Walter E. Dandy Letters

We are proud to host the transcripts of Walter E. Dandy’s correspondence with his family. These letters illustrate the personal side of this neurosurgical genius, spanning his early college education through senior tenure at Johns Hopkins Medical School.

September 10, 1903

Columbia, Mo.

September 10, 1903

Dear Mother and Father,

I have now passed three days at school. The time has been spent making entrance to the University which keeps you busy and running from one place to another waiting for the crowds for your turn.

The University is a grand set of buildings, about 12 in all, made of finest brick surrounded by pretty lawns and flowers and paved walks. There is a new building built for the medical students, and is equipped with every convenience.

There is a great crowd here but they all seem to be nice boys. It keeps you busy making acquaintenances. We have also been very busy today putting down our carpet and fixing up our room which is now very nice. I believe the nicest in the club. The boarding club will not be open until Saturday. We have been boarding at a hotel downtown for $3.50 per week and get fine meals, except they don't give enough to fill my appetite. I don't think that is very high compared with prices here. You cannot get meals anyplace for less than 25¢ but we bought a ticket and got a reduction.

We were very lucky in getting our room. The persons who were in it before left several things (including much dirt), a fine brass bed, (the other beds are plain iron), a bureau and washstand, so we are pretty well fixed. I saved $5 by being validictorian which, though small, nevertheless it helps out. I have about $27 left but have not bought any books yet. They are very high ranging from $10 to $15 but by joining a co-operative club you get them 10% or 1/10 cheaper. It costs $1 to join the club but you soon make more than that back.

I am getting the Democrat and Capital here by mail all right.

I have met many of the Sedalia boys and girls here.

Tomorrow our regular work begins. School runs from 8:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. I shall take English, German, Greek, Chemistry and Physics which keeps me as every one else very busy all the time.

When did Papa go to work? Are you worrying? How is Mr. Battersby getting along? Joe Ikenberry is anxious for Stanley to come and keep him company. I think I will now close and go to bed. I am well and hope you are the same.

Your loving son, Walter E. Dandy



Do not expect to much from me in the letter line for you know I can not write a good letter. Write soon with lots of news.

Address U.B. Club., Columbia, Mo.

June 18, 1907

Denver, Colo.

June 18, 1907

Dear Mother and Father,

I will try to concentrate in a few words what I have seen in the past three days. Indeed I have been busy seeing from the time I left Sedalia and am just 1/10 through as far as distance is concerned and probably less as far as time is concerned. We had a fine ride over MoPac [Missouri Pacific] to K.C. [Kansas City]; left 40 minutes late, made 60 miles per hour in lots of places, were laid out a couple of times and arrived at K.C. 20 minutes late. The U.P. [Union Pacific] Overland Limited waited for us or I would have missed connections and been able to stay in K.C. for a day. I would just as soon done so for John Leavis was on train and he wanted me to stay over with him and see K.C. I thought I had better go on and stop over coming back.

Had one of the finest and fastest rides I ever had on the U.P. Overland Limited for 100 miles along the river banks through some of the nicest towns in Kansas. Darkness overtook us then and I slept most of the night.

Morning caught us about 100 miles from Colorado border, still in Kansas. This part of Kansas and Colorado was entirely different from the part we had crossed the night or rather evening before. In the evening we passed through Topeka, Lawrence, and a dozen other fine little towns. In the morning everything was changed. Towns were scattered and very poor both in quantity and quality. The land was all level, sandy, no water, no trees. The only thing to break the monotony was an occasional prairie dog, jack rabbit and a few coyotes or grey wolves.

I enjoyed it very much on account of the contrast with Missouri country and to see what other people had to contend with. In western Kansas nothing grows, hardly even weeds on account of sand and lack of water. The first 100 miles of Colorado is about the same. Then we get into irrigated district (slightly) and things begin to change at once. Everything begins to reappear in proportion to degree of irrigation.

About 40 miles out of Denver we got our first glimpse of Rocky Mountains appearing as indistinct clouds in the distance along horizon. As we drew near, we could discern a greener base and white top, separated by an apparent definite line, the green the timber district, the white the snowy peaks.

