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.

January 19, 1923

Here I am again in Paris, but only for a few hours while en route to Vienna where I hope to spend a little longer time. It is a beautiful day, like spring with little showers.

Yesterday in Holland it was very cold, about 10 above zero. It was great to see them skating along the canals, which run everywhere. They can run from one city to another in a short time on skates. By train, great cities are about 15 to 20 minutes apart. The Hague with the famous Peace Palace is very beautiful and the city itself is very pretty. It is wealthier, but not quite so beautiful as Amsterdam, though both are so clean and beautiful.

Holland is a wonderful country throughout and the people so honest and wholesome. I spent two days in Utrecht which is older and typical of the older Holland. There is not so much wealth there and the buildings are less handsome, but everywhere clean and well kept. It was amusing to see the clogs which you used to speak of in England. The women work hard in the fields and pull great barges along the canals. The women of Holland are very pretty and so wholesome. You never see bobbed hair or flirting girls. They are all very high typed. Simple and home loving.

I saw the most interesting work in Utrecht of anywhere. Professor Magussis is the principal light there and he was most thoroughly hospitable taking me to his home nearly every meal and spent his whole day doing nothing else than escorting me around and explaining in detail all that was going on. It was most interesting and will be useful. They were doing a lot of good work on the brain physiology in animals. There isn't much surgery of the brain there and I haven't been in the operating room yet. Perhaps on the return trip I will do more exploring of the surgical fields. Should have done so in England but the climate was so fierce, couldn't stand it.

Holland was clear and cold the entire time. It was very stimulating weather. I met a Cleveland man at the Hague. I knew him when he was with Crile. He was traveling around and watching only operations. It will depend upon what I find in Vienna as to whether I stay there any length of time. If not good there, will return to England after a wanderlust in Italy and Germany and possibly Spain. If you will write your brother in Ireland, I may stop a day and run down to Queenstown and take the boat there. I think you gave me their address.

I am having a wonderful time and hope you are well. Haven't had a sign of a cold or anything. I am enjoying all of the new experiences. Getting particular delight in watching the differences in engines, railroads, etc. Can have a good chat with father when I get back. Leaving on the Orient Express the fine (deluxe) train to Vienna which is only 36 hours away. Will look for a letter from you there.

With love, I am your loving son,


January 21, 1923

I am at the farthermost part of my journey. Arrived here last night at 10:30 PM, having left Paris at 2:00 PM the day before. It is just a month since I left home and it has surely been a month of great events. Leaving Paris with spring-like weather. Toward night we passed into the mountains into Switzerland (the Alps), but saw none of them till morning when we reached Austria. These were the Tyrol Mountains and were everywhere covered with about a foot of snow. It was very beautiful everywhere. The mountains extended all the way to Vienna.

There had been a heavy snow in Vienna a few weeks ago and the streets are full of slush and old snow where it has been piled up. But little remains of it except for this. The hotel is very nice and comfortable. The people very nice. And everything goes well. The sleepers are quite different from the American ones but they are very good and nearly as comfortable. Everything is compartment plan, which is hardly as nice. The Austrians are probably the best cooks in the world. The dinner on the diner was delicious. Much better than in France.

There isn't the meanness and selfishness about the Austrians such as one sees in the French. They are most polite. They have raised prices in Austria until they are nearly the equal of America. France is now the only place where living is cheap and it is very cheap. Germany is as expensive as America now. Probably before long, France will raise the prices to reach the loss in exchange. Money is counted in kronen and to make them worth anything, they are raised into thousands. A bill calls for 100,000 kronen which means 1¼ dollars of American money. Dinner last night cost 100,000 kronen, etc. Formerly a kronen was worth 20¢, so you see how far money has fallen.

Shall meet Professor Eisenberg, one of the famous surgeons today. Don't know how long I shall stay, but continue to send letters to London. Miss Cannet will probably go to Florida in February.

