In 1893, President Grover Cleveland kept a secret from the public: mouth cancer. In a clandestine operation on a yacht in the East River in New York, surgeons removed the president’s left upper jaw to prevent the cancer from spreading, and replaced it with a prosthesis to hide the surgical excision. Cleveland’s brush with cancer didn’t become known until 1917, when one of his physicians published an article in the popular Saturday Evening Post. Cleveland hid his ailment out of a belief that admitting any sort of presidential incapacity would create a crisis of confidence in the country, undermining the economy and encouraging foreign adversaries to try to take advantage of the United States.
Cleveland’s deception was relatively minor compared to the liberties taken by Woodrow Wilson between 1912 and 1920. Wilson arrived in the White House in 1913 with a history of minor strokes: They had temporarily incapacitated him