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The Year 1881 in History

President James Garfield said: "Whoever controls the volume of money in any country is master of all its legislation and commerce.' On July 2, 1881, Garfield was mortally wounded by a gunshot from a rejected office-seeker, Charles J. Guiteau, and on September 19th he died. Succeeding him in office was his vice president, Chester Alan Arthur. The Supreme Court ruled the Federal Income Tax Law of 1862 unconstitutional. The American National Red Cross was founded by Clara Barton in Washington, D.C.

The Wharton School of Finance was established at the University of Pennsylvania by a gift from nickel baron Joseph Wharton, who for years had been the sole United States refiner of nickel (and a close friend of politicians and Mint interests). The Barnum & Bailey Circus was created by a merger between Phineas T. Barnum's traveling show and that of John Anthony Bailey. Circuses were big businesses in the United States, and usually traveled from city to city in special railroad cars.

Earlier-minted silver coins were still abundant in circulation and in Treasury vaults. Thus, relatively few new dimes, quarters, and half dollars were struck. At the Philadelphia Mint, a new Liberty Head design was created, which eventually was used on the 1883 Liberty Head nickel. The gold dollar was by now an anachronism and was rarely seen in commerce. However, a popular speculation in gold dollars had been going on since 1879, and quantities were hoarded by coin collectors and investors.