increased by a huge Boa Constrictor 28-feet long and some other Ethiopian terrors. We also visited the Tribune Press, which turns out 10,000 sheets per hour, and also the Harpers office. The next day we visited Greenwood Cemetery on Long Island. Did you ever visit it? It possessed more of interest and was more satisfying to me than all of New York City. We lingered for several hours among the graves of Poets, Orators, Statesman and Warriors and also those of humbler name. The road leading around it is several miles in length and a more beautiful and appropriate place for the last resting place of the dead could not be chosen. In the afternoon I went across to the Jersey Shore and went to where Croydon is teaching and remained with him till Monday 10th. These are the old haunts of Washington and his little army. The country looks old, and many of its buildings have stood a hundred years. On Sunday I listened to the Dutch Reformed minister who with a long drawn countenance and a longer sermon fed his flock with the wholesome doctrines of ‘Original Sin and Unconditional Election.’ He does not think the Lord’s Sabbath should be used in speaking against the evils of intemperance. He says, ‘It would not do to speak of it here for most of the Brethren use intoxicating drinks…’ I have no patience with that sort of priestly bread-and-butter-ism. I rambled over the hills and visited enough to learn something of the looseness of Jersey society, and on Monday went back to NY…By cars and stage I arrived at Williamstown…I went immediately to the house of the President, was sent by him to the different professors and in three hours from the time I arrived, I had passed examinations in Mathematics, Latin and Greek and allowed to enter the coming Junior year…I very much regret that I came so soon. I could just as well have entered the Junior class next September as now, and thus have saved a considerable expense. But the time will not be lost. It is rather an unfavorable time to come here now, just in bustle of their examinations. It was quite difficult to obtain room and boarding and at this time they are very high for there is a great demand during examinations and Commencement for board for visitors. But by being here I shall be enabled to get a good situation for the coming year… This place is beautifully situated in the lap of the Green Mountains and surrounded on all sides by towering peaks that press the sky with their pine-clad heads were wreathed with the majestic clouds…I have as yet become but little acquainted with the institution, but as far as I have yet discovered its policy and course of Instruction, I am much pleased. Its last two years seems to be especially popular, and I am told are not surpassed if equaled by any college in America. A good evidence of this is the fact that many come from Old Harvard and the other Eastern Institutions to finish the last two years. So you see what classmates I will have! The President himself has the entire charge of the Senior class. He seems to be universally admired and beloved… I must confess I am somewhat lonely, but that will be different when I get really into the work of study. I feel that in leaving your family I have left a kind and indulgent home and many dear friends such as are not to be met everyday nor every year. I shall ever be grateful to you and Aunt Sarah for your many kindnesses to me. I know your time Is much occupied, but you do not know how gratefully an occasional letter from you would be received. The prosperity of our ‘Dear Eclectic’ lies very near my heart. Her interests have almost become a part of myself. I shall be very anxious to hear of her advancement and success.” He adds a postscript on the first page, also signed “James,” in part: “Direct to Williamstown, Mass. Will the Harbinger be sent to me on the same terms that it comes there in the Hiram club? I have not received the July number. I forget the price of the Christian Age. I want that also.” Garfield adds another postscript on the final page, again signed “James,” in part: “The road supervisor never warned me to work on the road himself, but sent his boy. I do not know whether I am legally bound to do it or not. If you think I ought to, please pay him and charge my account." In fine condition, with small splits at edges of intersecting folds. This is the earliest Garfield letter we have ever offered, and it boasts absolutely exquisite content concerning both his collegiate life and his own 'discovery' of America's beauty as a young man. Pre-certified PSA/DNA.
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