Rare Garfield Appointment Signature


James Garfield held the second-shortest term as President of the United States. Only William Henry Harrison served a shorter term—in 1841 for only one month—when he died of pneumonia.

In an assassination attempt on July 2, 1881, Charles J. Guiteau shot Garfield less than four months after assuming the presidency. A veteran of the Union side during the Civil War, Garfield ran on the Republican ticket. Guiteau, disgruntled when his efforts to secure a position in the Federal Government failed, shot at approximately 9:30 a.m. at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad terminal in Washington, D.C. He died of blood poisoning and other complications related to the shooting roughly two and a half months later, on Sept. 19, 1881.


With such a short time in office, material signed by Garfield signed is very rare and signed documents and letters rarely appear on the market. The documents that are most readily available that feature his signature are cards or other smaller-sized pieces. As with a lot of presidents of that time, autograph seekers usually collected signatures of elected officials in autograph books. However, official documents, like appointments, are rare. Since his term was very short, he had little time to sign a quantity of such documents.

This photo depicts an example of an appointment Garfield made while president. This is called a Postmaster’s Appointment, as it appoints an individual to run a postal location. This document appoints John B. Dowd as Postmaster at Rockville, Parke County, Ill. It is dated April 26, 1881, a little more than two months prior to his assassination.

I noticed that my Garfield document  was featured on “Antiques Roadshow” on Aug. 14, 2004, before I bought it. It was appraised by Chris Coover as being worth $10,000 at the time. Current value is about $12,500.

Rick Badwey is a Worthologist who specializes in historical autographs.

WorthPoint—Discover Your Hidden Wealth

No Comments

  1. Mark Johnstone says:

    hello Rick,

    I also have a Garfield signature, although I doubt it is worth all that much.
    It’s the bottom one third of a piece of notepaper that he had written a letter on. I would assume the letter was folded in threes like we do today. The top two portions are gone. It’s one sentence… “…hoping to hear good news on Tuesday”. Then it’s signed affectionately by Garfield. It has the name of the recipient also written on the bottom of the paper; a General L.W. Heath, from Grand Rapids, Michigan.
    Being that the top two portions of the note paper are gone there is no date, so who knows when he signed it.
    However, the ink, and signature, and the sentence are bold and crystal clear and the paper is in remarkably good shape.
    Any thoughts on what the value may be?

  2. Rick Badwey says:

    Mark, I think I answered you, but if not, about $300 to $400 dollars since it is a partial letter. Thnaks, Rick

    • John Dowd says:


      John B. Dowd was my great grandfather. He was a distinguished Civil War hero. I was notified by about 25 people who saw the Antiques Road Show on which this appointment was originally presented. I could never financially afford to purchase this document, but wondered if there is anyway that I could get a reporduction of the document through some medium for which I would gladly pay. My interest is for family history. I am a soon to be retired federal prosecutor living in Indianapolis, IN. Thank you for your time. John Dowd

  3. Rick Badwey says:

    Hi John, I sold the document a while ago to a dealer in LA. IF you want his email address, please send me yours.