Democrat Grover Cleveland is perhaps best remembered as the only person to serve two non-consecutive terms in the White House, as both the 22nd President of the United States, from 1885 through 1889, and as the 24th President of the United States, from 1893 until 1897. During his presidential campaign and first term, the former Mayor of Buffalo and Governor of New York often garnered the sort of media attention that would bedevil public figures of any era.
He was forced to answer publicly certain nagging questions regarding a child supposedly fathered out of wedlock, and he was gently if enviably lampooned for his marriage to a woman three decades his junior, the former Ms. Francis Folsom. Hence, press scrutiny was nothing new to Grover Cleveland as he began his second term.
Two months into his second term, with economic turmoil mounting, President Cleveland was faced with a more personal challenge. A rather large man, whose nieces and nephews lovingly referred to as “Uncle Jumbo,” Cleveland was a hearty eater, a life-long smoker, and a guy who liked his beer. Simply put, the President’s physical condition revealed his appetites.
On the morning of May 5th, 1893, Cleveland lumbered into the White House lavatory, brushed back his walrus moustache, and discovered a “rough spot” on the roof his mouth. Although he chose to keep the matter to himself for over a month, attendant discomfort increased, and he soon began to consider the likely cause of his ailment more seriously.
In the annals of political cover-ups, Grover Cleveland’s brilliantly orchestrated secret cancer surgery, performed during the financial crisis of 1893 was a public hoodwinking par excellence.
Cover illustration from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division: Grover Cleveland. , ca. 1884. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2012645627/.