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.

February 25, 1924


February 25, 1924

Dear Becky:

Although I was well content and better with Sadie, we will try Becky as the best substitute offered and better than a poor imagination can suggest. Just try to substitute for Venus after you have learned its brilliance in association Neptune or Saturn, etc., and you will see it as not so easy. Names become very descriptive - even in a very short space of time, but again we will try.

At last, after traveling over most of Europe, your letter has just reached me. I had begun to think my friends had forgotten me. Wouldn't you have grand time in Europe? Paris, Vienna, London, Berlin. It would be a great inspiration to you. I know, to gaze in the wonderful displays in the windows during the day and such opera at night! And in Munich and Berlin, there is a great field for dietetic research on sauerkraut, pig's feet, pork and beer. Think what you could devise for your diabetic patients.

Such a wonderful place - Vienna - I could have stayed there 3 months instead of three weeks. They are such a cultured people. So kind and hospitable, you learn to love them more than any people you have ever met. The medical community and hospital far surpasses anything I have ever seen or imagined. And every night was the great opera (grand) with the world's finest orchestra. It was a difficult problem dodging entertainments by charming people to the even greater enjoyment of the opera. I could easily live without Paris or London, but not without Vienna. Berlin comes second: a greater busier city with great operas and art galleries and schools also. But there isn't quite the same feeling of an inbred culture, which obtains in Vienna.

It has been a most agreeable surprise to find most Austrians and Germans without hatred. Among the official class of Germany, there is of course a latent hostility, mainly toward France, but principally to regain power. But the ordinary people are very different. They have suffered a great deal and are still though less so. With wise leadership, they would be content to be at peace. But Europe is a great seething mass of politicians who use the people for cannonballs.

Today I visited the National Art Galleries - the finest collection of paintings - mostly German - many Rembrandts, too - I have seen far superior, I should say, to the great Louvre in Paris. Tomorrow I go to Stockholm, then to Copenhagen, Hamburg, and London. I hope you have been well. It's good to know you are having so much pleasure in your new home. I will soon be home. Best wishes and good luck.


February 28, 1924

As you will see, I am now farthest north, nearly in the Arctic Circle. It is a remarkable place - not colder than America. Now about O (centigrade): it is made habitable by the Gulf Stream from America, which keeps the lower layers of the air warm. (I won't bother my brains about such things!!!) But we had a hard time getting here. We were 48 hours packed in the ice and couldn't budge until a warship broke the ice. Then we plowed through ice all the way to Sweden. The great Baltic Sea was frozen all the way across. It was a wonderful sight. I was the only one aboard who spoke English so I had to speak German. Sweden has mild temperatures compared to North Germany.

I forgot to tell you the train is backed onto the boat and ferried across so it was necessary to get out of the train. It is ordinarily four hours across the Baltic. There is a good deal of snow here. I have just been out to watch them skiing. It is a wonderful and beautiful sport. A very vigorous climate makes a big strong nice people. Sweden is a lovely spot - much like England in the south: forests and mines in the north. For two months every year in summer it is light for 24 hours straight, i.e., no darkness at all. Ask the little lemon, how that happens so.

Tonight I leave for Copenhagen in Denmark then to Hamburg, Germany again and across to England. From there I will go to Italy where I hope it is nice weather and, unless something develops, I will be back about May 1,st but don't tell anyone. Dr. B. and Flexner will be disappointed that I do not stay longer, but they needn't know 'til the time comes. There isn't much medical here, but it has been a wonderful trip. I enjoyed Berlin very much and liked the people except the ruling class.

Have you planted the garden yet? Feeling fine and enjoying everyday. It will soon be over - too soon! Hope you are well.

Love and kisses,

Walter x x x x x x x x

March 24, 1924

There was a time when Paris seemed a long way from home. Now it seems quite near. And it won't be very long until I drop in on you. Should I cable you when I am coming? Shall possibly sail on the Cedric from Liverpool on April 5th, though I may take the Aquitania from Southampton. It will hardly be possible to get to Ireland, though it is still a possibility.

Tonight I leave Paris for the last time on this trip. Yesterday I went to Napoleon's Palace and Tomb and today I go to the Palace at Versailles. It is raining and has been since I left Rome. Had a wonderful time in Rome and Naples, but I have had enough. The South of France is beautiful. It is still cool in Rome and in fact all Italy. The South of France alone is like spring, flowers out and gardens up.

