Tag Archives: Grover Cleveland

Notable Hoosier Obits: Thomas A. Hendricks

Indiana Governor and US Vice President Thomas A. Hendricks. Wiki Commons.

Some people can readily identify the eight Presidents of the United States who died in office (Wm. H. Harrison, Taylor, Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Harding, FDR, and JFK).  It is probably much more of a challenge to recite the seven Vice Presidents who died in office (George Clinton, Gerry, King, Wilson, Hendricks, Hobart, and Sherman).  One of those VPs was Indiana’s own Thomas A. Hendricks, who died this day (November 25) in 1885 while serving as Vice President under Grover Cleveland.

Hendricks was born near Zanesville, Ohio on September 7, 1819.  He grew up in Indiana, and graduated from Hanover College in 1841.  He began practicing law in Shelbyville in 1843, served one term in the Indiana General Assembly, and served in the U.S. House from 1851-1855.  He lost the race for governor in 1860 to Republican candidate Henry S. Lane.  The General Assembly elected Hendricks to the U.S. Senate in 1862 and he served through the end of the Civil War and into Reconstruction until 1869.  Hendricks won election as governor of Indiana and served from 1873-1877.  He ran as Samuel Tilden’s vice president in 1876, but the Democrats lost that contest.  The Democratic convention nominated him again eight years later as Grover Cleveland’s running mate.  Hendricks served as Vice President of the United States from March 3, 1885 until his death on November 25, 1885.

You can find many obits for Hendricks in Chronicling America.  A few samples are below:

From the Wheeling (WV) Intelligencer
The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, November 26, 1885. Chronicling America. 
Maysville (KY) Daily Evening Bulletin
Daily Evening Bulletin (Maysville, KY), November 27, 1885. Chronicling America.
The Carbon Advocate (Leighton, PA)
The Carbon Advocate (Leighton, PA), November 27, 1885. Chronicling America.
Donaldsonville (LA) Chief
Donaldsonville (LA) Chief, November 28, 1885. Chronicling America.
Washington (DC) Evening Star
Washington (DC) Evening Star, November 28, 1885. Chronicling America.

The Secret Surgery of President Grover Cleveland: Indiana State Sentinel, July 5, 1893

President Grover Cleveland. Wiki Commons.

In the midst of the fight for repeal of Free Silver coinage in 1893, Cleveland sought the advice of the White House doctor, Dr. O’Reilly, about soreness on the roof of his mouth and a crater-like edge ulcer with a granulated surface on the left side of Cleveland’s hard palate. Samples of the tumor were sent anonymously to the army medical museum. The diagnosis was not a malignant cancer, but instead an epithelioma.

Indiana State Sentinel – July 5 1893 – Hoosier State Chronicles

Cleveland decided to have surgery secretly, to avoid further panic that might worsen the financial depression. The surgery occurred on July 1, to give Cleveland time to make a full recovery in time for the upcoming Congressional session. Under the guise of a vacation cruise, Cleveland and his surgeon, Dr. Joseph Bryant, left for New York. The surgeons operated aboard the Oneida, a yacht owned by Cleveland’s friend E. C. Benedict, as it sailed off Long Island. The surgery was conducted through the president’s mouth, to avoid any scars or other signs of surgery. The team, sedating Cleveland with nitrous oxide and ether, successfully removed parts of his upper left jaw and hard palate. The size of the tumor and the extent of the operation left Cleveland’s mouth disfigured. During another surgery, Cleveland was fitted with a hard rubber dental prosthesis that corrected his speech and restored his appearance. A cover story about the removal of two bad teeth kept the suspicious press placated. Even when a newspaper story appeared giving details of the actual operation, the participating surgeons discounted the severity of what transpired during Cleveland’s vacation. In 1917, one of the surgeons present on the Oneida, Dr. William W. Keen, wrote an article detailing the operation.

Cleveland enjoyed many years of life after the tumor was removed, and there was some debate as to whether it was actually malignant. Several doctors, including Dr. Keen, stated after Cleveland’s death that the tumor was a carcinoma. Other suggestions included ameloblastoma or a benign salivary mixed tumor (also known as a pleomorphic adenoma). In the 1980s, analysis of the specimen finally confirmed the tumor to be verrucous carcinoma, a low-grade epithelial cancer with a low potential for metastasis.