The Secret Surgeries of Grover Cleveland

By Arlene Shaner, Acting Curator and Reference Librarian for Historical Collections

With the celebration of Presidents’ Day in February, it’s an apt time to look at what related materials can be found in our special collections. Among our dental artifacts are two casts of Grover Cleveland’s upper jaw, received in 1929 from Mrs. Kasson Gibson, the widow of Grover Cleveland’s long-time dentist. The casts came with a typescript copy of a letter from Cleveland to her husband dated October 14, 1893 reporting on his successful use of a hard rubber prosthesis Dr. Gibson had sent him the day before.

An 1893 letter from President Cleveland to his dentist, Dr. K.C. Gibson.

An 1893 letter from President Cleveland to his dentist, Dr. K.C. Gibson. Click to enlarge.

Only five months earlier, on July 1, Cleveland boarded the yacht Oneida and sailed out into the Long Island Sound with a group of physicians including Joseph D. Bryant, William W. Keen, R. M. O’Reilly, and Ferdinand Hasbrouck. In mid-June, O’Reilly discovered a suspicious rough patch on Cleveland’s upper palate and suggested that it should be removed. Dr. Bryant, Cleveland’s personal physician, performed the surgery on the yacht with the help of several assistants. By July 5, Cleveland was recuperating at his summer home, Grey Gables, until Bryant performed a second brief surgery, again on the yacht, on July 17.

The first cast of Cleveland’s jaw, made in 1893, shows the extent of the damage to his upper palate and jaw while the second cast demonstrates how much healing and regeneration of tissue took place over the course of the next several years. Bryant operated through Cleveland’s mouth in order to minimize any external signs of injury, especially since Cleveland and his physicians were determined to keep the severity of his illness as quiet as possible. Gibson was not present at the surgery, but treated Cleveland as he recovered and took care of his other dental needs.

The 1893 (left) and 1897 (right) casts of President Cleveland's top teeth.

The 1893 (left) and 1897 (right) casts of President Cleveland’s top jaw. Click to enlarge.

Cleveland’s physicians and friends released no information about the surgery to the public, telling visiting reporters at first that the President was suffering from rheumatism and then that he had only a mild dental ailment. When The Press, a Philadelphia newspaper, published a much fuller account of the operation later in the summer, it stunned the public. The country was in the middle of an economic depression and Congress held a special session on August 7 to vote on the repeal of the Sherman Act, as arguments between the advocates and opponents of free silver exacerbated the country’s economic problems in 1893. The suggestion that the President might be seriously ill could have created a serious panic.

As a manuscript letter to Gibson from 1896 in the NYAM collections shows, Cleveland was not without a sense of humor regarding his continuing dental maladies and their relationship to his political sympathies. “This morning about an hour ago there came out of a tooth on my right under jaw next to the dead tooth you fixed up a piece of gold the size of a small pin,” Cleveland wrote to Gibson on June 9, 1896. “This shows how completely I have been on the gold standard. I’ve got the gold in my possession. What shall I do with it?”

An 1896 letter from President Cleveland to his dentist, Dr. K.C. Gibson.

An 1896 letter from President Cleveland to his dentist, Dr. K.C. Gibson. Click to enlarge.

Joseph Bryant intended to publish an account of the Cleveland surgeries himself, but never completed one. After he died in 1914, Dr.William Keen, who assisted at both surgeries, wrote and published his own first-hand account of the operations, which can be read here.

More Doctors Smoke Camels

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian, with Andrew Gordon, Systems Librarian

This is part of an intermittent series of blogs featuring advertisements from medical journals. You can find the entire series here.

From the 1930s into the 1950s, medical journals—including the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine—ran advertisements for cigarettes.1,2 The New York State Journal of Medicine alone published 600 pages of cigarette advertisements spanning more than two decades, starting in 1933.3 Around the same time, advertising agencies created campaigns featuring physicians; these continued until 1954, as concerns about the negative health effects of smoking grew.2

"How mild can a cigarette be?" Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, volume 240, number 17, April 28, 1949. Click to enlarge.

“How mild can a cigarette be?” Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, volume 240, number 17, April 28, 1949. Click to enlarge.

Presented chronologically below are some of the cigarette advertisements—and one cigarette paraphernalia‎ ad—that appeared in medical journals during the 20-year period. Note especially the 1945 series of ads that ran in several medical journals, including the Medical Woman’s Journal, celebrating the work of war doctors and suggesting that a Camel cigarette could be a welcome break.

