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.

April 1, 1912

89 Anson Street

Barrow in Furness, England

c. April, 1912

My Dear Son,

…We went to watch the tide come in the other morning accross old Barrow at the docks. When we got there she had got in and was about ready to recede. A few days before that we went and it was clean out. No water at all. Next time full up to the wall. The tide is a strange and beautiful thing to see.…

We had a Mrs. Baitson call on us. We knew her before we left Barrow. She said Mrs. Battersby looked a poor old wrinkled woman. She says you have not got any wrinkles. They seem to think everybody in America soon get bleached and withered. They were surprised to see how well we stood it.…

My brother's daughter Maggie is going to be married. That will be two presents we will have to buy. We thought of getting silver knives and forks for them frrom America. Pa wrote to Sears & Roebuck but they don't do business in foreign countries and they haven't got the knives here so will have to get something else.…

I am going to get my blue suit fixed over. The styles are about the same here as in America. The hobble skirt is greatly worse here.…

Your loving Mother


April 3, 1912

89 Anson Street

Barrow in Furness, England

April 3, 1912

My Dear Son,

…When I read his [Pa's] letter to you I thought I believe Pa would like you to get all three positions. He thinks Cushing will soon be in the background and you in the lead. Dr. Cushing following close behind trying to get a chance to speak to you. He is not a bit selfish is he. It has not diminished any since he came here.

I would like that lady and you to keep on good terms. They are the class that have the influence. I would like to know if her daughter is married. If not and she a nice girl, why not see how she would suite. There is nobody any better than you or has had a better education. Even she is a doctor's daughter. Because she has plenty of money, don't let that scare you. She might be a very fine girl. I don't want to see you an old bachelor.

I had a letter from Annie Craven with quite a lot of news. She says the carmen's strike is not settled yet.… She says everything is topsy turvy or unsettled there and they have had an awful hard winter. Gornals don't call on them. She had not seen them since last Easter year ago and she never sees Mrs. B. Jim Gornal saw Daisy and he said they were going to move to Jeff [Jefferson City] in the Spring. They are just the same old jealous outfit. Miserable class of people. Mrs. Washington has got her teeth out. Her brother Will Craven is dead. She wanted us to visit the family.…

Your loving Mother


April 6, 1912

Baltimore, Md.

April 6, 1912

Dear Mother and Father,

The date will probably recall to you that this is 26 years since I began.

Well this has been the most wonderful day and the most wonderful week I have yet put in. Today Dr. Cushing removed a tumor as large as a big orange from a man's head and he is still living and going to get well. It's one of the most successful cases on record. It left a tremendous hole in his brain. The poor fellow had been through 3 operations before this one, all getting the tumor ready so it could be handled easily. Each step bringing him on the brink of death. One whole side of his skull is out so as to give the tumor room. It weighed about ½ lb. His brother was ready to give him blood if necessary but it was not. It was a very spectacular thing to see Dr. Cushing pull this big tumor out of the man's brain and still live with half his skull gone in addition. He is 30 years old, ought to get perfectly well and be able to work again and earn a living. He has been here 4 months. A steadfast brother staying close by him all the time.

Well this has been a gala week for me, I have done 3 big operations myself. One was a big cyst or sack of water which was due to being struck by a baseball (I can hear you saying I cannot play baseball any more). He has been having epilepsy ever since. I opened up one whole side of his head and found the cyst, opened it and he has had no spells since. I have high hopes for him.

That little English boy I did some time ago is perfectly well, no attacks since, getting fit and looking fine.

Another case I did was a little boy of 15 who was playing "duck on the rock" and one of his playmates hit him on the head with a rock. Fractured his skull. When the boy came, he was unconscious and could not have lived long. It was evident that he had to be operated on at once. This was done, and a big brain vessel was ruptured and pumping blood away as fast as it could. There was a big clot on the brain as large as your hand. The vessel was tied and stopped any more bleeding. The clot was cleared away and he is now doing fine at least so far. This is the 4th day.

Another boy in somewhat similar condition had been hurt about 3 weeks ago and had headaches, vomiting etc. indication of swelling of brain. This was opened and his swelling relieved. He is doing splendidly, also. So far 3 days. That is quite a bunch of operations in one week for an amateur.

