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.

November 15, 1927


Dear Sadie:

I was so sorry to have been delayed as to miss you. I was concerned and could not even get an opportunity to send you word. I hope you were not inconvenienced. Sail tomorrow at 9:30. Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. W.E.D.

November 15, 1927

So yet there have been few moments when the thoughts of the dearest little girl have not been present and always uppermost. How much more would I prefer to be home even working, but with the prospect of home in the few hours ahead at most - a new sensation for one long bored by the sensation of a trip.

The sumptuous dinner on the Capitol Limited was as nothing compared to that prepared by my little girl gowned in her dainty apron and blessed by her happy and inspiring self alongside - and all even for intrinsically superior in addition - and all from a "mere child of 23." Looked at materially, it seems incredible, but it is only evidence that the great forces which are at work transcend all material conceptions. It doesn't seem right not to have my sweetheart along, but such joys must be foregone. So much is sure, we must be content with some privations now and look to the future. I am already looking forward to the new thrills on the return home to the dearest girl in the world. Many kisses. Good night to my little Sammy.



November 15, 1927

I wonder if you could ever know how I longed to have you last night in the loveliest spot I know. Only you were lacking to make the contentment and joy absolute. I dropped in at the university for the afternoon and evening. It rained all day until we reached Columbia and it was so wonderful. The old campus in its height of glory, fragrant and green. Then, with an old classmate, we strolled along the campus at night. A terrific thunderstorm made the campus a sheet of water, and the lightning every few minutes offered a beautiful background, though transient, for the building spires. We sat on the steps enthralled with the sight, but my little girl was missing. I felt lonely and reminiscent! But it was such a wonderful day to see the old playground as now it seems.

Am leaving for Cincinnati Saturday noon and should be in Baltimore Monday night but I shall not expect my girl until Tuesday. Stay as long as you like dear and have a good time.

Love to my little sweetheart.

Walter x x x x x

November 15, 1927

Tonight I leave for Amsterdam, Holland. Mail will hardly reach you so quickly nor can I write en route. I am having a great time. We will see the rest of England when I come back when I hope the weather will be better. Rain or slush all the time. There have been two fair days and I spent much of them tramping around, learning London on foot. It is a fascinating city. I guess you have walked around everywhere. I didn't get to the Hulford but will do so later. The first day I walked along the Thames to the Parliament building through Westminster Abbey, around Buckingham Palace into Piccadilly and down the mall into Trafalgar when it began to rain. Yesterday I tramped along the Bank of England, Cheapside, St. Paul's, Fleet Street, etc.

It's more fun wandering around at leisure here than anywhere I have been. Always some interesting historical old places come up when least expected. I haven't been around operating rooms, but have seen some good experimental work and may come back here to do a little more extensive work, but that will depend on what I find in Vienna and Germany. There seems to be a railroad strike coming. Have been much impressed with the English people, not the snobs but the great mass of working people principally.

Hope you are well. Haven't heard from you yet. Don't forget about your boy, will you!!

Walter X X X X X X X X X X X X

January 29, 1928

It’s getting harder and harder to leave my happy wife whom I love more and more -- my happiness and joy of living. It’s a cold day, too - and last night the deep snow was left behind halfway to Harrisburg. We were one hour late leaving Baltimore. I had the diner all to myself. They haven’t been able to make any time up so far, but they are straining every effort in the last stretch to save the rebate of extra fare which happens when we have cars. There are three sections of them now and we are the last.

Wasn’t the big boy cute last night when he greeted his daddy with his boundless enthusiasm? I can appreciate Pierson’s view better now when he said it made him glow when his boy put his arms around him and called him Daddy. Soon Mary Ellen will be doing it, too. Such a little dear isn’t she? I would like to be holding her now and see those great dimples deepen with her smiles when tossed in the air and I listen to her bedtime story in competition with the radio. And not least by any means to kiss my little girly and hold her close for a long time. Besides, she needs it to thrive.

Was looking for my boy’s picture today, but can’t find it. Thanks for Mary Ellen’s. We should soon be getting off at St. Louis and on to the Meteor for - ask Walter where! Kiss my great triumvirate and the little girl who is responsible for them all - at every occasion - from their loving Daddy

February 28, 1928

How are my little girl and her orphans of a weekend? I think she had a very gay and thrilling time after her past period of a recluse.

Did you know the train we left was wrecked at Chester, Pennsylvania? It was a terrible looking thing with the huge engine on its side, the track torn up, and several big Pullmans lying half on their side. They had just moved them off the track as we came along and were delayed only half an hour. Every now and then our train stopped to pick up the section hands to take them to the wreck. Couldn’t see Mr. Shaeffer’s car. It had been removed with the other cars on the rear.

I presume my little girl has had a lesson and is now a very proficient driver?

Saw Mrs. Roche in New York. She is pathetic, afraid of everything, can’t do anything, thinks everyone is conspiring against her. I doubt that she can ever get back to herself again.

