Chester Alan Arthur (1829-1886) became the fourth Vice President to move to the Oval Office when President James A. Garfield was assassinated. He moved through the ranks of the Republican Party quickly, beginning in 1871 as collector of the New York Custom House, "then the largest single federal office in the United States." He was removed from the position after he used the office to reward Republicans and strengthen the party - and thus contributing to the widespread dishonesty and corruption in government.
When the Arthur Administration showed honesty and efficiency, the nation was pleasantly surprised. Congress passed the Civil Service Act because of protests about the dishonesty of the previous administration. President Arthur signed the law and administered it faithfully.
President Arthur was tall, ruddy, and handsome and was sometimes known as the "Gentleman Boss." He enjoyed fine clothes and surroundings; he also enjoyed entertaining friends. He traveled widely as President. While he was the Chief Executive, the United States celebrated the one hundredth anniversary of the British surrender at Yorktown.
Chester Alan Arthur was born in Fairfield, Vermont, on October 5, 1829; he was the first boy in a family of six daughters and three sons. His father, a teacher and Baptist minister, immigrated from Northern Ireland, and his mother grew up on a farm in Vermont. The family moved often throughout Vermont and upstate New York due to the father's position as minister.
Chester was a good student and was interested in politics early in his life. He graduated at age 18 from Union College in Schenectady, New York, and became a partner in a law firm in New York City in 1854. He established a reputation as a defender of civil rights for blacks and won a landmark case in 1855 that opened the way for blacks to ride any streetcar in New York City.
Arthur married Ellen Lewis Herndon, the daughter of a naval officer, on October 25, 1859. The couple became parents to two sons and a daughter; the oldest boy died at age 2 1/2. Chester became a single parent when Mrs. Arthur died the year before Arthur became Vice President.
James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur won the election of 1880. Garfield was shot on July 2, 1881, and died on September 19. Arthur took the presidential oath at 2:15 a.m. the next morning in his home in New York City. Arthur thought the Presidential Mansion looked like "a badly kept barracks" and ordered it renovated. He moved into the redecorated White House on December 7, 1881, and asked his sister to serve as his hostess there. Arthur was President about a year when he learned that he had a kidney disease called glomerulonephritis, or Bright's disease. He kept his illness a secret even though he often suffered from great pain. Because he was ill, he didn't want to run for re-election and quietly discouraged his friends from working in that direction.
After he left the White House, Arthur returned to New York City where his health continued to decline. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage on November 18, 1886. He was buried beside his wife in the Rural Cemetery at Albany, New York.
Events in the life of President Arthur are as follow: 1) Trade unionists founded in November 1881 the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada (later reorganized as American Federation of Labor.
2) John D. Rockefeller and his associates in the oil industry formed the Standard Oil Trust in 1882, thus controlling 90 per cent of the oil refining capacity in the United States until 1892 when the trust was disbanded. 3) German physician Robert Koch discovered the germ that causes tuberculosis in 1882. 4) In 1883 William Frederick Cody, known as Buffalo Bill, organized his "Wild West Circus" to tour the United States and Europe. The same year the first vaudeville theater in the United States opened in Boston, and the Metropolitan Opera House opened in New York City. 5) The railroads adopted standard time in 1883. About 100 "railroad times" became the four time zones in the United States. 6) Brooklyn Bridge was the world's longest suspension bridge when it opened in 1883. 7) The speed of typesetting was greatly increased when German-born inventor Ottmar Mergenthaler patented the linotype machine in 1884. 8) Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain was published in England in 1884 and the United States in 1885. This novel became known as an American masterpiece. 9) The Home Insurance Building in Chicago was the first metal-frame skyscraper when it was built in 1884 and 1885.
Facts and quotes for this post came from an article by Thomas C. Reeves in World Book Encyclopedia, Vol.1, pp 754-757.