We finally arrived in Denver about 12:30 P.M. Sunday. Got me a room and went to dinner. On the train I met a number of people, among them a University boy of '03 law dept. He quit school, ran off and married and he and wife were coming to Colorado.

Met another varsity boy who graduated in law this year. He was with a lady and made an appointment to met me next day, but we never found each other. Have met 15 or 20 college men from all over country, most of them going same way as myself, but we are all too selfish with our time to go together. They are from all over the country. Don't know what it is to be lonesome. Haven't time to think of it.

Took in Denver Sunday afternoon and Monday. Fine clean healthy place. All buildings of brick or stone. Have number of fine public buildings, among them the state capitol, one of the finest buildings I ever saw, cost 3½ million dollars. City park covers 495 acres all laid out in nice grass, flower beds, lakes, a zoo, etc.

Went through the government mint and watched whole process of making money. They were making mexican money when I was there.

Went on famous Georgetown Loop, a good 57 miles through mountains. Most beautiful and awe inspiring trip I ever took. It was my first view of mountains from near at hand. Followed canyon for about 30 miles, almost level track but winding around like a serpent. I can't describe it to you; mountains on both sides extending up for over a mile and hardly room for train to pass.

The Georgetown Loop is the greatest I ever saw. It is more indescribable than others if possible. We wound around loop after loop, covering over 5 miles of track to gain one mile of distance and thus climb the mountain.

Am in Denver now. Leave in the morning for Colorado Springs, 75 miles away, for a few days. Will leave there for Salt Lake for a day, then to San Francisco and Los Angeles.

I guess I will close and leave the rest to tell you when I get home. It will take all summer to tell of these three days. I will tell the rest during the year.

Your loving son, Walter

July 2, 1907

Los Angeles, California

July 2, 1907

Dear Mother and Father,

I have a little off time at last and will drop you a few lines. I don't believe I have written you a letter since I arrived in Denver. I have been busy taking in all kinds of sights since then and my time has been extremely limited. Well I will have to be rather brief. So much has passed since then and such little time to tell it. I'll have to keep most of it till I come home and then I'll never be able to tell you a fraction of it. I haven't even had time to keep a diary and I carry the book around with me all the time.

Well leaving Denver it is but 75 miles to Colorado Springs, a very pretty little town of about 25,000 population. Everything clean, broad streets and new by millionaires although they are very unpretentious. You could never tell it by their houses, nothing elegant, mostly neat and cozy. There is not a saloon in the town. It is quite a change from busy Denver. At Denver all is brick, at C.S. everything is wooden.

I had a nice room at the Y.M.C.A. building. The first day I took in the town and went to North and South Cheyenne canyons and the famed Seven Falls which fall down from the mountain, their descent being broken seven times, hence their name. From there went through a very nice park, very nicely kept, and fixed up, everything still result of irrigation.

The second day went over the scenic Cripple Creek then to the mining camps of Victor, Independence, Cripple Creek, etc. It was a grand ride through and over the mountains, a very steady but steep grade all the way. In places we would wind around a mountain 2 or 3 times to gain its summit. then pass over to another still higher, etc. Passed through 16 tunnels. It was grand scenery all the way. We could look down on towns which would appear as mere specks we were so high above them. To give you an idea of the height we were, we encountered a snow storm going and coming 10 miles from Cripple Creek. The line begins to descend to reach the mining towns situated in a little valley about 6 miles apart. Here is where they had so much trouble during the strike and where Myers and Haywood were accused of murder. Everything is non-union now.

Well the next day I went to Marilou [?] which lies at the foot of Pike's Peak and about 10 miles from Colorado Springs on an electric line. I intended taking in Pike's Peak that day but it was cloudy and we couldn't see the peak, so I postponed it till next day. There are several kinds of mineral water here, iron, also soda and sulphur all free (unusual for Colorado).

The next and last day in the Springs, went up Pike's Peak by the cog road in the morning, 14,147 feet high or about 3 miles ascent, took two hours and descent same. After crossing timber line, it became bitter cold, colder the higher up. I used both sweaters and didn't have half enough. There was plenty of snow all around and laborers were cleaning the track so the train could pass. It was colder than any Missouri winter day. We kept warm by a fire at the summit.…

By the way we went into a Cripple Creek gold mine in a 4,000 foot tunnel and watched them mine. They certainly deserve what little they make.

