Dr. Sawyer was in West Africa from December 1926 to mid-June 1927, serving as director of the West African Yellow Fever Commission
while Dr. Henry Beeuwkes was on leave. In this letter, he described recent yellow fever work and the movies he had taken of
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30 March 1927
Sawyer, Wilbur A.
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From Hookworm to Yellow Fever: Rockefeller Foundation, 1919-1927
The harmattan is on again! Last night it was cool and this morning everyone is wearing a coat. Mr. Hogan, the secretary,
was yelling lustily to his boy to bring him a sweater in the middle of the forenoon. It is heavenly summer weather to-day,
and the sun rose blood-red and dim.
We have had a case of yellow fever in Lagos. About a week ago the proprietor of a local hotel ("hotel" in the Australian
sense) was admitted to the hospital. His wife had died of yellow fever on August first of last year. He had the coffee-grounds
vomit, beginning jaundice, and slow pulse typical of yellow fever. Yesterday he died and after death he was of a golden color,
almost orange, and even his cerebrospinal fluid had a yellow tinge. I wired to Dr. Hanson, whom you will remember, to come
down from Ibadan and he arrived yesterday afternoon. I want him
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to make a systematic study of the people in the section from which most of the yellow fever of the past and present have come.
It is time for someone to find out something definite. Dr. Bauer is getting most interesting cultures of leptospiria from
various waters, but none from patients so far. This last case was not under observation till the fourth day and there was
little hope of getting the organism from his blood.
To-night I go to another "At Home" at Government House. I wish they were farther apart.
I took a couple of reels of movies the other day. One showed the health department preparing to fumigate the "hotel"
where the yellow fever case originated. Other scenes were of natives in Lagos, of native cattle with huge horns, and of our
buildings. To-morrow or next day a ship will bring mail from you I hope.
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The children would love to see how the little girls and young women do up their kinky hair. They braid it in most wonderful
patterns, sometimes in narrow rows from front to a point behind, like the stripes on a water melon and close to the head.
others have little pig-tails in little squares of hair and sticking straight out. Still others have the ends fastened together
making a sort of cage over their heads. The effects are quite wonderful and sometimes pretty in their orderly, geometric
I can hear tom-toms in the neighboring village as I write. The natives seem to be celebrating something most every day.
With love to all the little Darlings and also the biggest one,