James Abram Garfield became the 20th president of the United States in March 1881 at the age of 49. Garfield had already pursued a long career in politics, stretching back to his 1859 election to the Ohio State Senate, and he’d also seen active service in the Civil War. Unfortunately, Garfield was to serve only 199 days in office, the second-shortest term on record.
Garfield was born in 1831 in Orange Township (now called Moreland Hills), Ohio, the last of the five children that Abram and Eliza Garfield had. He was born in humble circumstances, and the family home was a log cabin. In fact, Garfield was only one of seven U.S. presidents who were born in this type of humble dwelling.
Garfield’s early life was all the more poverty stricken because his father died not long after his birth, leaving Eliza to raise her five children single-handedly. Although she did remarry in 1842, the couple parted not long after the wedding. Garfield left home at 16 and found work as a muleteer, looking after animals that hauled a canal boat.