Well the afternoon of that day I took in the Garden of the Gods where the images carved by nature are supposed to resemble some forms in appearance such as frogs, mushrooms, kissing camels, etc. They are certainly very peculiar, but the whole garden does not come up to expectations from the fame it has reached over the country.

Also took in a wonderful cave, called the Cave of the Winds, which was very beautiful. Saw many stalactites and stalagmites, etc. Passed through beautiful Williams Canyon en route. It is probably the most beautiful of all the canyons. Along the walls we could see the carvings of the ancient cliff dwellers, etc.

The next day, Sunday, left for Pueblo for an hour and a half between trains. It's a dirty, disagreeable old town as different from above Colorado cities as night is from day.

Leaving there the train consisting of 13 cars was jammed full. 30 miles out of Pueblo they put on an observatory car, which has no roof but entirely open. I made a break for it and got a good seat while the others were struggling down the isle in the train awaiting their turn.

We passed through a gorge and hanging bridge, a sight I shall never forget, a space not wide enough for both the river and the train, hence the engineering feat necessary to accommodate the latter without disturbing the former. Wall of solid quartz and granite extending straight upward for 2,000 feet, the distance between walls at top being not much greater than at bottom. The scenery was grand all that day and up till midnight. So much so that I remained gazing out of the window on first one side then the other until the next day began to creep in, then I finally had to give up and go to sleep. It was certainly magnificent scenery all the way, high mountains on each side and always (nearly) a stream between (we following the canyon). The streams were as pretty as the mountains were terrible. They were clear and crystal (for most part later in day where mining had not polluted the water) and rushing madly down the steep path, dashing against the rocks, making a seething mass. Every now and then some falls would come dashing down the side of the mountains and rush into the river.

Next morning we had crossed the continental divide and were again in a desert of Utah. About noon we crossed another range of mountains. The descent was as slow as the ascent.

Every 5 or 6 miles there were safety switches. The engineer had to stop his train as these switches are turned against him and if he loses control, the train is dashed up the side of the mountain.

Another remarkable thing is the motive power required to haul trains over the steep grades. They have a big engine for every 8 to 10 cars and for every 4 or 5 passenger cars and then they can barely move.

After passing this range of mountains we passed through some more descent, then into the beautiful and green Salt Lake Valley, as level as the prairie, mountains on the right and Great Salt Lake on the left. It was very pretty, trees, mainly poplar, growing all through valley and all kinds of farming going on, everything of course through irrigation. Early in the afternoon we reached Salt Lake City. After getting a room and having dinner went to salt air beach 25 miles from the city and took a swim in the lake. It was fine but I couldn't help but stay on top. The water was so heavy it's impossible to sink. There are all kinds of amusements all built out in the lake.

The blocks in Salt Lake City are 2½ Sedalia blocks long or 7 blocks to the mile. It is a very nice little city about 60,000 and growing very fast. It is a mistake that everything is Mormon. All denominations are represented. Probably the Mormons are more numerous than any other one denomination but not more than all.

Went through the tabernacle which is a wonderful structure, built so as to seat 8,000 people. Not a nail was used in its construction. Its acoustic properties are marvelous. Standing at back of room 200 feet from front one can hear a pin dropped in front as plainly as if 2 feet from it. It is so constructed that if there should be a fire and the house were full, the building could be emptied in 3 minutes. It contains the 2nd largest organ in the world and the sweetest toned one it is said, although I did not hear it. What makes the organ and tabernacle more remarkable is the fact that both were constructed by men who had had absolutely no training in building of any kind. The organ was built by a man who had never built an organ before and the building by a man who had had absolutely no training in architecture and building of any kind.

Left Salt Lake City early Tuesday afternoon for Ogden where we arrived 1 hour late. The end of the scenic D.&R.G. road and the beginning of the Southern Pacific. As I am getting sleepy and have so much more to write I will postpone later accounts until some future time. The rest is the best but my vocabulary is entirely inadequate to give it even partial justice.

Received your card all right at Salt Lake, Frisco and here. The one at Salt Lake was of the latest date, the others being rather old when I got them. You can drop me a letter to Seattle when you get this.

