MD, examined President
Cleveland and consulted leading
pathologist William H. Welch,
MD, Johns Hopkins Hospital,
Baltimore, MD, and renowned
maxillofacial surgeon Joseph
Decatur Bryant, MD, Bellevue
Hospital, New York, N Y. The
physicians uniformly agreed
that the growing epithelioma
must be removed. As the finest
team of surgeons was assembled
to perform the operation,
President Cleveland continued to
worry about the U.S. economy,
insisting that his surgery and
health remain a secret. His
own Vice-President, Adlai
Stevenson, was never informed.
The media tracked the
movements of the Commander-
in-Chief, so President Cleveland
asked that the surgeons perform
the operation aboard a friend’s
private yacht named the Oneida.
On July 1, 1893, while the
president made the seemingly
typical voyage from Manhattan
to his summer home near Cape
Cod, five surgeons sworn to
secrecy worked to excise the
president’s tumor in a makeshift
operating room aboard the yacht.
Once the ether took hold, the
surgeons rapidly removed five
teeth, the hard palate, and part
of the maxilla. Ultimately, they
removed parts of the tumor that
had invaded the maxillary sinus
and cleared tissue superiorly
to the floor of the left orbit
(see Figure 1, this page).† The
entire operation took place
inside of 90 minutes as the yacht
smoothly sailed along the East
River that flanks Manhattan.
Because of his absence over
the Fourth of July holiday, a
flurry of reporters greeted
President Cleveland outside his
summer home in Cape Cod.
He immediately went inside
to avoid any questions and
secluded himself in the house.
During this period of isolation,
he began retraining his voice,
as the operation had given him
an acquired case of cleft palate.
A prosthodontist fitted him
with a rubber prosthesis that
helped his speech tremendously.
People were suspicious, and
rumors surfaced, but the
White House silenced them.
Both President Cleveland
and the economy became
healthier, surviving into the 20th
century without any recurrence
of illness. Grover Cleveland
died in 1908 of a cardiac illness
unrelated to his cancer. ♦
†Brooks JJ, Enterline HT, Aponte GE. The
final diagnosis of President Cleveland’s lesion.
Trans Stud Coll Physicians Phila.1980; 2( 1): 1-25.
FIGURE 1. ARTIST’S RENDERING OF TUMOR
Artistic reconstruction of President
Cleveland’s tumor: Dashed lines
represent the tissue excised during
the operation (reprinted with
permission from the College of
Physicians of Philadelphia)