Hiram College’s most famous alumnus, President James A. Garfield, will be the subject of a TV special called “Murder of a President” airing Feb. 2 at 9 p.m. on PBS. Hiram College archivist and Garfield expert Jennifer Morrow provided research assistance for both the special and the book it’s based on, “Destiny of the Republic” by Candice Millard.
The program airs during a significant year for Garfield’s history. 2016 marks the 135th anniversary of Garfield’s death and inauguration and the 185th anniversary of his birth.
Morrow’s work with the company that produced “Murder of a President,” Apograph Productions, began in February 2014 when an employee of the company contacted her. As archivist, Morrow, who has been in the position for nine years, preserves information and artifacts in the College’s archival and special collections, manages access to the archives and provides research and reference services to anyone using them. PBS will credit the Hiram College Archives as a resource in the special as a result of Morrow’s collaboration with the production company.
“I provided Apograph researchers access to the James A. Garfield Collection and answered questions that they had regarding the collection and the life of Garfield,” explained Morrow. “Naturally, the production company was very interested in visual materials and I provided extremely high resolution scans of photographs in the collection for use in the special.”
Apograph also used another one of Morrow’s projects to help with research for the program. Morrow created a digital version of the College’s Garfield Collection through a grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation. The collection is part of the Cleveland Memory Project and gave Apograph an opportunity to preview photographs before deciding whether or not to include them in the special.
“The most exciting part is knowing that some wonderful photographs will be viewed by more people than we could have ever hoped,” said Morrow.
Morrow also currently has an exhibit on Garfield’s election on display in the Archives Reading Room of the Library. The exhibit honors both the important year in Garfield history and the upcoming election. The exhibit will be on display through early summer and will be followed with a display on the assassination and funeral of Garfield.
“Garfield’s story is important for many reasons,” said Morrow. “He was one of the ultimate self-made men.”
In addition to attending what was then called the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, Garfield worked as a janitor at the College to pay for his tuition, and later went on to serve as the institution’s highest leader.
“Here was a man who lost his father at age two and at an early age had to start earning money for the family,” Morrow explained. “He did that but also found a way to improve himself.”