I don't know just when I will leave here. I am not going to hurry, its too fine to pass by hurriedly. It's the greatest and most beautiful of all I have ever seen.

Hoping you are all well and enjoying yourselves, I remain the same.

Your loving son, Walter

September 26, 1907

1323 E. 5th St.

Sedalia, Mo.

September 26, 1907

My Dear Son,

Was pleased to receive your letter and postal card yesterday. Was glad to hear you arrived all right. Hope you will like it. It ought to be a nice healthy place on the coast. I would like to see those nice clean steps. It reminded me how they did in England, continually scrubbing the steps and in front of the door.

You be sure and get a good room and board if you have to pay a little higher, but look around where you can get the best for the least money. In Columbia you said you had better meals for $3.50 than what you had been paying $3.75 for.

This Y.M.C.A. book that was sent here to you from Hopkins University, it came after you had gone. Papa was looking through it. He said some places meals were $3.50. Rooms $5 or $6, but you get the best. You will feel better for it.

Papa came in this morning and went out again. He said to tell you he believed he was going to get the $200 and you could have it. I was downtown yesterday. I told them to let you draw on the bank any time you called for it. I deposited $30. I left the book to have it balanced up. Every time you draw any out just let me know so I can always have plenty in there for you. Take good care of yourself and get what you need.

I know there won't be a smarter boy in the University. I am looking forward to something big and glad to know you have the privilege of being at the best University in the country. No place or nothing to good for a good boy.

Papa went down to see Stanley the other day. He was wanting to know if you were going to England after you graduated. Stanley said Dr. Tittsworth was going to Germany to study. Stanley told him he had saved $50 this summer and Tittsworth said that was more than he had saved…. He said it was a privilege to get to Hopkins. He said you had got a fine head on you, you were a smart boy. He couldn't have pleased Papa better if he had given him $50.…

There was a terrible wreck on the Hannibal division. Four was killed. Ed Wingar was one and his brother-in-law, Engineer, and his fireman, and brakeman. Two others were seriously injured. It was the operator's fault. He said he was asleep. If you get the paper, you could get a full account of it.

Write soon and tell us all about your work and workers and how you like it there and if you get good meals.

Your loving Mother


October 30, 1907

1323 E. 5th St.

Sedalia, Mo.

October 30, 1907

My Dear Son,

…Very glad to hear you think so much of the University and very pleased to hear you take so well with the students.

You must tell us everything about yourself, and of course if you wish us not to tell we will not do so. I feel like you, that it is a little out of place to boast so much of you. But I just like these English people to know that you have come out of your snail box (the term Mrs. B. used) and now on a fair way to be the leading man in the country. I really believe you will. You have got the ability and the money to get to the highest in your profession. It is a pleasure for us to give you anything you need. It done us more good to hear you tell us those things we long to hear than if we had got $100. It is only a Mother and Father can appreciate such good news. Your sweet disposition is sure to make you a favorite. That is where you take after Papa. Wouldn't he like to see this, but I will send it away before he gets home.

Send us in particular all the good news about yourself and all about your work. Let us know how you are getting along with your research work. Don't study to hard. Be sure you take good care of yourself first of all.…

Papa went out after writing to you. He got a turnround. Was back in six hours. Went right out again. They told him he could get another turnround so he will soon be back. Will make a double in a little over 12 hours. He likes the turnround. If they keep them over ten hours they have to pay them overtime, so they hurry to get them over the road.…

We went to Gornals for supper Sunday night. They had the Gornals baby christened and they had the English crowd. Polly G. was wishing you could see the baby.

Polly B. and Mrs. B. was there. They went to church soon after supper. Polly was going to sing a piece at church. She asked how you were. I told her I had a comic postal card from you. She said she must come and see it. They never let on any thing about you writing or sending cards.

Annie Craven said they had a postal from you. She was very pleased about it. She wished to be remembered to you. Mrs. Gornal had one also. She would like to pay you back by giving you a good one. She would like to get one where the Statue of Liberty is bowing to Johnie Bull.

Mrs. Lord Campbell came in on Monday. She said she had heard so much about you getting along so well that she wanted to come and hear about you. She is pretty slippery. She never said come and see me. I guess she is afraid I would go if she asked me.