I saw Mr. and Mrs. Brennan last night. They leave for Rome today. My patient here is about the same. He will be watched here. Several Baltimore doctors are traveling around Europe, though I have not seen any of them. Mr. Flexner is sailing for Europe on April 2nd. I will not get to see him. He will be disappointed in my return. I wonder if Dr. Buttrick is back in New York. He, too, will be disappointed but I must be the architect of my fate.

Will you have some strawberries and onions for me when I get back? I am also hoping to be better received now than heretofore. Will you treat me better? I hope the car is all ready, too. I miss it very much. It will be good to be back again. Feeling fine and hope you are also.


Walter x x x x x

March 25, 1924

Back again in your old playground and I must say it looks better than any place I have seen. Surely it is the prettiest spot of all. Before I passed through only about a half an hour of daylight.

Today I arrived from Hamburg at 6:35 and got to London at 8:30. It was a great relief to leave snow and ice behind. It was a beautiful clear crisp morning with a heavy frost. I went on to Cardiff, Wales and, coming back, saw the first soil being turned over for gardens. Probably a dozen men were getting ahead of the others. Cardiff was on the sea and a little colder. It was beautiful country, all the way small farms and pretty hedges and trees. Everywhere it looked like a landscape artist had gotten there ahead and prepared everything in the most beautiful form.

Had a quick trip to Stockholm and back - that is, after we got out of the ice. Your poor boy was stuck in the ice for two days before a German cruiser came to the rescue and let us out. The whole Baltic Sea was frozen from shore to shore. The boats are real ice breakers. They can plow through ice two feet thick, but we could not break through a place of drift ice. Another ship was stuck about a 100 yards to the side. It was more like a polar expedition. Nothing to eat - but the best of everything. Now don't you feel sorry for your boy!

Stockholm was covered with enough snow, but it still continued to fall. Went out to see the skiing, which I had never seen before. It was a beautiful thing to see. The Swedish trains are very comfortable. I stayed only the day in Stockholm and returned to Copenhagen where I also spent a day. Met one of the Rockefeller people by accident - Dr. Pierce, had dinner with him. It also snowed there. Another day brought me to Hamburg, where there was even more snow. But the next day it began to thaw and begin to feel a little balmy, like spring might be coming. It feels even more so here. It has been cold even in Italy, so I am afraid it will be a rather late spring there.

Will go to Paris in a few days to thaw out better and then to Italy and back to England and Scotland and Ireland and then home. I hope to get away from Ireland about April 20 and then home about May 1st or a little later. However, it may be sooner or later.

Got your letter of February 21st, am well and glad to know that you are too.



October 25, 1924

It seemed strange to be leaving Baltimore on a trip without the departure from home - but so many things have seemed strange. I have to keep asking myself if it is all not a dream. Were it not for the fact that I have the sweetest and dearest little girl and one more like my mother than anyone I could conceive, the change could never have been possible, for I have been so blessed with the deepest love, both material and personal that one thought that she and I together could really make you happier after the adjustment than you have been before, makes me realize that it was best.

Everyone dislikes to make a change when everything seems so perfect, but a more far reaching vision often shows that there is a far greater and broader and more beautiful horizon far ahead. Especially is this nice when the human instinct to conform to which is always best, is obeyed. All instincts, love, religion, etc. offer the greatest happiness to all concerned and I am sure we are not exceptions. Every day I see more to my little girl than I have reason to expect. She is ever real, true, earnest and sweet with it all, and all those qualities will be added with her love to the dearest and truest mother and father in the world - whose ideals have made and kept me where I am. Your boy is very happy, except for leaving his mother and father and I know this even will seem better to us all. Sadie is coming to spend a night with you before I return. Am now en route to Des Moines.

With love and kisses from your loving son,

Walter x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

October 25, 1924

Of course you would never guess why I should write - at this particular time and of course I will keep you guessing. It's a very pretty little gem in a beautiful farming country - but not nearly so pretty as a university town on a line south. You didn't tell me when to look when passing through, but as the university is quite far off, I guess there wouldn't be much use in the effort. Minnesota is playing Iowa as we are passing though. At the end of the first half Iowa is ahead 3-0. It a perfect day - just as it was in Baltimore.

There was one favor I intended to ask of you before I left and as you always do what I want - here it is. Please get the pictures taken now - at the time I shall always want to remember so much - also the one in the wedding dress.

I hope you enjoyed Chaliapin - and the evening with your sister. In your bewildering array of reading, you doubtless have read that absence makes the heart grow fonder. My limited experience verifies but amplifies to "absence and presence". How is my girl? I'm so glad you are not writing on a moving train. It even tests my writing - I'm afraid you would not survive. Please sleep a lot so you can tell me everything when I get back Wednesday . Please give all my love to the sweetest girl in the world and with it a multitude of kisses.