Had a good meeting last night - well attended. I was embarrassed by the eulogies. Spent this morning with “Jack” of Cleveland. Arrive at Cincinnati in the morning and Memphis tomorrow night, 10:05.

Tell the big boy his daddy wishes he could be with him and turning summersaults. And riding “Daddy’s back” and the “bucking horses” and getting the big “cover” “in there.” And taking him to see the stars and Jupiter, etc. And he would also be cuddling his “baby sister” with her bewitching smile, pink cheeks and hair and blue eyes. Such a little dear, but how can she help it? Her Momma is just as sweet.

With all my love to all my happy little family. Bye bye and kisses every hour.


May 3, 1928

How I have wished my little girl was taking a vacation here with me, but this more serious phase of life has decreed that she must be denied. But never mind, I know of someone who will always have her in his mind to give her those things she most desires.

I had fully intended not coming this time, but was pretty well worn out. It almost seemed necessary - at least advisable - and down in her heart I knew my little girl really wanted me to get a vacation. I am very fortunate to be as favored with this superlative type of vacation even though it is a man’s vacation. In my Sedalia days, such would have seemed an impossibility.

I have thought of my little pal so much and have missed her and the two little kiddies, all of which give me a supreme joy of life. Those are the big things - It’s nature’s way, which make the poor man happy when the superficial emoluments may be denied.

It’s lovely and cool here, though it was hot through the Carolinas. It’s balmy and breezy.

I wish I could kiss my little girl and wipe her tears away - though I hope there won’t be any more ‘til next Thursday at least - and kiss my big boy and the dear little Titian. I’ll never forget how sweet she was, standing with the tears rolling down and couldn’t get down. Kiss my wonderful trio.

Daddy x x x x x

June 3, 1928

I shall never forget that wonderful sight of my little girl and boy running down the station platform as the train was pulling away. Nor can I forget the little Titian with her boundless smile when her daddy held and caressed her to her great delight and then sink into tears, when the inevitable departure must come. I miss my little family, each with their assets and appeals and none with their liabilities (even Walter!) He did have a good time watching the choo-choos roll in, didn’t he? Has he been discoursing on them?

It is quite cold and raw in this wild country, but it was good sleeping last night -10 hours - even though two blankets were necessary in my customary upper berth. We are now rolling along at a good clip and approaching St. Louis. I do wish my little girl could be with me. The joy of the honor can never approach that which it would be if she were along. I believe my little girl would get a greater thrill than I. But I will have her in mind at the time and the other little anchors too, who are dragging her away. And I shall be looking forward to facing the East again with my little sweethearts three before me.

With kisses many and all my love to Sammy, Walter, and Mary Ellen – and Jack?


July 18, 1928

How is my royal family? Who watched over Mary Ellen in the tub to prevent her demise

at the hands of the villain?

We are coming into St. Louis and it is blazing hot, but I have been writing all morning on Tic Douloureux, sidetracking once more the textbook article which, however, I hope to attack savagely before I get home. I got the “good morning” wrapper around the razor and wondered if the big boy was having his morning shave, too.

Last night I went to bed at 8 o’clock, but my mind kept whirling about a new instrument and it was still going along that line when we reached Pittsburgh at midnight. It doesn’t look as if “rainy days” have been so frequent as in Baltimore. I still think you would like to raise the big boy in the south of Chile where it rains every day.

I have been counting the railroad hours and find that if something doesn’t cause delay in El Paso I may get back Monday noon. I don’t think it can get any hotter there than here. Leave St. Louis at 2 o’clock for Sedalia and Kansas City. I hope you and Margaret get along alright with the car.

Kiss my big boy and my two little girls and hug them tight ‘til I return. Bye bye, Walter x x x x x x x

July 19, 1928

I don’t think my little girl would care much to be making this trip with her boy. Nor is it a trip over which to thrill, but a duty. It doesn’t seem possible to avoid without shirking. I hope she is not going to be lonesome. She is pretty well fortified with Margaret and then that big boy is getting more interesting and sociable.

How sweet little Mary Ellen looked peeping out the window as her daddy was sliding down the roadway. If she remains as sweet as she is now she will be an incomparable young lady. But she should be with her dear little mother as an example and as a source of quality. I was rushing around so much before I left that the big boy was missed, at least a peep through the door at his “innocent” sleeping form. I don’t think he is so bad - on sunny days. Wouldn’t he have a good time riding the Spirit of St. Louis? It is just rolling out of Harrisburg. The observation car is put on here. So you can see I have taken the first opportunity to send my little pal her note. It should get off at Altoona after a ride along the Juniata River.

Who is going to give my little pair their bath this morning? Will Walter say “Where’s Daddy?” Wish I could be back for Mary Ellen’s birthday, but I fear the train won’t travel quite that fast.

Kiss my two little girls and my big boy from their loving Daddy,

Walter. x x x x x