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The President Is a Sick Man: Wherein the Supposedly Virtuous Grover Cleveland Survives a Secret Surgery at Sea and Vilifies the Courageous Newspaperman Who Dared Expose the Truth Hardcover – May 1, 2011

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The President Is a Sick Man: Wherein the Supposedly Virtuous Grover Cleveland Survives a Secret Surgery at Sea and Vilifies the Courageous Newspaperman Who Dared Expose the Truth + Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press; 1St Edition edition (May 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156976350X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569763506
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #252,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Riveting and engrossing as the best detective novel, The President Is a Sick Man is an exceedingly well-documented and overdue account of one of the great presidential cover-ups of all time.” —James McGrath Morris, author of Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power

“In seemingly effortless prose, Matthew Algeo tells the intricate story of one of the most unusual operations in American history. . . . Delightfully entertaining and informative.” —Mary Cappello, author of Swallow: Foreign Bodies, Their Ingestion, Inspiration and the Curious Doctor Who Extracted Them

"[A] brilliantly written historical perspective .  . . . Readers will be fascinated by this must read for anyone interested in presidential medical history.” —Dr. Connie Mariano, White House Doctor (1992–2001), author of The White House Doctor

"Author Matthew Algeo takes a little known part of presidential history and creates a page-turning ride in The President Is a Sick Man." —The Associated Press

"The President Is a Sick Man is a lively, cautionary tale—and one with a lesson for leaders that recalls Cleveland's own words of wisdom: Tell the truth." —The Wall Street Journal

"Algeo paints a colorful portrait of political intrigue and journalism during the Gilded Age." —Publishers Weekly

"Recommended for those who enjoy popular presidential histories and biographies, the history of U.S. newspaper reporting, and popular medical nonfiction." —Library Journal

"Algeo is a determined researcher and fine stylist, and the story of presidential illness serves as an effective connecting thread through a somewhat broader account of the United States during the hard economic times of the 1890s. A memorable lesson in how journalists can dig out the truths beneath official lies." —Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Matthew Algeo is a public radio reporter. He is the author of Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip, which was one of the Washington Post’s Best Books of 2009, and Last Team Standing: How the Steelers and the Eagles--“The Steagles”--Saved Pro Football During World War II, which won the 2006 Nelson Ross Award for best pro football historiography.

More About the Author

When he's not writing his own biography in the third person, Matthew Algeo writes about unusual and interesting events in American history.

His latest book, Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America's Favorite Spectator Sport, is now on sale.

Algeo is also a journalist. He has reported from four continents, and his stories have appeared on some of the most popular public radio programs in the United States.

In addition to reporting and writing, Algeo has held jobs as a convenience store clerk, a gas station attendant, a Halloween costume salesman, and a proofreader. He also worked in a traveling circus (as a hot dog vendor; no acrobatics involved).

His wife Allyson is a U.S. Foreign Service officer. They live near Washington with their daughter Zaya.

Customer Reviews

This was an interesting story that was well researched and well written.
D. Mabry
This book centers on a secret operation performed on President Grover Cleveland to remove a cancerous tumor from his jaw in 1886.
G.I Gurdjieff
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in reading about previously unknown pieces of history.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Watson on May 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author, Matthew Algeo, a reporter for public radio, and probably not well known in historian/academic circles, and not a Medical Doctor, has yet, brought us a thoroughly researched and noteworthy book about Grover Cleveland's secret oral surgery. I especially liked this book because the author, a reporter, has written about another reporter (E.J. Edwards) who broke the story about Grover Cleveland's surgery, but was castigated by other reporters and publishers, until the lead Doctor, W.W. Keen, decided to write the definitive medical story himself, and contacted that reporter, who had had his reputation previously ruined. Algeo also gives excellent background of the historical period, including the desperate economic times, the labor and union movement, and the Silver vs. Gold standard controversy. This provides an excellent contextual background for the author's discussion of the oral surgery, and why Cleveland wanted it kept secret.

As an academic, I wished the author had included footnotes for the voluminous quotes made throughout the book. But the Acknowledgements section shows that Mr. Algeo has done his homework on this well-researched book. The only other drawback was the advertisement pages following the Index, somewhat reminiscent of the old Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew books of the 20th century, which included like-advertisements about forth-coming books in the series. In this case, Algeo has included 5 1/2 pages of advertisement for his other noteworthy book, "Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure." He has even included an excerpt from the Truman book. While I commend the author for the Truman book, it is a distraction from the Cleveland work.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Brevort on June 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I have been a (public school) history teacher for the past twenty-three years. I am not a writer and rarely take the time to sit down and compose a review. Having just finished reading "The President Is A Sick Man" I find myself motivated to do just that. The book is outstanding. I've taught The Gilded Age and Progressive Era periods for many years. President Cleveland's 1893 operation was not unknown to those interested in Presidential history. What Matthew Algeo has done (as he did in "Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure") is to conduct extensive research into the personalities involved, the connected issues of the day and the political and cultural context in which the event occurred....and to then write about it all in a way that enlightens and entertains. One does not have to be a history nerd to enjoy this book.

Steve Cleveland (yes, that's right, Grover's first name was Steve....unusual for that period) apparently possessed a dual personality that both served him well and got him in trouble....and made possible one of the great presidential deceptions. On the one hand Grover Cleveland was serious, disciplined and dedicated and on the other he was a gregarious "hail fellow well met" who enjoyed nothing more than sitting in a bar serving as raconteur whilst eating and drinking too much.

Algeo goes into some detail about the severe economic downturn (depression) that occurred in the early 1890's, it's causes and effects and especially the influence it had on Cleveland's insistence that his major health crisis be kept absolutely secret. Who knew that the impending vote to repeal the Silver Purchase Act could have motivated one of the greatest presidential conspiracies?
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Robert C. Scudder on May 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Matthew Algeo gives an excellent account of the events surrounding Grover Cleveland's secret surgery for jaw cancer in July, 1893. But, as in Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure -- which I thoroughly enjoyed -- he goes off in too many directions, spending pages on matters which are of historical interest but are of little if any relevance. It is important to describe the depression and money crisis which gripped the country, in order to understand the reasons for the secrecy surrounding Cleveland's illness, but too many other issues are introduced, taking the reader's attention far afield. Overall a very good book, but in the future Mr. Algeo should stick more to the topic and not digress so much.
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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Michael Marriott on September 23, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I ordered this book as I am interested in the life of Grover Cleveland. He was the last "Jeffersonian" Democrat to be elected president. While I did not expect this book to dwell on his presidency, I found the presentation of his life and work a great contextual read. Especially interesting were the mores of that time that would not even permit the utterance of the word "cancer". This is all well and good. However the conspiracy like tone of the description of the book is quite exaggerated. Cleveland (the author constantly refers to him as Grover which for some reason is irritating) had surgery to remove a tumor within his mouth. He did not wish the public to know about this clandestine operation. Big deal. Given the description of the times I fail to see how that is unusual. Further the reporter who broke the story of this operation was not crucified, again as implied in the description. Rather, the president and his team issued statements saying that he had some teeth pulled. The reporter who uncovered the story went on to have a grand career nonetheless and was vindicated in 1917 by the doctor who performed the surgery. Finally we are treated to a picture of Cleveland's excised tumor which was put in jar and preserved. I cannot see how any of this dimishes Cleveland's reputation for honesty in public affairs; at the time he lived it was proper to keep such things private. On a closing note I did enjoy the pictures within the text, particularly the inauguration of Cleveland's second successor, William McKinley.
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