Publisher Information: Mohonk Lake, NY: 1928.
Keen, William Williams (1837-1932). Autograph letter signed to M. Jacques. 1.5pp., on sheet with letterhead of Lake Mohonk Mountain House. Mohonk Lake, N.Y., August 31, 1928. 241 x 153 mm. Traces of mounting in left margin, but fine otherwise.
A fine letter from the celebrated American surgeon William Williams Keen touching on one of his most famous accomplishments—his participation in the secret surgical operations performed on President Grover Cleveland in 1893 to remove a cancerous growth from the President’s mouth.
"I am glad that you were interested in my latest (observe I do not say “last”) volume [referring to Keen’s recently published The Surgical Operations on President Cleveland in 1893 Together with Six Additional Papers of Reminiscences (1928)]. It was a remarkable event. When we put Mr. Cleveland in his bed what an emphatic deep “Thank God” we said!"
The reason for the secrecy surrounding the operations on the President was that the United States was then in the middle of a financial crisis caused by the inflationary Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890. Cleveland had been elected to a second term on a platform that called for repeal of the Act and his leadership was essential to that process. Feeling that any sign of ill health might be interpreted as weakness and throw support to the pro-silver side, Cleveland decided to keep his illness and the operations secret.
In a postscript Keen refers to the Cleveland operation again: “Not long before the Cleveland case I had a patient who while still under the anesthetic was suddenly paralyzed!! Suppose—!”
Keen’s letter also mentions his longtime friend, the American physician and writer Silas Weir Mitchell (1829-1914), with whom he co-authored the classic Gunshot Wounds and other Injuries of Nerves (1864; see Garrison-Morton.com 2167) together with George Morehouse.
"How vividly your quoting this honored name brings back to me our 1900 experiences & how Weir (that dear now lost friend) & I sat in the seats of the mighty for the first act & then skedaddled to the Opéra Comique lest we be trapped as ignorant intruders!"
Keen, one of the most brilliant surgeons of his era, gained worldwide fame as one of the first to operate successfully for meningiomas (large brain tumors; see Garrison-Morton.com 4866), and to develop a procedure for drainage of the cerebral ventricles. He was also the first in the United States to use x-rays clinically (see Garrison-Morton.com 2684.1). During the Civil War he served as a surgeon with the U. S. Army. Keen was one of the first American surgeons to adopt Lister’s system of antisepsis, and wrote the first American surgical textbook based on antiseptic principles. His Keen’s System of Surgery (1906-21) was the standard textbook for American surgeons in the first decades of the 20th century.Book Id: 43698