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The Wilbur A. Sawyer Papers

Letter from Wilbur A. Sawyer to Margaret Sawyer pdf (500,790 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Letter from Wilbur A. Sawyer to Margaret Sawyer
In January 1921, Sawyer met with Dr. Victor Heiser, the director of RF operations in the East. Heiser asked him to come along on a three-month tour of the RF public health sites in southeast Asia, and Sawyer agreed, though it meant missing the birth of his son (who arrived on March 23). His letters to his wife describe in detail the rigors of traveling and his reactions to other cultures, as well as the activities of the hookworm control campaigns.
Item is handwritten.
Number of Image Pages:
6 (500,790 Bytes)
1921-03-11 (March 11, 1921)
Sawyer, Wilbur A.
Sawyer, Margaret
This item is in the public domain. It may be used without permission.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Hookworm Infections
Exhibit Category:
From Hookworm to Yellow Fever: Rockefeller Foundation, 1919-1927
Metadata Record [Wat Pra Keo, palace grounds, Bangkok, Siam] [2 March 1921] jpg (54,771 Bytes)
Metadata Record [Hookworm meeting at Wat Sansai, near Chiengmai, Siam] [7 March 1921] jpg (42,872 Bytes)
Metadata Record [Wilbur A. Sawyer and workers from the headquarters of Unit No.1, Amphur Sansai, near Chiengmai, Siam] [7 March 1921] jpg (49,131 Bytes)
Box Number: 2
Folder Number: 2
Unique Identifier:
Document Type:
Letters (correspondence)
Physical Condition:
Series: Correspondence, 1911-1995
SubSeries: Personal correspondence, 1911-1995
Folder: 1921
Approaching Bangkok, March 11, 1921
Dear Margaret,
At the end of my last letter I was on the way to Amphur Sansai to see Dr. Barnes' hookworm unit No. 1 at work. We found them in a newly constructed leaf house and laboratory. We went from this to the wat (temple) which was packed with an audience of 200 men and a few women waiting for a hookworm lecture. Dr. Heiser and I sat in chairs at the feet of the great gilded Buddha while Dr. Barnes and a Siamese army doctor of his staff lectured in Siamese. Hanging from the pulpit was the everpresent hookworm chart. The audience sat still giving absolute attention. At the end of the lecture they were told to sit still to have their pictures taken, and I went back to the doorway, the only source of light of any consequence, and took time exposures of 40 sec. each. The people sat still as mice under Dr. Barnes coaching until the photo was taken, and, marvelous to relate, all the pictures came out well. In the background is the huge Buddha smiling sardonically. At his feet is the group of upstarts with their hookwarm chart and before them sit the priests and the
people. We saw the temple library, a sort of box in which were kept the books. The books were bundles of strips of palm leaf on which was most regular and handsome writing (evidently not written on trains). These leaves were strung together loosely by strings passing through two perforations in each page thus:
After the meeting there was a microscopic demonstration outside. We returned to the headquarters, where we visited with the staff and discussed methods. While we were there, two police brought in two prisoners in chains to the government headquarters in the same enclosure. They were followed by two men carrying the evidence consisting of two bottles of booze. I suppose the charge was selling liquor without a license. I got a photo of the group.
In the yard one of the weeds was the wonderful sensitive plant. If you touched a leaf it almost snapped shut and if you pinched a stem, it bent back to an acute angle.
We returned to Chiengmai for luncheon. A couple of native women were waiting to sell us the beaten silverware of the region and the lacquer work.
In the afternoon we called on Mrs. Daniel McGilvary, sister of Prof. Bradley of the U. of C., and widow of the pioneer missionary of Chieng Mai. Prof. Bradley was born in Siam and his father was the pioneer medical missionary at Bankok [sic]. We saw the Chieng Mai Club and watched the polo. The British minister (Mr. Wood) was there with his wife, who is a native Siamese woman with European education. Mr. and Mrs. Wood and Mr. and Mrs. Harris (missionary-teacher) came to dinner at the Barnes'. Mrs. Harris is the daughter of Mrs. McGilvary.
In the afternoon, we visited the market and sampled palm sugar, made like maple sugar, and quite good. We visited the Chiengmai prison. In the enclosure there was the constant sound of clanking chains, for most of the prisoners had chains riveted to their legs. In spite of this barbaric use of chains there were evidences of prison reform, for there was a workshop in which the prisoners manufactured baskets and chairs of wicker work.
In the corner of the yard was the rice mill where the grains were beaten out by a long row of foot-power hammers. I saw one case of beriberi and several lepers.
We drove out to the tombs of the Chieng Mai king and I photographed them with the adjoining ruined wat.
At luncheon we had curry on glutinous rice. This sticky rice is peculiar to the region and is very good. We also had black rice for porridge and puffed rice cakes.
We saw a couple of Buddhist priests standing motionless in the street silently waiting in front of a house for their donation. They held bowls in which to put the money.
We have reached the next day, March 8. In the forenoon we visited the Amphur (county) Sarapee and saw evidence of Dr. Barnes' activities. On the way back we stopped at a wat and asked the priests to wheel the big temple drum (called a "gong" or "kong") into the sun so that we could photograph it, which they did.
In the afternoon Dr. and Mrs. Barnes, Dr. Heiser and I called on the Chao Dara (meaning third wife) one of the widows of the late King of Siam and daughter of the last king of Chiengmai, and
therefore of Lao blood. We met there the Chao Suang, the son of the last king of Chiengmai. He lives on a pension which may recompence him in part for not succeeding to his father's throne. We sat quite a while holding a silent conversation with the Chao Dara, although Dr. Barnes was able to talk Lao with her. She came in with her mouth crammed with what looked like shredded tobacco, but it was probably a betel nut mixture. When the servant brought her anything he crawled in on hands and knees and then crawled out. After a while the Chao Dara showed us the workshop where she was supervising the making of garments of the future queen of Siam, who was going to adopt the Lao "sin" and reform the dress of the fine Siamese. The dresses were of silk and were being woven in hand looms by native women of Chiengmai. The colors and patterns were lovely,--blues,
pinks, reds, gold and silver, and greens. The Chao Dara had invented the patterns by embroidering them on pieces of scrim, which were used as guides by the weavers. The thread was being wound on a spinning wheel.
We then visited the native silver-smiths. They work in primitive houses hammering out silver bowls backed during the operation by a stiff wax. The women do the selling. From there we went to a lacquer maker. The boxes are first woven out of bamboo fibres and then covered with a clayish mixture and surfaced with lacquer, hiding their structure. Patterns are scratched on by hand and then filled with color. We also visited a pottery where jars were being made on a wheel with marvelous dexterity. We also saw some wats, the elephant gate, etc.
And the next morning we started back toward Bangkok, and we are still on the way. In the initial motor ride we passed many women wearing yellow orchids in their hair,--a common custom. At Pitsanloke a big "tucktoo" lizard a foot long watched us eat dinner from his position on the wall. This is the third day on the road, and we shall soon reach Bangkok.
Lots and lots of love to you all,
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