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 30, 1914

11 Holford Place

Percy Circus

London, England

January 30, 1914

My Dear Boy,

…The picture is fine and it is often brought out for observation and to be kissed by the little Boss.… You seem to have aged considerable and look more resolute and determined than you used to do. I presume this has been aided by your struggle for supremacy over your antagonist Dr.C. but underneath it all their now seems a joy and satisfaction in your achevements. And evedently Sedalia feels proud of her boy from the account given.…

Your affectionate Father


January 30, 1914

11 Holford Place

Percy Circus

London, England

January 30, 1914

My Dear Son,

We were delighted to get your picture if it is only a proof, and also your other book and Sedalia paper. The picture is fine. Never saw you looking so fat and so well. It seems to be pretty near perfect.

I have a little objection to make in regard to your suit, that is the deep wrinkles in the sleeves and your rather drooping attitude. I would rather you sat upright or erect, good square broad shoulders that you have would have looked better (and I was always proud of them). The position you are in gives you rather a round shouldered appearance. I think the face is simply fine, couldn't be improved any. I think a bust picture would have been better as it is nearly impossible for a suit to look well in the position you are in. I feel like cutting the picture off above the big wrinkle in your sleeve but maybe the pictures will be better than the proof. I am delighted to see you are looking so well. Collar and tie and shoulders are lovely. You must be pretty good to yourself to be looking so well and working so hard. Hurry up with those pictures. You know how impatient Pa is.

The Sedalia paper sure gives you a good boost. What will B.'s and G.'s and C.'s and Letts think. I suppose they thought you weren't doing much. They can see we are not doing all the bragging. I am more pleased over Sedalia knowing it than any place. We are so well known there. In a small place everybody knows everybody. In a city like London, nobody knows you and nobody cares. I think we have great cause to be thankful and happy and especially so when we see you looking in such perfect health and beauty of face and form and brilliant mind. I think nobody has more cause than you to be happy and thankful.…

Your loving Mother


February 5, 1914

11 Holford Place

Percy Circus

London, England

February 5, 1914

My Dear Boy,

Yours of January 24 just received with Cushing's letter enclosed. Am pleased to hear you are well even if you have boils and Cushing to try and discourage you. It will take more than them to overpower you won't it. He evedently thinks now that your work is good enough for the east when he wants it. And even complements it. He has evedently an axe to grind. Let him turn his own grind stone at least as far as you are concerned unless you see it to your advantage. I certainly would not consider his. I think you had better advise him to go west. You have seen Cushing's defeat. The German has not hurt you. And Dr. Heuer can't stand in your way long and if he does you will find out it was for your good.

I am glad you got your picture taken before the boils etc. showed up. You know we often look at it and think it fine except arms or coat sleeves especially the right one. Mama says if she was a sergeon she would make them look different. But she don't blame you for sitting this way but the man who took the picture for not seeing so many wrinkles in the sleeve. But you know she is pretty hard to please isn't she. …

I just asked her if she was ready to go back in March as you suggest. But she don't seem anxious till you are more settled. Besides I think the sea would be rather rough so early in the year. But she is coming back in summer to see her boy. She feels he is well looked after now. Especialy since she has seen how well you look in picture.……

Come and have dinner. It is just ready. We often wish for you to help us eat cold beef and onions on Sunday night. We still get it and like it.…

Your affectionate Father


February 5, 1914

11 Holford Place

Percy Circus

London, England

February 5, 1914

My Dear Son,

…Am very sorry to hear you have been bothered with boils and styes but hope they won't come back any more. You look to be in perfect health in your picture. What is the reason of it taking them so long over pictures. Have you been having some alterations. I hope you have had those wrinkles on your coat sleeve fixed, and a bust picture made of it. Then it would be simply fine. I have postponed writing to Lena expecting the pictures every day.

I think I had better declare the whole thing off with Lena as I have all the courting to do and I am about tired of it. You can blame Pa for it. Now he is beginning to think you have not time to bother with girls. Besides when you want one it will be very easy to get a bushel of them.

