The sculptural monument to President James A. Garfield by John Quincy Adams Ward (1830-1910), cast by The Henry-Bonnard Co. of New York, with a pedestal designed by Richard Morris Hunt, is an outstanding example of American sculpture. The monument stands in the circle at First Street, S.W., and Maryland Avenue, where it was unveiled on May 12, 1887.
President Garfield was elected in 1880 and was assassinated in 1881 by a disgruntled office-seeker after serving only four months of his term. The memorial was commissioned in 1884 by the Society of the Army of the Cumberland, of which Garfield had been a member. The Society raised almost $28,000 to pay the sculptor. Some of the funds were raised by The Garfield Monument Fair, which was held in the Rotunda and Statuary Hall in 1882. Also in that year, Congress appropriated to the Society $7500 in funds from the sale of condemned cannons (22 Stat. 28, signed March 11, 1882); in 1884 it appropriated $30,000 for the pedestal (Sundry Civil Appropriation Act of July 7, 1884, 23 Stat. 216). The monument was incorporated into the Capitol Grounds in 1975 (Public Law 93-198, December 24, 1973, 87 Stat. 828, effective January 2, 1975).
The tapered, cylindrical granite pedestal holds four over-life-size bronze figures, with the portrait statue of Garfield at the top and three allegorical figures representing different phases of his career below. The top-coated figure, depicted as if giving a speech, gazes intently outward, a sheaf of papers in his left hand, his right resting on a book on a draped column. The toe of one shoe projects over the edge of the base, giving the work a sense of vigor and incipient movement. Below him, the young Student, draped in a sheep skin, suggests Garfield's early work as a teacher. The bearded, middle-aged Warrior, wearing a wolf skin, represents his Saxon ancestry and his military career during the Civil War. The older Statesman, dressed in a toga and holding a tablet inscribed "Law/Justice/Prosperity," symbolizes Garfield's achievements as Congressman, Senator, and President. A bronze plaque with related symbols is mounted above each figure, and a unifying bronze garland encircles the pedestal.