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A Garfield presidential campaign token I purchased at the FUN show

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Here is a presidential campaign token I found at the FUN show.





This token is from James Garfield's 1880 presidential campaign. The Dewitt number for this piece is JG 1880-7, and it’s made of brass. Garfield is depicted on the reverse has the young boy who started out on the tow path (leading horses as they pulled boats along a canal) and worked his way to the White House. This was an honest depiction because Garfield did rise from humble origins, worked his way through college and became a successful man.


Many presidential candidates have used common man images as an attempt to boost their campaigns. Abraham Lincoln was “the rail splitter” although by the time he was running President he was a very successful lawyer. Teddy Roosevelt was “the rough rider.” Jimmy Carter was “the peanut farmer from Georgia,” and Ronald Reagan was “the gipper.”


Garfield was a very brilliant and talented man. It was said that he could hold a pen in each hand and write Greek with on one hand and Latin with the other. On the other hand he came up in politics at a time when bribes and political corruption were accepted as the norm. There were claims during the campaign that he had taken a “loan” of $329 that he had never paid back in exchange for his influence. Those who opposed Garfield scrawled the number "329" on sidewalks and fences. It didn't change the outcome of the election. That's why the number "329" is depicted upon this anti-Garfield campaign piece that features a riverboat headed for "salt river." This was a bit of 19th century negative campaigning.





Unfortunately we will never know what sort of president he might have been because a mentally deranged office seeker assassinated him. After he was shot, Garfield lingered for months before he finally died. He may have survived if the doctors had done almost nothing. Instead they probed for the bullet that was in his body with their bare fingers and unsterilized instruments. In the end he died of an infection undoubtedly given to him by the primitive medical practices of the period.


This is one of fun aspects about tokens, medalets and medals. Many of them have great stories attached to them.


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