William Howard Taft: Throat and Voice Problems

voice strain #1
Before the era of microphones and loudspeakers, political candidates had to make their voice heard to crowds numbering into the thousands. In the 1908 Presidential campaign, Taft wrote friends and family no fewer than five times about his voice SEE BELOW. He sometimes traveled with a throat specialist, a Dr. Richardson 1a. Taft described the treatments of Dr. Richardson and others as "he blew me out" and speculated "I fancy these fellows put some cocaine in their treatment" 1b. Finally, on election night 1908, "Taft went out to acknowledge the greeting. His voice was hoarse and the lines of his face were deeply etched in the glare of the torches. He was utterly tired." 2a Taft also strained his voice while President (see below).

Taft's voice, by the way, was tenor. This startled audiences who expected a deep bass from so big a man 3a.

"Before delivering my address I went to consult Dr. Dean, a throat specialist, who blew me out as Dr. Richardson does. I fancy these fellows put some cocaine in their treatment. [After giving two addresses:] I went again to Dr. Dean to be treated, in order that I might speak to about 4000 people... [After four more speeches that day and the next:] I rode about Minneapolis for a while in an automobile, went to a throat specialist who blew me out, and got back to Senator Washburn's in time to dress for dinner." [WHT-Nellie 1907-06-15]

"My voice is holding out fairly well, and the presence of Dr. Richardson enables me to feel that all possible care will be taken of it." [WHT-Nellie 1908-09-23]

"I fear it was there [Minneapolis] that I first strained my voice." [WHT-Nellie, 1908-09-27]

"My voice is greatly improving." [WHT-Mabel Boardman, 1908-09-29]

As Taft's voice gave out in the Presidential campaign, he wrote President Roosevelt that he was getting advice "from a [throat] specialist whom we know, Dr. Richardson." [WHT-Theodore Roosevelt 1908-10-09]

"My voice has not been clear..." [WHT-Nellie, 1908-10-19]

Cited Sources
  1. Taft, William Howard. Papers of William Howard Taft. On file in the Library of Congress and selected other research libraries.
    a  WHT to Helen Herron Taft, Sep. 23, 1908  b  WHT to Helen Herron Taft, June 15, 1907
  2. Pringle, Henry F. The Life and Times of William Howard Taft: A Biography. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., 1939.
    a  p.377
  3. Marx, Rudolph. The Health of the Presidents. New York: GP Putnam's Sons, 1960.
    a  p.300

    Comment: Tells great tales, but the book does not cite its sources.

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