Love and Kisses,

Walter x x x x x x x x

December 14, 1923

Here I am in the most wonderful country in many ways that I have yet seen. It is such a beautiful thrifty country, irrigated through every few yards by ditches. The great windmills scattered everywhere and flapping their huge wings is a wonderful sight. We arrived at the Hook of Holland at 7:00 a.m., crossing the North Sea at night. Again I had hoped to find some evidence of seasickness, but I slept the night through without waking. I had a cabin in the prow of the ship. She was lurching again a good deal when I went to bed but at least I wasn't thrown out of the berth. We left Harwich about 100 miles by train from London and Amsterdam is almost two hours by sea from Hook of Holland.

I was much impressed with the English railways. They have doubtless improved a great deal since you were here. The carriage, which was open by compartments outside, I have seen, but most often the cars have compartments for four people and they have at the end of the cars. I think they ride very well, about as well as American cars. I think they are more comfortable. I, of course, have traveled 1st class. I could bet with a high degree of assurance what class you travel.

I couldn't enjoy the English climate very much. Rain. Rain. Rain. It showered a little one day, they made a big fuss about it, but it was all water before noon.

Holland has been nice and clean and fairly cold - just about freezing, but I have missed the good skating which they usually have here most of the winter. This must be the place where the Dutch Cleanser got its name. You can't find dirt anywhere. It's a "spotless town" for sure. The buildings are all so beautiful, neat and tidy. The people dress so neatly and cleanly - none of the slovenliness that I have seen in France, England and America. There seems no one very rich and very poor, but everyone in good circumstances and well taken care of by their thrift. The people are all so open and friendly and kind. They go out of their way to help you for the love of doing it. They live sensibly. Not many motorcars. The cleanest little streetcars which move along at a snail pace, but you like it. Nearly everyone rides a bicycle. Holland is only about 25 miles radius from the center to the border and big thrifty cities are very close together. They have to speak German, English and French as well as their own Dutch because their neighbors are so close and they have to trade with them.

Tomorrow I go to Utrecht about an hour's ride south of here, then to The Hague and then Paris and Vienna. I hope to get a letter from you when I get to Vienna. I got a letter from Miss Cannet hoping she had been out to see you, but this is the only word I have had from America. They know much about my air work here and use it, but haven't a big material to work with as in America.

A month will have soon have passed. It won't be long 'til I'm back, but we won't "wish our lives away" will we. I wonder where I got that.

Love, Walter x x x x x x x x x x

December 21, 1923


Ready to start. Such a wonderful boat! Looks impossible for any human means of forcing such a great thing head 3000 miles. Feel the thrill of a boy, but of course other emotions surge in too. My address will be Equitable Trust Company, London. Good luck. Au revoir, W.E.D. [posted New York City]Miss Sadie Martin702 4th Ave.Royal HeightsBaltimore, MD

December 29, 1923

Here I am in this geese cackling place where I can't understand any more than Columbus understood from the Indians whom he discovered. After a nice but dismal trip across, we reached Cherbourg at 6:00 & Paris at midnight Friday. We waited around Cherbourg several hours before we could land in a tender, the sea being too rough. Then a couple of hours inspecting baggage and waiting for this baby train to get started on a 6 hour stroll to Paris. Did not manage to get seasick but there was not any sign of a storm. Not once did we see the sun or moon until we landed in France. It was quite dismal and damp outside but pleasant inside. It is quite wonderful how that great boat plowed ahead without hesitating for 5 days. But that's long enough on the water.

It gets rather tiresome being indoors all the time. But I read a great deal and had a wonderful room, which I believe I told you retailed at $1050 winter rates and $1250 summer rates. Had private bath and electric heater in the room. I am sure one would easily get seasick if they were in bad air as in steerage and second cabin.

I will look up my patient here today and remain here several days going to London or Amsterdam, Holland next week. Have a nice hotel. The franc, formerly 20¢, is now worth only 5¢ so one's money goes four times as far as formerly. It will go even further in Austria. I hope you have been well and free from colds, am looking forward to a letter from you when I get to London. Am having a wonderful experience and lots of fun, but it won't be long before I am running home again.

With lots of love,