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Hidden Histories of Presidential Medical Dramas
There’s a long history of presidential ailments, including George Washington’s near-death encounter with the flu, Grover Cleveland’s secret tumor, and the clandestine suffering of John F. Kennedy.
Pocket CollectionsAlex Dalenberg
There has been nothing in American history quite like the President of the United States being infected with a potentially deadly virus amid a global pandemic less than a month before Election Day. But President Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis is part of a long history of White House medical dramas.
We Nearly Lost Our First President to the Flu. The Country Could Have Died, Too.
Gillian BrockellThe Washington Post
In 1790, George Washington fell severely ill, threatening his life and the young nation he led.
What Really Killed William Henry Harrison?
Philip A. MackowiakJane McHughThe New York Times
The accepted wisdom is that the shortest-serving president developed pneumonia after delivering a long Inaugural Address in cold weather. But that might not be true.
Medical Mystery: Did This President Suffer a Death by Cherries?
Allan B. SchwartzThe Philadelphia Inquirer
Some suspected assassination, perhaps by poisoning, when President Zachary Taylor died unexpectedly after a brief and unexpected illness on July 9, 1850. What actually took down this previously robust military man?
Lincoln's Great Depression
Joshua Wolf ShenkThe Atlantic
Abraham Lincoln fought clinical depression all his life, and if he were alive today, his condition would be treated as a “character issue”—that is, as a political liability. His condition was indeed a character issue: it gave him the tools to save the nation.
A Yacht, A Mustache: How A President Hid His Tumor
NPR Morning Edition
President Grover Cleveland believed that if anything happened to his trademark mustache during his surgery at sea, the public would know something was wrong.
The Story Behind Warren G. Harding's Mysterious Death
Stacy ConradtMental Floss
During the summer of 1923, President Warren G. Harding and First Lady Florence Harding did what many do during the warmer months: They decided to take a road trip. Though much of the trip went well, by the end of the summer, Harding would end up dead and his wife’s reputation under attack.
When a Secret President Ran the Country
Dr. Howard MarkelPBS NewsHour
After President Woodrow Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke on Oct. 2, 1919, First Lady Edith Bolling Galt Wilson was, essentially, the nation’s chief executive until her husband’s second term concluded in March of 1921.
FDR Had a Secret as He Sought a Fourth Term in 1944: He Was Dying
Michael S. RosenwaldThe Washington Post
Roosevelt, diagnosed with congestive heart failure, probably had a year to live, a doctor said. The president, a Democrat, decided to run anyway—and to do everything he could to put a healthy face on a dying one.
The Medical Ordeals of JFK
Robert DallekThe Atlantic
The core of the Kennedy image was, in many respects, a lie. A presidential biographer, granted access to medical files, portrays a man far sicker than the public knew.
Trump’s Illness and the History of Presidential Health
Isaac ChotinerThe New Yorker
An interview with Lawrence Altman, a physician who has been writing for the New York Times for more than fifty years, with a focus on the health of political leaders. His interview with Ronald Reagan in 1980 marked the first time a candidate had extensively discussed his health with a reporter.
BONUS READ: Every President’s Health, Ranked
Julia BelluzVox
Why was Rutherford B. Hayes the healthiest US president of all time?
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