Monday, May 17, 2010


As I said in a recent post, "I've always had a particular affinity for [Abraham] Lincoln, perhaps linked to the fact that the last successful assassination attempt on a US president -- John F. Kennedy -- occurred during my own youth." This "affinity" extends to the other three assassinated US presidents -- Kennedy, McKinley, and Garfield -- as well as Lincoln. Kennedy, of course, because he was shot when I was an impressionable seven-year-old; Garfield, primarily because of a great Robert Klein routine which I heard when I was in high school; McKinley... not so much.

But it's President James Abram Garfield whom I wish to discuss today.

I actually own one of these memorial plates, issued shortly after
Garfield's tragic death in 1881 and valued between $75 and $85 today!

I believe the first time I made the connection between the slain president and the comic strip Garfield (the famous cat) was in 1986, when a two-issue comic book mini-series called The Phony Pages was released. It was a collection of reprints (from Alan Light's Buyer's Guide for Comics Fandom) by artist Terry Beatty which parodied many famous comic strips and comic books. The first issue contained this little gem:

Since then, others have latched onto this idea as well, notably a website called Garfield As Garfield, which replaces the feline Garfield with images of the president. All of the strips published on the site since its beginning in July of last year have been similar to this:

However, it seems like no one has acted on my idea... and by "my idea," I must confess that after more than twenty years, I honestly don't recall whether said idea was actually mine, or that of my then-employer Paul Howley, owner of the "pop culture emporium" known as That's Entertainment as well as the author of his own blog, My Life With Comics.

Artist's conception of Paul Howley... well, sorta!

My idea -- or Paul's! -- was to manufacture stuffed toys in the image of President Garfield, complete with suction cups on their hands and feet so you could stick them to your car window.

And for that "special touch," I'd even include a bullet hole in their backs.

Sure, it's sick... but it's well after midnight, and I'm so loopy-tired that even my own cat won't talk to me!

(And Paul? If you want to go ahead and manufacture these things, can I at least get a royalty?)

Thanks for your time.


  1. We have only ever had one Prime Minister assassinated - Spencer Percival back in 1812. Don't think anyone has ever named a cartoon character after him. From the sound of him he was given to laughter, amusement or even a passing smile. They held an inquest into his death at a pub called the Cat and Bagpipes however - now that is interesting.

  2. Hmmmm... That car window cat idea would have potential only if the population of the US was a bit more history minded. As it is, I'll bet you that a man-on-the-street poll would show that 9 out of 10 people asked would have no idea we even had a president named Garfield.

    I didn't realize that somebody had made memorial plats after his assassination. Interesting!

  3. The memorial plate caught my reminds me of a Centennial plate I have, made in 1876 for our country's 100th birthday. It's clear, and in a similar style.

    So, did a certain conversation about cats lead you to this post? ;)

  4. David,
    Actually, I don't remember discussing the Garfield idea with you. It must have been someone elses idea. MY idea was a set of bobble-head dolls of Katherine Hepburn, Mohammed Ali, and Michael J. Fox. (I know...sick idea...but I bet they'd sell!)

  5. @Alan: It's a far-reaching Cat Conspiracy!

    @Roy: You are absolutely right about most people missing the joke, of course. (In fact, you may be a bit charitable suggesting that 1 in 10 would know we had a Pres. Garfield.) I'd just love to have a stuffed Pres. Garfield in my car so people could say, "What's that?" and then walk away shaking their heads in bewilderment when I replied matter-of-factly, "Garfield."

    @Betsy: Could be... For some reason, I couldn't sleep last night.

    @Paul: Your remark about the bobble-head dolls reminds me of the joke about the Nicole Simpson Pez dispensers. (Not my joke, although I used it as recently as yesterday, at the flea market!) So, I can only hope it's my own idea about the suction-cupped doll. I'm rich! Well... theoretically. (Hope you didn't mind that "photo" of you, btw.)


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