This week’s Five for Friday looks inside the mind of a killer.

An important private collection of artifacts and documents relating to the Presidential assassin Charles Guiteau have been uncovered, including a newly discovered manifesto in which he attempts to “justify” shooting President James A. Garfield.

“Presidential assassins are well known, but few archives give a look inside the thinking behind their thoughts and actions like this one offers historians,” said Tom Slater, director of Americana at Heritage Auctions. “From photographs to hair samples and even the bullets fired into his prison cell in an attempted assassination of Guiteau himself, no other archive comes close in complexity and completeness.”

Charles Guiteau Pieces of the Ropes Used to Bind and Hang Garfield's Assassin 2

Most of the items were saved by the warden of the jail in which Guiteau was being held and passed down through his family. Recently discovered pages from Guiteau’s 1882 book, written from jail while awaiting his execution, titled The Truth and The Removal are among the only pages of Guiteau’s manuscript known to exist in private hands (est. $3,000+). The pages were obtained from the family of printer William Gibson, whose firm printed the book in 1882. A separate lot also offers original manuscript draft pages from the book disavowing himself from his court-appointed lawyer, calling his brain “cranked” (est. $2,000+).

Among the five most evocative pieces from the private collection include:

  1. Pieces of the Ropes Used to Bind and Hang Garfield’s Assassin, with 1883 Letter of Authentication (est. $1,500+)
    1883 Letter of Authentication from the Warden of the Jail in which Charles Guiteau was Held

  1. A Cabinet Photo Boldly Autographed by Guiteau and Dated in Ink (est. $1,500+)
    Charles Guiteau C.M. Bell Cabinet Head Shot Photo
    Charles Guiteau C.M. Bell Cabinet Photo reverse


  1. Group of Items including Bullets Fired Through his Window Cell in an Assassination Attempt (est. $800+)
    Charles Guiteau bullets fired

  1. Cribbage Board Hand-carved from Wood from the Assassin’s Coffin (est. $700+)
    Charles Guiteau coffin wood


  1. Two Glass Vials – the first containing a substantial sample of the assassin’s hair and, the other, containing poison, sent to him by his sister, presumably in the hope that he would choose to take it and cheat the hangman (est. $700+)
    Charles Guiteau hair

The collection also holds various ephemera from the era, including letters sent to Guiteau in prison and 14 items from his jailer’s scrapbook and an autographed card (est. $700+).

The odd collection makes its auction debut at Heritage Auctions Americana & Political Auction May 13 in Dallas.

Written by: Eric Bradley


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