I have had exceptionally good luck so far. One of them was a very severe operation about as difficult as it is possible to get. But I finally got it fixed up in good shape. It is the case Dr. Cushing started to do two different times and something happened each time, so I think he thought it might be hoodooed. But I sailed into it without fear. It took 3½ hours. I began to realize the responsibility on an operators shoulders by the time it was over. I guess I looked pretty well worn and one of our private patients said she was glad her husband was not a doctor as I looked like I had gone through a lot of responsibility. It is quite a strain, a good deal like the strain on an engineer with his cargo of human freight behind him. Dr. Cushing has certainly been good to me and I think I have justified his confidence if he had any.

Have had a lot of compliments about the work I did. One Washington doctor said it was beautiful and wanted me to come to Washington and read a paper. He has charge of 2500 street car conductors and motormen of the Washington Street Railways. Well this ought to be enough gush about myself even on a birthday.

The weather is beautiful, the leaves are out today for the first time. Have been out playing baseball about three times this week. Will soon be tennis season. Will miss Patterson Park this year. Think I will go out to Kenwood and see Mrs. Selby some of these days. I weigh 160 now. Hope to keep going to town to get something decent to eat. It is fine.

Well I don't know anything about next year yet. Dr. Cushing is going to be away during June and I want to get in some good work then if I can. Tomorrow is Easter. Am so busy I cannot get away to see the promenading, but the work is more enticing.

Well I think this is about all this time. Haven't received your letter this week. Forgot to tell you, have become infatuated with one of Papa's dishes which we used to make fun of so much i.e. brains. We went to one of the hotels the other night, got some

fine steak, calves brains, bacon and spring onions, potatoes. Had a great meal. Nothing better than brains when cooked right. With very best love, I am

Your loving son, Walter


April 15, 1912

Baltimore, Md.

April 15, 1912

Dear Mother and Father,

I have been so busy lately that I am a little late. You say you missed a letter. I don't see why. I have written every week regularly.

Well have had another busy week. Did one operation myself. A man of 60 fell, and fractured his skull and had a haemorrhage resulting therefrom with secondary paralysis of one side. He was irrational. Had a fierce operation but pulled through it all right and he is now well and paralysis cleared up.

Dr. Cushing went to Washington today and turned the class over to me. It is a class of 4th year students, and I gave ward rounds and explained the cases to them. This was quite an honor and I carried it off in great shape I think. They seemed to stand the strain all right.

Well I am feeling fine in the midst of all the work, played ball a couple of times, feels great like old times.

I don't know anything about next year yet. Dr. Jackson just wrote me that Johnson was going back to Missouri to remain permanently in anatomy. He did not offer me anything. Said the legislature might establish a new state hospital there and if so open up the last two years again.

Haven't sold my diamond yet. Sometimes I think I ought to keep it and give it to my girl (when I get one) so as to keep it in the family. But that is so far ahead. I would almost be able to double the money in that time.

Give my felicitations to May and tell her I hope she never regrets it but enjoys it always.

Wasn't that a terrible thing-the Titanic going down. The papers are full of it. Did you see any icebergs when you went across. Haven't seen Mrs. Selby yet. Will go out some of these days.

Dr. Cushing has certainly been treating me fine. It amuses me to hear you wax so ardently enthusiastic about visions and air castles. The distance is far.

Well my stocks went up and I did not get in on them, so I am behind again. But they will be back again. You say something about the millionaire girl. She couldn't tempt me with all of it. What care I for money.

Dr. Cushing got $5000 for an operation last week. And $1500 for another besides numerous small ones of $500 or the like. Which don't really count. The man took me to the Belvedere for dinner and invited me to Milwaukee to visit him. Lots of offers haven't I?

The Sedalia papers seem to have stopped again. Nothing in them anyhow. My clothes are getting too big again, about 160 I guess. Feel good, work hard, eat rotten grub, but it is a little better. Have spent many a dollar for eating this year. Think I have about $500 now. Wait till I soak it in stocks and it will double nicely!!?? Well I think this is all at present.

