In the spirit of election week, we’re featuring a few items from our Ohio Presidents collection. We’ve featured some ephemera from this collection in a previous post; today we’re sharing some pre-presidential correspondence.
This letter signed by Ulysses S. Grant was written in July 1865 to John Aaron Rawlins, Grant’s chief of staff at U.S. Army headquarters and later his first secretary of war. The two men first met in 1861, when Grant was forming a regiment in Rawlins’s hometown of Galena, Illinois to meet President Lincoln’s call for troops. Rawlins stayed with Grant throughout the war and played a significant role in maintaining Grant’s public image and encouraging his sobriety during the conflict. In the letter Grant mentions Rawlins’s return to Washington “…I hope with health materially improved.” This likely refers to the fact that Rawlins had contracted tuberculosis; he died in 1869 at age 38. Grant served two terms as president (1869-1877) and died in 1885 at age 63.
This undated telegraph message from James Garfield appears to have been written sometime during his nine consecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Although Garfield’s congressional service had been long, his presidency lasted just six months before he was killed by an assassin’s bullet in 1881.
This letter from Benjamin Harrison was written when he worked as an attorney in Indianapolis. In the letter Harrison attempts to negotiate a more favorable legal settlement for a client; however, an addendum at the bottom states that the original offer was the best the other party could do. In addition to his law practice, Harrison was active in both state and national politics: he served as reporter for the Supreme Court of Indiana, was a delegate to the 1880 Republican National Convention, campaigned for presidential nominee James Garfield, and was elected to the U.S. Senate. Harrison served as president from 1889-1893, and died in Indianapolis in 1901 at age 67.