A Brief History
On June 13, 1893, President Grover Cleveland was only a few months into his second term when he went to his doctor to complain of soreness and a rough patch in his mouth. The doctor determined the President had a tumor in his mouth and removal of the tumor would be the appropriate medical action.
Removal of the tumor would entail removing a large piece of Cleveland’s upper jaw, but secrecy was the word of the day and the surgery took place on a yacht sailing off Long Island to keep it from the public. Compare that to today! Nowadays we get every little detail about presidential health, his vital signs, weight, every medical thing you could think of. Not in 1893!
Because the surgery left Cleveland with a disfigured face and adversely affected his speech, he was later fitted with a hard rubber insert which allowed him to look and speak normally. As rumors and speculation about Cleveland’s health eventually appeared in newspapers, a cover story was concocted about the President having to have a couple teeth removed. He served the rest of his second term without the public being told official details of the surgery. Only in 1917, nearly ten years after Cleveland’s death in 1908, did one of the participating surgeons reveal details about the secret surgery.
There was some debate over the years of the exact nature of Cleveland’s tumor, and in the 1980’s a tissue sample was tested revealing it was indeed cancerous, but a slow growing kind.
Cleveland is notable for more than his secret surgery. He is the only president to have been elected twice, but not in succession. He was first elected in the 1884 election and served from January 1885 to January 1889. Cleveland lost the 1888 election to Benjamin Harrison, even though Cleveland won the popular vote. The electoral vote may well have been decided because of election fraud. Cleveland then ran again in 1892 and won the presidency once again, serving his second term from 1893 to 1897.
Prior to becoming president, Cleveland served as mayor of Buffalo, New York, and later as Governor of New York. He was born Stephen Grover Cleveland in Caldwell, New Jersey, and died at age 71 in 1908 in Princeton, New Jersey and is buried there. Cleveland is the only president to have been born in New Jersey, although Woodrow Wilson did serve as governor of that state.
“Grover” gets our nomination as the hippest presidential name! Question for students (and subscribers): What is your nomination for the “coolest” Presidential name? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Graff, Henry F. Grover Cleveland (The American Presidents Series). Times Books, 2002.
The featured image in this article, an 1893 US cartoon by Bernard Gilliam depicting president Grover Cleveland trying to manipulate the Democratic Party like a typewriter, is in the public domain in the United States. This applies to U.S. works where the copyright has expired, often because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1924. See this page for further explanation.
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