Your loving son, Walter


April 18, 1912

89 Anson Street

Barrow in Furness, England

April 18, 1912

My Dear Son,

…Pa wanted to get up early this morning because he thought there would be a letter from his boy, but when I came down he had rather a long face. No letter. Sometimes Mrs. Todd hides them from him till I come down and gives them to me. He is so anxious to get one that she wants to fool him. We don't get up in morning before 9 am. They keep rather late hours here. 11 nearly every night before we go to bed.…

I believe I like the Americans better than the English. They are far behind America in everything. You would laugh at the little engines and coaches and cars here. Pa would not need much pride to run one of them. The Katy Flyer was something to be proud of.

When he read about the Titanic going out on her first trip he said the Captain will feel very proud going out on her. But it was very short lived and a terrible calamity. John Jacob Astor is reported among the lost but his wife and maid are saved. Well it is too sad to think about.

May Todd got married and she sent us some brides cake and they sent you some. I think it is pretty good.

Pa is beginning to feel he would like to be gardening and keep a few chickens. He is getting little a tired of boarding, but, we have good appetites and can eat pretty near anything.…

If you are not sure of settling down in one place it is not much good for us to go to America. What do you say.

Let us know how all those cases are getting along that you operated on and what Dr. Cushing said about the boy that got well. Don't forget to tell us all.

Your loving Mother



P.S. What about that rich lady and her daughter. Are you going to visit them.…


April 24, 1912

89 Anson Street

Barrow in Furness, England

April 24, 1912

Well My Dear Boy,

…The letter you wrote on your birthday was along time coming but was fine when it got here. If you keep up that lick their is no doubt in my mind who will get Dr. Cushing's place.

Well the Titanic disaster cast a great gloom over everything here. It almost unstrung my nerves to think of it. I am glad to see Congress investigate it. It looks to me as though Ismay was trying to place all responsibility on the captain and take none of it himself. Just the same way the Katy officials use to do, ensist on time being made, then censor you if trouble occured. Their will have to be some more new theories got up to make the traveling public believe they are safe and well protected in the hands of shipping companies.

This reminds me of you exploding Dr. C.'s theories last year. Do you hear anymore about that?.… We still go out lots for walks, picking primroses and other flours. And sometimes we see nice locations where we think we could have a nice home. Then we think of awer boy being in America and awer money there and that changes everything.

I supose you saw in your papers about Tom Mann the labor leader Socialist or Syndicalist being arrested for requesting the solders not to shoot in case of labor troubles. He is now on bail and I went to hear him speak at the town hall here on last Monday night. He is a good speaker but I don't think his method of aquiring Socialist goverment is as good as the regular Socialist way. If his address is published I will send it to you.…

Your affectionate Father


April 28, 1912

89 Anson Street

Barrow in Furness, England

April 28, 1912

My Dear Son,

…I used to look forward to you coming home this time of the year and wonder what good things I could make for you and get for you, but that is all over. I think you will have to get married and have some one that can stay with you and cook for you all the time.

We talk and wonder very often what to do. We are both beginning to feel we would like to have our own home.… Sometimes I would like to live here and sometimes would sooner go back to America. If you can help us to decide we would be glad of it, what do you say in this matter?

Bill Todd is not improving very fast. There is quite a lot of blood comes from him very often, big clots. He does not look very well. He has a big fat lazy wife.… We watched her and another woman go in the saloon the other night. She is out nearly every night. You would be amused to see boys and girls out walking with their arms arround one another. I don't think Americans would do that.…

We were glad to hear about those fine operations you performed. What does Cushing say about them and what do the others say who are talking. It must be hard on the nerves.…

Your loving Mother


April 29, 1912

89 Anson Street

Barrow in Furness, England

April 29, 1912

My Dear Son,

…You ask did we see any ice burgs when we came here. No. But when I went to America we did at a distance. That was at about this time of year. The White Star Co seems to be unfortunate with Olympic and Titanic. I see where the seamen deserted the Olympic as she was ready to sail. She started away but had to come back. Could not get men. The Cunard Co is preparing for their largest one yet.…

It begins to look as though Dr. Cushing was preparing you for his vacated place when he lets you teach his class etc. You seem to be from my standpoint of view as good a man as he. You cure the young, you cure the old, and you teach them too. But fail to get the $500, $1500 etc fees. But I supose these will come later. I would like the privalage of seeing your face when you come for dinner with your first $500 fee. I think anything Mama put on it would look good. And I fancy I see her hug her boy when she finds it out.…

Poor Teddy Roosevelt seems to be getting it hard, even by his freind Taft.…

Your affectionate Father


April 30, 1912

89 Anson Street

Barrow in Furness, England

April 30, 1912

My Dear Son,

Received your letter written on the 15th mailed on the 18th. A good while between writing and mailing wasn't it. Pa looked many a morning for the letter I suppose you were carrying with you.