Did Polly B. answer your letter?… Goodbye my dear sweet boy (young man now).

Your loving Mother


November 13, 1907

1323 E. 5th St.

Sedalia, Mo.

November 13, 1907

My Dear Son,

Your letter received yesterday on time. Glad you were not in another argument so as we could hear from you. Glad to hear you were well enough to walk 25 miles, which seems to me a very great undertaking to walk so far.

I was surprised at the rainy weather you are having there. Here it is fine dry cold weather like the middle of winter, ice pretty near thick enough to skate on.

Business is slack on the Katy. Papa lost yesterday. Letts & Putty has got the turnrounds from Franklin. Papa is expecting word any time to go on the Flyer. He wants to go on it now and I believe I would rather he would go on it. It oughtn't to be as hard as the runs to Mokane.… I think he will be on it the next time we write to you. J.K. Smith took the run Wingar used to have.

You want to know about going to England. Well we would feel more like it if you could go and stay. We are still in the same mind if we can get things straightened without any great sacrifice. Papa says he has got to like the Flyer very much. If he stays longer than this summer I think it will be time for him then to get his Jersy cow and chickens and automobile.…

Polly B. came in the other morning.… She wanted to know how you were and if you would be home for Xmas. I said I did not know. You might never come to Sedalia any more. She said we ought to go there. Have you decided to come home at Xmas? Did Polly answer your letter? Mrs. Meyers don't want to buy this place. Not much good to try till Spring (to sell it).

Your loving Mother



What are your hours for reading. Do you get good meals. Are you still gaining in flesh. They did not issue any Democrat last night, some trouble with the power.

I called to see about your wheel. He had not sold it. He says he has been asking $14 for it. Goodbye sweetest boy on earth.


November 20, 1907

1323 E. 5th St.

Sedalia, Mo.

November 20, 1907

My Dear Son,

Your letter received yesterday and noted its contents with pleasure, and especially where you were going to buy me so much with so little. I had a good laugh over it. But let me say when you start in to buy for Mrs. Dandy now you will have to dig deeper than your imagination. Mrs. Dandy is now a dressy woman. I called on Mrs. Jakeman the other day and she was bragging on my pretty dress how neat it was.

Just to show you what I mean, I wanted a pair of nice easy house shoes. I went down and got a fine pair for 39, now you can call that either cents or dollars but I'll bet it is like you to say 39 cents and I bought Papa two shirts 15 each. Now there is a problem for you to figure out which it was 39 cents or 39 dollars. Shirt 15 cents or 15 dollars. Send the answer as soon as convenient.

Papa was so proud of his shirts he would not put his coat on. He said the people would not see his nice shirts. Maybe that will help you a little to solve the problem.

You say I ought to have known you were O.K. when you sent a P. card. That was no evidence at all as you wrote me a long letter when your head was cut in Columbia.…

Your loving Mother


December 12, 1907

1323 E. 5th St.

Sedalia, Mo.

December 12, 1907

My Dear Son,

Glad to hear you are well as that is how we are here at present thanks to our Heavenly Father. We surely have a great deal to be thankful for. His loving kindness is great to us unworthy ones. When I read and hear of strong men stricken without a moments warning, it makes me feel how near to eternity any of us might be. But it is blessed to be ready and able to say come Lord Jesus. Don't you realize it is blessed to be saved and made fit to dwell with Him who loved us and gave Himself for us (what wonderous love).

I don't think there is much hope for Conductor Phelan. I suppose you read about him stricken when out on his run. Papa says he was a fine big healthy looking man.

Papa wrote yesterday to you and I should have written also. But we went up town in the morning and B.'s came about 4 o'clock just when we were eating supper. We had it a little early because of Papa going away. We were just having a fine supper, turnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, meat loaf, currant bread, pie, cake, pudding and pare preserves 7 or 8 years old. They thought they were delicious, they eat such a supper. Polly eat till she was uncomfortable.

I do wish you could get good meals. Just change around till you find a good place. You won't feel good if you don't get good substantial meals.

Your loving Mother



Needless to say how delighted we were to hear of that honor. Don't miss any honors for the sake of economy. Money don't give us half the joy it does to hear of your honorary attainments.