Wednesday evening 6:00 looks possible - If I do not wire to the contrary, meet me then.

October 26, 1924

It hardly seems possible that only a week ago we were tramping together in the fading hours of our honeymoon and already some roaming about without my lovely girl at my side. It is needless to tell you that she is terribly missed. Last night I several times wakened when groping about in vain for my girl, only to be quickly disillusioned and repeat again later.

I arrived in Des Moines on the Rocky Mountain limited at 7 o'clock and after a banquet with about 100 doctors talked until about 10 and this morning motored to the home of an old boyhood friend of father. The one in fact who came to this country with him from England. Leaving Des Moines at 11 in a car of Des Moines doctors we have been traveling all day and are now passing through Chicago. It has been a pleasant, but not profitable day instead of an opportunity to write. It has been practically lost.

There can hardly be a more wonderful farming country than Iowa. I often wonder what my girl is doing, how the curtains are progressing, whether the carpets have come, the new presents, etc., but even more how quickly I can get back to her and see all for myself. And still even more to hug her tight as she tells and shows me all. There have been many hugs all day - mental though they be, but the best circumstances will permit.

It still looks like 6 o'clock Wednesday, and it looks more and more difficult to put off the happy departure later. Kiss my little girl good night as often as time will allow. She is always with me - from the one who loves her most.


October 27, 1924

We are having a honeymoon which could not be surpassed. The weather has been perfect, warm and clear, almost good enough for swimming. The coloring of the trees is gorgeous and to cap it all is the most wonderful little girl in the world. If you knew how happy we are and how far she surpasses even my highest expectations of what a girl might be. She loves all that is beautiful and good. She reminds me very much of another little girl who is now in Baltimore and whom Father knows very well. There has been nothing but joy and happiness and we are confirmed there never will be. I know how happy you will be when you begin to really know her as I do. We have been tramping and canoeing and resting. Am beginning to look like I did when I motored through here before.

Love and kisses,


Found a razor strop. Should be home on the 19th.

May 13, 1925

Seven months ago, I was writing you en route to Des Moines. It was so hard to leave the little girl I had picked after years of waiting and have been with such a short and glorious time, but it hasn't become any easier with the passing time. You have meant so much to me in every way, that I have come to be dependent and lonely without my little pal. My choice was so far superior to any possible hope I had. Everyone must think his girl is ideal, but how few after practical application can say the their ideal has not been somewhat modified. How few there must be, who can feel after seven months that the ideal was far less than the reality.

So true and real has my little sweetheart been that, far from blase', each day brings a new thrill of love and loyalty - of sweetness and unselfishness, and of help in work and play. How many can say that never a cross word has been forthcoming from his sweetheart in such a long time? And now to think that ever greater joys are shortly to be forthcoming; to give as even bonds for affection! I reached for my little girl to plant a kiss last night, as by habit and the subconscious effort missing its goal was not satisfied until consciousness proved it possible of realization.

The journey to Chicago was uneventful. The apple blossoms were in full bloom coming over the mountains to Altoona. I hope you will find them at their best. I am sending all the kisses and hugs this stamp will carry and all my love to the sweetest girl in the world and who even gets sweeter with each succeeding new day.

Walter x x x x x x x x

May 13, 1925

It's such a wonderful thing - the most wonderful of this world's possessions to know that wherever you may be, there is someone always thinking about you and of some way to help you. That has always been my fortune, far more than falls to the lot of most people. And somehow I seem to realize and appreciate it more with each passing year. How much you have both done for me, and how much you have sacrificed to do it and never once looked at this sacrifice, but always at a farther and higher goal. Long ago I realized that greatness was not frills and superficialities, but the real true blues of unselfish devotion.

How fortunate I have been in selecting my little girl. Few men have so much to be thankful for. She has been so sweet and unselfish and so eager to help. She seems so forgetful of herself. In so many ways, she makes me always reminiscent of my other little girl - who happens to be Father's, too.

We have just been passing through Iowa. In many ways, it is the prettiest country I have seen, so fertile and productive - its beautiful country homes and fine big barns - country much like England, but far better cultivated. But after seeing it all, there is nothing so beautiful and not nearly so wonderful as our own back yard. I wrote an article today and should have two nearly finished when I get back. It's a perfect spring day - the air is pure. In many ways I am carried back to Columbia, where I am eager to go again. As to Sedalia, I am not so sure. It depends on how soon I can get away from Des Moines.

With all my love and kisses to the sweetest mother and dearest father.

x x x x x Walter