Notable, too, is that the earliest ad shown here—printed in Preventive Medicine in 1937—comes from a New York Academy of Medicine publication.

For more information on the history of cigarette advertising, including the use of medical professionals in ads, visit SRITA, Stanford Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising.

"Let Your Own Experience Guide You." Published in Preventive Medicine, volume 7, number 1, April 1937. Click to enlarge.

“Let Your Own Experience Guide You.” Published in Preventive Medicine, volume 7, number 1, April 1937. Click to enlarge.

"Look this way for more pleasure." Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, volume 218, number 14, April 7, 1938. Click to enlarge.

“Look this way for more pleasure.” Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, volume 218, number 14, April 7, 1938. Click to enlarge.

"How much do you smoke?" Published in JAMA, volume 12, number 11, March 11, 1944. Click to enlarge.

“How much do you smoke?” Published in JAMA, volume 12, number 11, March 11, 1944. Click to enlarge.

"The Army Doctor's Call to Action!" Published in Medical Woman's Journal, volume 52, number 4, April 1945. Click to enlarge.

“The Army Doctor’s Call to Action!” Published in the Medical Woman’s Journal, volume 52, number 4, April 1945. Click to enlarge.

Combat Team in White! Published in Medical Woman's Journal, volume 52, number 5, May 1945. Click to enlarge.

Combat Team in White! Published in the Medical Woman’s Journal, volume 52, number 5, May 1945. Click to enlarge.

"The Flying Capsules." Published in Medical Woman's Journal, volume 52, number 6, June 1945. Click to enlarge.

“The Flying Capsules.” Published in the Medical Woman’s Journal, volume 52, number 6, June 1945. Click to enlarge.

"Welcome Home, Doctor!" Published in Medical Woman's Journal, volume 52, number 12, December 1945.

“Welcome Home, Doctor!” Published in the Medical Woman’s Journal, volume 52, number 12, December 1945. Click to enlarge.

"Recommended by Physicians to Patients who are 'Problem Smokers.'" Published in JAMA, volume 133, number 11, March 15, 1947.

“Recommended by Physicians to Patients who are ‘Problem Smokers.'” Published in JAMA, volume 133, number 11, March 15, 1947. Click to enlarge.

"Some questions about filter cigarettes that may have occurred to you, Doctor." Published in the New York State Journal of Medicine, volume 53, number 12, June 15, 1953.

“Some questions about filter cigarettes that may have occurred to you, Doctor.” Published in the New York State Journal of Medicine, volume 53, number 12, June 15, 1953. Click to enlarge.

"When your patients ask . . . 'Which Cigarette Shall I Choose?'" Published in the New York State Journal of Medicine, volume 54, number 12, June 15, 1954. Click to enlarge.

“When your patients ask . . . ‘Which Cigarette Shall I Choose?'” Published in the New York State Journal of Medicine, volume 54, number 12, June 15, 1954. Click to enlarge.

References

1. Healy, M. (2011, August 4). Cigarette packages in medical journals: New look for a new age. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/health/boostershots/la-heb-cigarette-packages-medical-20110804,0,7658494.story#axzz2rL60QSQm.

2. Gardner, M. N., & Brandt, A. M. (2006). The Doctors’ Choice Is America’s Choice. American Journal of Public Health, 96(2), 222–232. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470496.

3. Blum, A. (2010). When “More doctors smoked Camels”:  Cigarette advertising in the journal. Social Medicine, 5(2), 114–122. Retrieved from http://www.socialmedicine.info/index.php/socialmedicine/article/view/461/0.

Slings and Arrows

By Arlene Shaner, Acting Curator and Reference Librarian for Historical Collections

Commercially printed greetings for Valentine’s Day appeared in the United States in the first part of the 19th century. Although most printed valentines expressed sentimental attachment, a tradition of sending comic cards developed, especially in Great Britain and the United States. Postcards became popular early in the 20th century and offered an inexpensive way to send these greetings.

Our doctor and druggist valentine postcards. Click to enlarge.

Our doctor and druggist valentine postcards. Click to enlarge.

At first glance, these postcards with their skewering verses do not seem to be valentines at all; a look at the reverse of the card, however, demonstrates that they were meant as such. As Bill Helfand, a notable collector of medical and pharmaceutical ephemera, notes in his article “Pharmaceutical and Medical Valentines,” many of these valentines were issued in sets, and our two caricature valentines were part of a set.

The reverse side of a valentine.

The reverse side of a valentine. Click to enlarge.