December 26, 1907

1323 E. 5th St.

Sedalia, Mo.

December 26, 1907

My Dear Son,

Was very pleased to hear you made a perfect exam. Nothing could have given us more pleasure this rather lonesome Xmas time. It is a great pleasure to watch your continual progress in your medical work. I look forward to still far greater honors. When you get through we will hear of some splendid work along that line.

Well I believe I felt better than Papa did about you being absent these Xmas times. He says you will have to come home next Xmas. When he was in Parsons he went to the office to see if they thought he could get rates. The clerk told him it was rather late to try to get them for Xmas. Then he said if he had come sooner he would have done all in his power to get them for him. Next time come earlier as he would try and all they could do would be to refuse.

Battersbys came up yesterday for supper. Polly had to go and play at the church so they went away right after supper. Stanley seemed worried about his exams. He has one hard one for January 5th. He said Bob Smith had been to call on them. He is teaching chemistry in Columbia. They say Bob is smart. He sent Polly a book of poems for Xmas present. Polly said she had a card from you. Stanley says it cost him a good deal for street car fare.… He pays $20 per month for 2 meals a day and room. Then he says it takes nearly one dollar every day for street car fare and lunch. He says he had one short letter from you.…

Papa goes out this evening. Sanders met him the other day, wanted to know how he liked the Flyer. Papa said it was a pretty fast run.… It makes a big hole in the check if he lays off a trip, $16.

Well I'm glad you are feeling fine and hope you won't fill up on bananas again. Strange you never tell about your being sick till you have got all right again and then you tell me not to worry. Queer time to worry isn't it when you are all right. I bought bananas and oranges and forgot to put them on the table last night for B.'s and as a result Papa and I can feast on them which will be just as well.

How is it you are taking that work like you used to have with Dr. Jackson. I would think teaching would be nicer and easier work. Have you been doing this work along with teaching? Tell us all about it. Papa has been wanting to know how many more years will you have at Hopkins. Now as you don't have much to do you can tell us everything I ask you and maybe be able to send 2 letters per week. Did you get the ties I sent? How did you like them?

Well I will close hoping to hear as often as you can through the holidays.

Your loving Mother


December 31, 1907

1323 E. 5th St.

Sedalia, Mo.

December 31, 1907

My Dear Son,

…I was glad to hear you were not lonesome. If you had come home I expect you would have been on your way back.… The holidays will soon be over, and I will be glad. It seems a long time till we see you, but as I have done in the past I expect to be able to do in the future look forward and hope.

We got your present on Friday. I was surprised that you had sent us anything and more surprised when I saw it was a book. When I began to read and find out its contents I thought it was fine. You could not have sent anything we would have enjoyed more. His lectures to young students are fine. Dr. Osler seems to be a very affectionate fatherly man that has the students' interest at heart. It says for the students to keep their affections in cold storage, etc. He touches on everything in their line of work. I sat up to 11 o'clock one night reading it, and I only wished that you had read it before you sent it. I saw you hadn't for some lines had not been cut. No young student should be without it.…

Jim Dow was here for a little while on Saturday. He is looking well. He is rough like he always was. He said he wrote several times to you but he did not know whether you had got them or not as you never answered them.…

Well you would have laughed if you had been here Xmas morn. Miller came in and Papa brought the bottle out to give him a glass of whiskey. Miller says let me have it, reached for bottle and a glass and poured himself 2 glasses. Then he put his nose on it smelling it. He says John knows I could drink the whole bottle. I was afraid he would be drunk. It did not affect him in the least.

I don't know whether Stanley has gone back or not. We have not been there.

Polly did not get many Xmas presents. You done well at getting presents. Did Miss Stanley send you anything. Have you been rooming and boarding at the same house. I hope you get good meals that you can enjoy as it is essential to health. Are any of the boys leaving the boarding house but you. They must be very poor cooks that can't cook a turkey.

Well we want to hear all about your work when you get started. And if you can find the time to teach in place of the other work would teaching be easier.

Well this is the last day in the old year. It is well to stand still and look back and see the Goodness of God to us all the past year and may it be our earnest prayer and desire to live closer and walk nearer to Him than ever before.

Your loving Mother


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