Three Presidents, One Year

Imagine a year with three presidents. It’s happened twice: once in 1841 and again in 1881. We made an infographic about the second time it happened in 1881.  A time line of events and a primary source follow.

A Time Line of Events


Rutherford B. Hayes is a lame duck president, waiting for the end of his term.

MARCH 4, 1881

James A. Garfield is inaugurated as the 20th president.

JULY 2, 1881

After only four months as president, Garfield is shot in a Washington, DC train station.

JULY 1881

Alexander Graham Bell attempts to locate the bullet with his metal detector.

Image: Events related to the assassination of President Garfield, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, August 20, 1881 (Library of Congress)


SEPTEMBER 19, 1881

President Garfield dies after an eighty-day fight to survive. Chester A. Arthur is sworn in as the 21st president.

One Eventful Year

The events of 1881 remind us that we can persist through times of uncertainty, and perhaps we can learn a thing or two from studying the past.

Our Book

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Our Posters

Check out our full line of infographic posters for the classroom!


Davis, Kenneth C., and Pedro Martin. Don’t Know Much about the Presidents. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2014.

DeGregorio, William A., and Aaron Jaffe. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books, Inc., 2017.

Kane, Joseph Nathan, and Janet Podell. Facts about the Presidents: A Compilation of Biographical and Historical Information. New York: H.W. Wilson, 2009.


Encyclopedia Britannica,

Library of Congress,

Miller Center, University of Virginia,

The White House,