(c) Connecticut Explored Inc. Feb/Mar/Apr 2004
These newspaper clippings are from the personal scrapbook of Dr. Ansel Granville Cook (1862 – 1933), founder of the Department of Orthopedics at Hartford Hospital (1889). During his long career, he became a nationally known expert in the field of orthopedics, inventing many devices, including the Cook corset shingle, the Cook anterior heel for shoes, the Cook fenestrated plaster jacket for treating curvature of the spine, and the Cook plaster-rolling machine for making casts.
The clippings refer to the occasion in which Dr. Cook used one of his inventions, a plaster cast of the feet, to make a custom, posture-correcting pair of shoes for President-elect William Howard Taft in 1908. Taft, a heavy-set man whom Cook feared suffered from flat fleet, was the country’s 27th president, serving from 1909 – 1913. After his presidency, Taft served as a professor of constitutional law at Yale University and from 1921 until shortly before his death in 1930 as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Of his presidency, he later recalled, “I don’t remember that I ever was President.” Perhaps he would have if he’d suffered with ill-fitting shoes!
The material for this article was submitted by Steven R. Lytle, archivist at The Hamilton Archives at Hartford Hospital. The Archives enjoys highlighting celebrated figures in the hospital’s history as the hospital celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2004.