That was a pretty slippery letter from Cushing. You may be sure it was not his love of you made him write. He is a snake in the grass, beware of him. Don't give him any help or knowledge about your business. I need not say any more about him as he is not worth the time and space to talk about him.…

Your loving Mother


February 12, 1914

11 Holford Place

Percy Circus

London, England

February 12, 1914

My Dear Boy,

…I am pleased you have got you some cloths as I think you needed them bad. I have far more than you have and don't require so many.… But I am afraid it won't do if you are going to curtail expences in eating (as you state) in order to get or pay for the new cloths you have got. I rather think that is false economy and certainly not agreable to me. I prefer you to cloths. I also prefer to see you well clothed rather than to see my bank account getting larger.

I also don't like to see you indebted to anyone as I fancy you can hold your head higher if you are under no obligations to anyone. I prefer not to let Porter send you money if it can be avoided for fear he will think you are not self sustaining.…

You say you are afraid we deny awerselves. Don't bother about us. We get everything we desire and are feeling fine and strictly contented and happy. But as soon as you are settled for next year we will consider the advisability of coming back to see and be with awer boy which at present is awer only lack to perfect happiness.

Further we have thought of late that if you stay in Hopkins this next year you may stay for years and perhaps it might be better to get us a nice little subberban house instead of flat or rooms. But we don't think we will come back before May or June.…

Your affectionate Father


February 13, 1914

11 Holford Place

Percy Circus

London, England

February 13, 1914

My Dear Son,

…Who are you going to send the remaining of your pictures too. I am going to send one to Lena, one to my home in Ireland (they will appreciate it) and one probably to Mr. Seddon.

I was glad to hear you had been buying new clothes and I think not before you needed them. Would like to see you in your dress suit. What about the silk hat. Isn't it necessary to have with the dress suit. Here every knobstick wears them sometimes with inferior clothes. Once in a while we meet a colored man with a silk hat on.

They are very particular here about the outside of every thing looking at its best. The women are not as particular about a bath as they are about powder and paint and not as particular about their kitchen as they are about their front step and brass knobs on the door.…

We have that Sedalia and other clippings nearly wore away reading them. Pa says they are rich. He has been patching the Sedalia paper. He would like a few more Sedalia papers and he is thinking of sending to Sedalia for some more.……

I believe Pa will soon need a library. I see he has a little advertisement or clipping about your high school valedictory pasted in his bible.

Is Heuer going to Germany and is he drawing a salary. I think you ought to have one this year. Is the man above you going to leave. You never say anything about Bloodgood. Don't you have much to do with him now.…

Your loving Mother


February 22, 1914

The Johns Hopkins Hospital

Baltimore, Md.

February 22, 1914

Dear Mother and Father,

This is Washington's birthday or rather yesterday was. It is now 3:30 A.M. I have just finished my article on hydrocephalus and in order to do so, remained over the next day. I hope it will be out in a couple of months both in German and in English.

There isn't much new so far. I am anxious to hear what Dr. Halsted thinks of the paper. I think it ought to make good with him. It will be a week before the stenographer gets it typewritten. It has been a very big job, but I think it is worth it. Will start on some more papers in the immediate future. It will cost over $100 for typewriting and photography for the article and it will probably cost that much more to have it translated into German.

I am still on the fence about next year. Osler says to live in 24 hour compartments and never look ahead but I can't do that yet. Guess I am on the flyer which is according to him very bad.

Got my new suit-it is a beauty. Also tried on my full dress and it was fine. It has been quite cold for the past two weeks but is beginning to melt today.

Dr. Bloodgood was away and I had to take his classes. I didn't have a minute to prepare so I just went in and talked. This happened twice. Dr. Howland said I heard you talking and stopped and listened to you. It was very interesting. He is Professor of Pediatrics-childrens diseases and it is through him that we have been able to study the human cases of hydrocephalus. He thinks it a wonderful piece of work. Did I tell you he was going to make an address in Germany this summer and is going to talk exclusively about our work.

Dr. Thayer read part of the paper the other day and said he had heard a lot about it and that it was the best piece of work which had been turned out of Hopkins for a long time. But I wish I could get some satisfaction as to my future. Still everything must turn out for the best. If Heuer would go with Cushing, it would be very nice here then, except for the full time. Goetsch and Jacobson are pretty much discouraged over the work they are getting with Cushing but they are pretty well tied up.

