Surreptitious surgery on Long Island Sound: The oral cancer surgeries of President Grover Cleveland

N Y State Dent J. 2010 Jan;76(1):42-5.


Grover Cleveland rose from being the mayor of Buffalo to the governor of New York to the president of the United States. At the start of Cleveland's second term as president, the nation was involved in a severe financial crisis, the extent of which was not known by the general public. President Cleveland was to make a strong appeal to Congress in the coming months to repeal the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890. He thought this would set the nation on the road to fiscal recovery. However, his vice president, Adlai Stevenson, strongly opposed repeal of the Sherman Act. Prior to scheduling his appearance before Congress, President Cleveland noticed a rough spot on his palate. A biopsy confirmed that it was cancer, and it was determined that surgery was needed. Cleveland and his advisors thought the nation would be thrown into a panic if the President's health did not remain a secret. A surgical team, which included a dentist, performed the surgery in secrecy while traveling aboard a yacht. A prosthetic obturator was fabricated by a New York prosthodontist to close the surgical defect. Cleveland recovered well, made a forceful speech before Congress, had the Sherman Act repealed and lived without a recurrence of his oral cancer for the rest of his life. The public remained unaware, for the most part, of the gravity of President Cleveland's health for decades.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Verrucous / history*
  • Carcinoma, Verrucous / surgery
  • Famous Persons*
  • Financing, Government / history
  • Financing, Government / legislation & jurisprudence
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • New York
  • Palatal Neoplasms / history*
  • Palatal Neoplasms / surgery
  • United States

Personal name as subject

  • Grover Cleveland