Well we were glad you are well and can get a little time to play ball. Glad the meals are a little better. I would rather hear of your getting heavier. You ought to get to 175 lbs or 180. I want to see you that heavy some day.

I was glad to hear of Dr. Cushing treating you so well and giving you such fine operations to do. Did any others ever get work like he has been giving you. We would like to hear how those patients are getting along you operated on but you never tell us anything about them. I guess you are pretty sleepy and tired when you write, that accounts for it I suppose.…

It would be fine if you got Cushing's position. He is surely making lots of money. Made as much in one week as Pa made in 10 years. I hope you will be able to gather it in like Cushing. Do you ever hear from Miss Stanley. I expect she will be feeling pretty blue if you never write to her.…

We like the meetings here. If it was not for meetings I believe we would like America as well. We go every Sunday morning and evening through the week to the Hall.

It is fine to hear the young men preaching. They were little boys when we left for America. They have open air meetings.…

Your loving Mother


May 14, 1912

27 Heath Street

Goldborn, England

May 14, 1912

Well My Dear Boy,

We just got your interesting letter about the millions you have chance to marry and will say that at the least we had good laugh over your bright prospects. And seriously I think you should consider carefully. I wish I was near to help you, as you know from experience that I am good in matrimonial selection. At least on one occasion. But would say that if you like her as good as any you know, don't let her millions interfere with your otherwise good judgment. This wealth at least would furnish you lots of pleasure in following your inclination in buying and selling securities which you can't expect to do for years if left to your own resources. Besides you might use it for good purposes whereas another might use it for bad. Will say that my sentiments are like the lady you mention. She might get her daughter more wealth by marrying some one rich but she could not well use more riches but ability is in demand. And this you possess. Therefore a powerful leverage for good. And of the two accomplishments I am satisfied you possess the best. And by uniting both, each are improved. However you have in all cases displayed good judgment and you will in this.

Well you will see that we are with Mr. Seddon and are certainly enjoying it. This is a rather larger place than I had expected. They are doing good business and looking well. Looks better than they did in Sedalia but Grace don't look the same. Has got much thiner rather stooped, a fine worker and rather good cook. You aught to have seen her laugh the other day. I asked her if she remembered singing "Bob a link and magpie sigh." She said yes, and Walter under the table had to whistle. We have spent about 8 days here talking over old times and they don't want us to go yet.

I went to a place called Atherton about 10 miles from here a few days ago to see a cousin of mine. I had not seen him for about 40 years. When I got to the house no one was in so I went to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Park knowing he worked on the section and got permission to walk on the track (which is not permited here) to see if I could find him. After going about a mile and half I came to the gang and I knew him as soon as I saw him. But he did not know me. He thought I was one of his cousins boys who lives at Parbold near Southport and who we are going to see. I am informed they are in good circumstances. They keep dairy etc, etc.…

This is a very thickly settled country. Can see in all directions iron works, factories, coal mines, etc. And one town just runs into another. Railroads are like spider webs in all directions, usually 4 tracks, block signals, and in perfect condition. They have fast tracks and slow ones. The two on one side is fast and the other side is slow. What they mean by fast and slow is that the trains on one side are through trains and the other side are local.…

You say the engrs. have submited to arbitration showing cold feet. You are right. The eastern men allways had cold feet. The Western men always complained about the weak knees policy of the Eastern men. Was for years. We could not get them to federate etc. Of course they may have the best judgment. Even if they are not as good fighters they may know that it is rather difficult job for a stomach to fight a fat pocket book and especialy if he has a wife and some children that he can't endure to see suffer. From experience I know in some measure the cares of home life and I have often stifled my convictions for you and Mama because your destiny was my highest ambition. Thank God I feel I have not been misdirected as at present I see nothing but a bright future ahead of both of you.…

Your affectionate Father


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