Our doctor and druggist cards arrived last winter as a gift from a donor with a longstanding interest in ephemera, along with a reprint of Bill Helfand’s article, which contains a checklist on which both of these valentines appear. The short verses on the two cards malign the doctor and the druggist as potentially criminal dispensers of drugs and alcohol, rather than as professionals with the health of their patients in mind. “There is little in any of these greetings to suggest the professional role that the pharmacist or the physician played in the community at the time,” Helfand reminds us, “But, of course, that was not the intent at all.”

Reference

William H. Helfand, “Pharmaceutical and Medical Valentines,” Pharmacy in History 20:3 (1978), pp. 101-110.

New Acquisitions at the Library

By Jarlin Espinal, Technical Services Assistant

Below is a selection of some of our recently acquired secondary sources in the history of medicine, along with blurbs about each book. Make an appointment to come and use them!

Nine of the library's new acquisitions.

Nine of the library’s new acquisitions. Click to enlarge.

Making Women’s Medicine Masculine: The Rise of Male Authority in Pre-Modern GynaecologyMonica H. Green

“Green has painstakingly studied the content and circulation of medieval texts on women’s medicine…[and] disproves popular ideas of the Middle Ages as a Golden Age for women’s control over their own bodies.” – Medical History

The Sick Child in Early Modern England, 1580–1720 – Hannah Newton

The Sick Child in Early Modern England is a powerful exploration of the treatment, perception, and experience of illness in childhood from the late sixteenth to the early eighteenth century. At this time, the sickness or death of a child was a common occurrence—over a quarter of young people died before the age of fifteen—and yet this subject has received little scholarly attention.”

Vernacular Bodies: The Politics of Reproduction in Early Modern England – Mary E. Fissell

“Making babies was a mysterious process in early modern England. Mary Fissell employs a wealth of popular sources—ballads, jokes, witchcraft pamphlets, Prayer Books, popular medical manuals—to produce the first account of women’s productive bodies in early-modern cheap print.”

Headache: Through the Centuries – Mervyn J. Eadie

“Nobody is better suited to provide a history of headache than Mervyn Eadie, a distinguished neurologist, historian and established author. Here he provides a beautifully written, lucid account of headaches from the time of ancient Greece and Egypt to 2000 A.D.”– J. M. S. Pearce, MD, FRCP, Emeritus Consultant Neurologist, Hull Royal Infirmary, Yorkshire, England

The Perils of Peace: The Public Health Crisis in Occupied Germany – Jessica Reinisch

“In The Perils of Peace, Jessica Reinisch considers how the four occupiers—Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States—attempted to keep their own troops and the ex-enemy population alive. While the war was still being fought, German public health was a secondary consideration for them: an unaffordable and undeserved luxury. But once fighting ceased and the occupation began, it rapidly turned into an urgent priority. Public health was then recognized as an indispensable component of creating order, keeping the population governable, and facilitating the reconstruction of German society.”

William Harvey: A Life in Circulation – Thomas Wright

“Thomas Wright’s book opens brilliantly and bloodily and continues in the same vein … a captivating, intellectually gripping journey into [England’s] scientific past.” – Druin Burch, Mail on Sunday

Medicine’s Michelangelo: The Life & Art of Frank H. Netter, MD – Francine Mary Netter

“This delightful book traces the extraordinary career of Frank Netter, who gave his gift of unparalleled medical knowledge to generations of medical student and their preceptors. This memoir, by his daughter Francine, helps us appreciate his lucid, lifelike art, from which we build our growing knowledge of the healing arts.” – Joseph B. Martin, PhD, MD, Edward R. and Anne G. Lefler Professor of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School

Virus Hunt: The Search for the Origin of HIV – Dorothy H. Crawford

“This is not a book about AIDS as a disease. Rather, Dorothy H. Crawford gives us a scientific detective story. She tells how, over the past 20 years or so, scientists tracked down the origin of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.”

Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination – Alondra Nelson

“In Body and Soul, Alondra Nelson combines careful research, deep political insight, and passionate commitment to tell the little-known story of the Black Panther Party’s health activism in the late 1960s. In doing so, and in showing how the problems of poverty, discrimination, and access to medical care remain hauntingly similar more than forty years later, Nelson reminds us that the struggle continues, particularly for African Americans, and that social policies have profound moral implications.” Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Announcing Our Performing Medicine Festival

Header for Performing Medicine FestivalJoin us on April 5, 2014 to explore the interrelationships of medicine, health, and the performing arts with a day-long festival of actors, dancers, doctors, and musicians. Register here.

