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President Cleveland’s Secret Surgery, An Intrepid Reporter, A Failed Cover-Up, And The Panic Of 1893

May 22, 2012

I have long thought about the best ways to get a classroom full of apathetic students interested in history.  It is a strange thing to ponder since I am not a teacher, and have no real interest in being one.  But I do love reading and thinking about the past, and wish others had the same desire to better understand yesteryear.  When I hear our youth talk about history as being boring I am led to think that no one has presented the past as being one grand exciting adventure where the players at the time had no way to know what the end results would be.

While I like learning about the past in a rather linear fashion there might be something said for jumping around and hitting on truly fascinating and highly charged episodes in order to break through the reluctant minds of students.

After finishing The President Is A Sick Man by  Matthew Algeo I am certain that this story ranks up there with Alexander Hamilton’s duel, and the hurricane that ripped Galveston from the map.

On July 1, 1893, President Grover Cleveland vanished. He boarded a friend’s yacht, sailed into the calm blue waters of Long Island Sound, and–poof!–disappeared. He would not be heard from again for five days. What happened during those five days, and in the days and weeks that followed, was so incredible that, even when the truth was finally revealed, many Americans simply would not believe it.

The President Is a Sick Man details an extraordinary but almost unknown chapter in American history: Grover Cleveland’s secret cancer surgery and the brazen political cover-up by a politician whose most memorable quote was “Tell the truth.” When an enterprising reporter named E. J. Edwards exposed the secret operation, Cleveland denied it. The public believed the “Honest President,” and Edwards was dismissed as “a disgrace to journalism.” The facts concerning the disappearance of Grover Cleveland that summer were so well concealed that even more than a century later a full and fair account has never been published. Until now.

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Algeo goes into some detail about the severe economic downturn (depression) that occurred in the early 1890’s, it’s causes and effects and especially the influence it had on Cleveland’s insistence that his major health crisis be kept absolutely secret. Who knew that the impending vote to repeal the Silver Purchase Act could have motivated one of the greatest presidential conspiracies?

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