Wednesday, August 3, 2016

On This Date in Minnesota History: August 3

August 3, 1912 – Criminologists all over the U.S. are looking toward Minneapolis for the outcome of the operation today on the skull of John Howard, boy burglar, for the purpose of curing him, if possible, of his uncontrollable desire to steal. The press of New York and Chicago has taken up his case, and several messages were received this evening by Fred H. Ayers, the Minneapolis attorney who first suggested that surgical means be used to cure Howard, asking that the writers be kept in touch with the case.

Late this evening young Howard was reported resting well and feeling greatly relieved. He told relatives who visited him in Asbury Hospital that he felt certain he would be able to live a straightforward life hereafter. “That terrible buzzing sound has completely left me and my head feels so clear this morning,” said Howard.

Dr. Albert H. Parks and Dr. A. E. Wilcox, the surgeons who performed the operation, report that it was not as difficult a case of trepanation as was first expected. As a matter of fact, it was not necessary for the surgeons to employ a trephine to bore a hole into Howard’s skull, say the doctors. The hole was already there and was partially closed by tissue, beneath which was a water cyst about the size of a medium-sized marble that had been pressing against the boy’s brain.


 After the cyst, or tumor, had been removed, all that remained for the surgeons to do was the insertion of a small silver plate and the stitching together of the edges of the scalp. It was not found necessary to screw the silver plate to Howard’s skull because of the thick tissue that had formed about the fracture. Dr. Parks, instead, used catgut to keep it in place.

Howard will not be able to leave the hospital for two weeks. Mr. Ayers, the boy’s attorney, and the two doctors whose interest in humanity led them to give their services free with the object of making a moral boy of a criminal, firmly believe that it will be a success from the social as well as the surgical standpoint.

Ayers said he is certain the boy was not naturally a criminal. “He was a home-loving youth until he was struck across the head with a tent pole during a storm that wrecked a circus tent,” said Ayers. “That was when he was 10 or 11 years old. Since then he was gradually becoming worse and worse. When he had completed a term in Red Wing training school on the charge of incorrigibility, he was soon arrested for horse stealing. Then he was released from the St. Cloud reformatory only to be arrested this last time on a burglary charge. He doesn’t have the ear marks of a criminal and I feel certain that the operation will cure.

“Furthermore, I have taken up with Warden Wolfer of the Stillwater penitentiary the question of subjecting all criminals, where there is any doubt as to how their crime traits were developed, to an examination at the hands of competent surgeons. The time is here when matters of this character should be treated in a more scientific manner.”

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune; “Surgeons Sure Operation Will Reform Burglar. Removal of a Tumor From John Howard’s Brain Proves Successful. Trepanation Found Unnecessary and Work Is Comparatively Simple. Criminologists Country Over Ask to Be Advised of Results. Young Man Confident He Will Be restored to Usefulness.”; Aug. 4, 1912; p. 1.

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