It was the best thing that ever happened to me when I broke with Cushing. A temper is pretty inconvenient at times, but inconvenience is a type of adversity which may strengthen rather than weaken. But there is a long battle ahead yet, in fact it is only beginning. Well I think this is about all at present.

I hope you are not crimping yourself too much though I know you are to a considerable extent. But don't do it. If you have only one room for everything and one window it is not enough.

Your loving son, Walter


March 1, 1914

The Johns Hopkins Hospital

Baltimore, Md.

March 1, 1914

Dear Mother and Father,

Just received your letter a week overdue. It was so heavily laden with money that the delay occasioned no surprise. Many thanks, but I didn't need it yet. You must not be so lavish on me. It seems as though you like to see me spend your money. I will pay you back with much to spare some of these days. I like the piece of goods you sent very much. It will make you a nice suit. Glad you liked the picture. They are a little too dark, or at least I thought they were but I am not so sure that they are not all right.

Well I am still wavering very much. I am satisfied and I am not. I want to return to Chicago and risk brain surgery and I want to stay here and I don't know which I want. I think I will see Dr. Finney and get his advice. I think he likes me very much and he may be able to get me in at Chicago. I will see what he thinks best. Heuer told me the professor (Dr. Halsted) had told him that I was to do the brain surgery when he went to Europe in May. That may mean that I might keep it permanently which would come in quite right but if Heuer comes back and takes it again, it wouldn't mean so much after all.

I think Dr. Halsted likes me very well and Dr. Thomas I am sure will help me. If Heuer stays another year after he comes back and McClure (who is next) stays on it will be too long to wait for General Surgery. But things may brighten up considerably yet. Still if I went to Chicago and could get started right I am sure I could make money pretty quickly. Here I would get a better reputation.

I don't get any but the smaller operations to do now, but they all have turned out excellently. Am going to start some new work in the Hunterian Laboratory (doghouse) next week as my hydrocephalus article is finished and ready to send off. The more experimental work I do the more rapidly I will advance and get a good position elsewhere. I am going to.…get some more papers as yours is worn out. I will send you a couple more of the Philadelphia papers. Will also send you some more pictures. I am not going to send any away. Will keep them for future use.

Cushing was down to Baltimore and just said "Hello Dandy." That was all. I wrote and asked him if I could use a case of his, as a matter of courtesy. I got no reply. I shall ask him no more but use it anyhow. It is none of his business. He is pretty small. I thought he was going to try to get Heuer to go to Boston, but I don't believe he did but I wish he had. Heuer is very selfish. He could let me do lots of operations if he wanted but he just does them all himself. They are afraid someone will get better than they.

Don't you know I have been thinking how valuable it has been to me to have played baseball, and all outdoor exercises and manual work. It has made me quite adept with my hands and I can really operate very skilfully when given a chance. All those things have unconsciously helped.

We are just over a long cold snap and evidently another has started as it has become quite cold tonight.

I think this is about all the news I can rake up this time. Stocks are not so keen as they might be and will be. If I had hit the bottom at the right time I could have made quite a lot of money but I didn't and that of course is the hard part. Take good care of yourself and better care of your money.

Your loving son, Walter


March 5, 1914

The Johns Hopkins Hospital

Baltimore, Md.

March 15, 1914

Dear Mother and Father,

Well I don't have a great deal new to tell you. The Philadelphia trip was the most important event of the week. It was a very nice trip. I didn't think of what I was going to say until the morning of the day and left here at 4, got to Philadelphia at 6 and talked at 8:15. Probably for the first time I did not experience any sensation of nervousness whatever in anticipation. I talked without notes and did fine. Blackfan said if I talked as forcibly and with as much enthusiasm as you I would forget what I was talking about and would have to read it.

I was met at the station by a Dr. Gittings with his automobile and went to his house for dinner. Had a very nice evening there before time to speak. Donned my full dress clothes and really felt very comfortable in them. Rather liked them. Many notables were there, Dr. Spiller, Americas foremost neurologist Dr. Frazier-Cushing's nearest rival in brain surgery and his assistant and many others. They all complimented the work very highly.

