Presidents: Chester Arthur

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Chester Arthur became president with the assassination of President James Garfield.

Chester Arthur

Chester Alan Arthur was born on October 5, 1829 in Fairfield, Vermont. He was the fifth of nine children born to William and Malvina Stone Arthur. His father was a Baptist minister and often changed churches. He spent much of his childhood living in various parts of New York state.

Arthur studied law and moved to New York City in 1853 to study law. The next year he was admitted to the bar. Arthur concentrated on building up his law practice.

In 1859, he married Ellen Herndon. The couple would have three children together, but their oldest son died at the age of three.

In 1861, Arthur was appointed to the military staff of Governor Edwin D. Morgan as engineer-in-chief. He would rise to the rank of quartermaster general. After the Civil War ended, he returned to a successful law practice.

Arthur became active in the Republican party and was eventually confirmed as Collector, a position in which he thrived politically and financially. He held the position until political upheaval and differences caused him to lose it in 1878 when investigation into charges of corruption within the New York customhouse occurred which resulted in a thorough housecleaning and reduction in workforce.

Chester Arthur

He became chairman of the New York State Republican Executive Committee the next year.

His wife, Ellen, died suddenly while he was away on January 12, 1880. He would never remarry.

At the 1880 Republican National Convention, he was nominated as Vice President nominee with James Garfield, as Presidential nominee. The two were elected.

On March 4, 1881, Arthur took the oath of Vice President. On July 2nd, he learned that Garfield had been shot. He was reluctant to act with executive order while Garfield was still alive. He took the oath of President at home at 2:15am, on September 20th, a few hours after President Garfield died.

He arrived in Washington, D.C. the following day and re-took the oath of office. His sister, Mary Arthur McElroy, served as hostess for her widowed brother.

Chester Arthur

With the assassination, the demand for civil service reform began. Arthur advocated for the reform of the Navy. His administration was challenged by the relations that were changing with the Native American tribes in the west. He also worked to enact tougher legislation regarding incoming immigrants.

Shortly after he became president, Arthur was diagnosed with Bright’s disease. He kept this a secret for as long as possible, but reports again to eventually leak out.

In 1884, he made a half hearted attempt for the Republican National Convention nomination, which he did not receive.

When he left the presidency Journalist Alexander McClure later wrote, “No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted as Chester Alan Arthur, and no one ever retired … more generally respected, alike by political friend and foe.”

In 1885, he left office and returned to his New York City home. He continued to working in his law firm, until his health became too bad for him to continue later that year.

Chester Arthur died on November 18, 1886. He was buried beside his wife.

The New York World summed up Arthur’s presidency at his death in 1886: “No duty was neglected in his administration, and no adventurous project alarmed the nation.”

In 1898, a memorial statue was erected at Madison Square in New York City.

Chester Arthur is one president whom the passage of time and history seems to often forget or overlook.


21st President of the United States
(September 19, 1881 to March 3, 1885)

Nickname: “The Gentleman Boss”; “Elegant Arthur”

Born: October 5, 1829, in Fairfield, Vermont
Died: November 18, 1886, in New York, New York

Father: William Arthur
Mother: Malvina Stone Arthur
Married: Ellen Lewis Herndon (1837-1880), on October 25, 1859
Children: William Lewis Herndon Arthur (1860-63); Chester Alan Arthur (1864-1937); Ellen Herndon Arthur (1871-1915)

Religion: Episcopalian
Education: Graduated from Union College (1848)
Occupation: Lawyer
Political Party: Republican

Presidential Salary: $50,000/year

1881 His was the 21st President of the United States following the shooting of President James Garfield by Charles Guiteau. He is one of five Presidents who were never inaugurated.
1881 November: The trial of Charles Julius Guiteau begins
1881 Geronimo’s War (1881–1886). Geronimo led Apache warriors against the US and Mexico
1881 David Houston patented the roll film for cameras
1881 December: James G. Blaine, the Secretary of State, resigns due to important political differences between himself and the President
1882 The Star-Route Scandal involving bribes of Postal Officials
1882 January: The President is ill and diagnosed with a fatal kidney ailment
1882 The Edmunds Act is passed excluding bigamists and polygamists from voting and holding office
1882 Charles Guiteau was hung on June 30, 1882, 2 days before the first anniversary of the shooting of President Garfield
1882 The Chinese Exclusion Act bans Chinese citizenship and restricts Chinese immigration
1882 The Immigration Act of 1882 restricted immigrants from Europe and made several categories of immigrants ineligible entry into the United States
1883 January: The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act is passed following the assassination of President Garfield by the disgruntled job seeker, Charles Guiteau. Moving away from the ‘Spoils System’ it stipulated that government appointments would be made according to merit
1883 March: The Tariff of 1883, also known as the Mongrel Tariff Act, is passed
1883 May: The Brooklyn Bridge is opened
1884 Standard Time is established
1884 The Bureau of Labor is established
1884 George Eastman patents paper-strip photographic film.
1884 The President issues a Proclamation warning against attempts to settle on Indian lands in Oklahoma
1884 April: The Statue of Liberty is presented by the people of France to people of the United States. The Statue of Liberty was designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi
1885 February: The Washington Monument, an obelisk on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is dedicated in Washington, D.C. to commemorate George Washington
1885 The Foran Act or Alien Contract Labor Law is passed virtually banning Alien contract labor
1885 His presidency and term in office ends. The next US President was Grover Cleveland

1829 Chester Arthur was born on October 5, 1829 in Fairfield, Vermont

1846 Mexican-American War begins.

1859 Chester A. Arthur was married to Ellen Lewis Herndon Arthur on October 25, 1859. They had 3 Children

1859 Oregon admission to the US
Harper’s Ferry Raid

1860 Pony Express begins

1861 The American Civil War, also called the War between the States, was waged from April 1861 until April 1865. The 4 year war was between the federal government of the United States and 11 Southern states that asserted their right to secede (withdraw) from the Union. Abraham Lincoln was the central figure of the American Civil War. Chester A. Arthur served in the Civil War.

1863 Battle of Gettysburg

1864 Sand Creek Massacre

1865 Abraham Lincoln assassinated
United States Civil War ends

1866 Civil Rights Act of 1866
Ku Klux Klan founded

1867 Alaska Purchase from Russia

1881 1881 Chester Arthur became the President of the United States of America
Chester A. Arthur was a reformer and worked hard for the reunification of the nation after the Civil War and Reconstruction.

1882 Arthur supported the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

1883 Pendleton Act (1883) for Civil Service reform

1885 1885 the Presidency of Chester Arthur ended

1886 Chester Arthur died of a stroke, on November 18, 1886 in New York. He was buried in Albany, New York.





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