Performers will include Dr. Richard Kogan on the mental life of famous composers; Brian Lobel and his comedic adventures as a cancer patient; David Leventhal and Pamela Quinn on dance and Parkinson’s disease with DANCE FOR PD® from Mark Morris Dance Group/Brooklyn Parkinson Group; the medical musicians of Mount Sinai on the art of listening; with discussions, musical interludes from Weill Cornell’s Music and Medicine Initiative, and more.

Throughout the day there will be guided behind-the-scenes tours of our Coller Rare Book Reading Room and and Gladys Brooks Book & Paper Conservation Laboratory. Spaces are limited to 20 people per tour; make sure to get your tickets early!

This will be the first of two festivals in 2014 exploring the connections between medicine, health, and the performing and visual arts. In the fall our main festival, Vesalius 500: Art and the Body, will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of Andreas Vesalius and the impact of his De Humani Corporis Fabrica or The Fabric of the Human Body. Like our 2013 Festival, the day will feature multiple strands of programs, performances, workshops and interactive events.

Item of the Month: A Compleat History of Drugs

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By Lisa, O’Sullivan, Director, Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health

In light of the recent National Drug Facts Week, it seems a good time to ask: what constitutes a drug? The answer has changed dramatically over time and place, as have the boundaries drawn between medicines, pharmaceuticals, and illicit drugs (an issue explored recently in a 20th-century context by Dr. David Herzberg’s lecture “The Other Drug War: Prescription Drug Abuse and Race in 20th Century America”).

Title page, Pomet, Compleat History of Drugs, 1725

Title page, Pomet, Compleat History of Drugs, 1725. Click to enlarge.

For the 17th-century French apothecary Pierre Pomet (1658-1699) the plant, animal, and mineral products considered drugs included a broad range of substances, from foodstuffs and materia medica with well-established uses in European pharmacopeias; to substances like tobacco, indigo, sugar, and opium, considered new and exotic by Europeans exposed to them through exploration and colonial expansion; and remedies from ground mummies to unicorn horns.

Such broadly ranging subject matter encompassing animals, spices, plants, dyestuffs, and the locales and methods of their production, makes Pierre Pomet’s an engrossing and appealing work. The volume featured here is the second (1725) edition of Pomet’s A Compleat History of Drugs in translation, first published in 1684 as Histoire Generale des Drogues and running to multiple editions over the course of the 18th century.

Pomet ran a well-regarded and fashionable apothecary store in Paris, and was appointed chief druggist to Louis XIV. His work drew its authority from his extensive travels in Europe, where he collected specimens, recipes, and knowledge. He comprehensively covered the new materials and medicines made accessible to European markets through Dutch, Portuguese, British, and Spanish expansion.

Indigo preparation, plate 35, Compleat History of Drugs

Indigo preparation, plate 35, Compleat History of Drugs. Click to enlarge

The volume emphasizes the exotic nature of these materials and their sources, demonstrating, as Sandra Sherman argues, the “cross-over” appeal of Enlightenment science to popular audiences, combining both utilitarian medical advice and vicarious access to stories and images of far-flung places and peoples.

Yet, one of the products most exotic to modern eyes, mummy, was in fact a well-established cure by the time Pomet was writing. The use of mummy was common in European medicine from the 12th century to at least the 17th century. In tracing the history of its use, Warren Dawson argues that the logic behind the use of ground powders ostensibly obtained from Egyptian mummies was based on the medical properties believed to be contained in natural bitumen (found in parts of the Middle East). The Persian word mumia was used to describe bitumen, an established component of ancient pharmacopeias. The resins used in embalming mummies had a bitumen-like appearance, and the word mumia began to be used to describe them and the bodies they preserved.

Mummy, plate 69,  Compleat History of Drugs

Mummy, plate 69, Compleat History of Drugs. Click to enlarge.

Over time, European apothecaries began using ground mummies instead of the (harder to source) natural bitumen and ascribing the efficacy of mumia for the treatment of wounds and tumors and numerous ailments, including gout and paralysis, to the properties of the dead body itself. The history of the use of human remains in medical treatments is a long and varied one, which continues to fascinate today.

You can find out more about Pomet and A Compleat History of Drugs online at Res Obscura and The Shelf, in  “The Exotic World of Pierre Pomet’s A Compleat History of Druggs  by Sandra Sherman, and Jordan Kellman’s  “Nature, networks, and expert testimony in the colonial Atlantic: The case of cochineal.”