It is very interesting that Frazier's assistant had been doing exactly the same work on hydrocephalus that I had and had obtained the same results, so he said, but I doubt it. He must have known of my work for it would have been impossible to have duplicated the work without knowing. He was very nice and stated before the society that everything he had done was at least two years after I had done mine and that he corroborated everything I had done. He was very sociable and took me all through the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Frazier was called out of the meeting while I talked and did not get to discuss it. I saw him operate next day. He is a bum operator. I believe even I could do better than what I saw him do.

Dr. Spiller invited me to make rounds with him and showed me some very interesting nervous cases. The next day I spent going through the University and had lunch at the aristocratic University Club with a Dr. Hammel. It was a most pleasant trip. Was only gone 24 hours and had all expenses paid. We had an exceptionally good crowd.

Dr. Howland went up the next day for a lecture but there were only a few present. They gave him great accounts of my speech. Have just turned in the hydrocephalus paper to Dr. Halsted and Dr. Howland and it will soon be on its way to publication.

Haven't heard any more news about next year. The man Cushing wrote down about is trying very hard to worm in but I hardly see how he can get anything. I believe I will eventually and soon get brain surgery and I think that is what I want now.

I forgot to tell you that Frazier's man is taking or trying to take out pineal glands in dogs, and he uses exactly the same instruments that I do but he got his first so that neither knew what the other had. It was a very unusual coincidence. I told him not to show me anything, but to get his work out as I was on his trail and wanted to give him fair warning.

It is beautiful spring like weather. I wish it were so that I could tell you to come right away but I guess it is better to wait a little and be sure.

Had to buy a pair of black shoes to wear to Philadelphia. Cost me $5.50. I got all my clothes just in time and I was pretty hard up for them too. I am afraid to let you get me a piece of goods as I am so hard to please. I don't think I will ever economize on clothes or anything else anymore. There is too much satisfaction in having good things. Am glad you like my picture so well. It is the best I ever had taken.

Stocks are again away down. The good old days are not so frequent now. But they will come again. I forgot to tell you I got an announcement of Ethyl Stanleys wedding to someone in Kentucky. I am very glad. I seems as though they all get married but I still stay on alone, even despite attempts on your part.

Well I don't know of anything more to tell you. I have filled three "sheets" as you call them which is doing pretty well for such a bad start.

Your loving son, Walter


March 22, 1914

The Johns Hopkins Hospital

Baltimore, Md.

March 22, 1914

Dear Mother and Father,

I am a day late but think the letter will still catch the Lusitania.

Well this has been a good week for me. I have been in complete charge and have done quite a lot of work. Dr. Heuer's father died. He went home and that left me resident, since Dr. McClure was also away. I had my first opportunity of assisting Dr. Halsted and everything went almost as smoothly as when Dr. Heuer was here which is doing exceedingly well. He is tremendously hard to please and everybody expected to see fire fly but it didn't. He has operated more in the past week than ever before and so far everything has moved smoothly. He seems to like me very well. He told me to go ahead and do all the operations in the house which I have been doing. So far all have gone nicely.

I took out a pineal on a dog, which has never been done before. He was greatly pleased. When I started to help him he said, this is very coarse work compared to taking out pineals, isn't it. He has been far nicer to me than to anybody else and everybody is remarking about it. It is a very good sign that he likes me. I am sure I believe I am more satisfied than I used to be. I turned my article over to him. He was greatly pleased with it but didn't have time to read it much as he is busy writing an article of his own and sails for Germany next week. He comes back again in 3 weeks and leaves again in June for the summer.

Even Heuer told me that the Professor liked me very much and talked quite a lot about me. He rarely ever says such a thing. Of course he may change his mind. He used to think a lot of McClure but he is quite sour on him now. He told Dr. Cushing I was his most valuable man, possibly excepting Heuer so he evidently doesn't think so much of McClure.

I believe I will surely get to do all the brain work now at least until Heuer comes back.

The weather is still cold. It snowed twice this week but is beginning to get warmer. Baseball will soon be here. Did you see the game in London. Wish I could tell you definitely when to come.

I helped Dr. Finney twice this week and will help him again tomorrow or next day. You had better have another round of England and Ireland before you come back. Spend a month at least. I am wearing my new suit most of the time. The others are about gone. The dress suit fits fine. I rather like to wear it.

Well I think this is all at present. I hope you are in the best of health and happiness despite a single and one window room.

Your loving son, Walter


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