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 discussed gifts bought for the family and other household business,
and described several local parades that he recorded with a camera and movie camera.
Item is handwritten.
Number of Image Pages:
5 (365,080 Bytes)
1927-04-17 (April 17, 1927)
Sawyer, Wilbur A.
This item is in the public domain. It may be used without permission.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
From Hookworm to Yellow Fever: Rockefeller Foundation, 1919-1927
It is Easter Sunday and the British are in the midst of a series of holidays. The native laborers take the Mahommedan holidays,
work a few days, and then claim all the Christian ones also. At Easter they get Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. I
spent Easter Sunday afternoon tramping in the jungle, and brought back an armful of ferns of four kinds to plant near the
new houses. I also brought a spray of a beautiful vine with showy orange-red flowers in clusters. In the jungle I passed
groups of men gathering oil nuts. They cut down the clusters of orange yellow nuts and take them to a jungle hut where the
oil is extracted from the pulp and the kernels are collected for export. The natives eat a great deal of palm oil.
I am enclosing four puzzles in the shape of bits of movie film for the children. We had four guests to dinner last Wednesday
and gave them a movie picture show afterward. While
[END PAGE ONE]
[BEGIN PAGE TWO]
the pictures were flowing by, Dr. Bauer discoursed sweet classical music with his gramophone. The other puzzle is for you.
It is a bracelet of elephant hair! Why anyone should want a bracelet of elephant hair I do not know, but the House man insisted
that you would be very glad to have one,--and so here it is! He pointed out also that it can be made larger or smaller by
slipping the knots.
I have had no new word about the fate of Dr. Beeuwkes' arrival since I wrote last. Neither has anything official come
about the reorganization. It seems worth while, from this distance, to buy the Consolidated Gas stock if the bank advises
it. I suppose you have done so long ago! I am glad that the greater part of the balance in the Custodian Account is to be
invested. There must be a considerable accumulation of idle money in the checking account also. If you want, you can transfer
as much as can be spared to the Cust. Acct. and invest the total following the bank's advice. Otherwise it can wait a
couple of months for my return.
[END PAGE TWO]
[BEGIN PAGE THREE]
The maple sugar will be much appreciated when it comes, whether I am here or not. I hope I shall be here,--or rather that
it comes before I leave.
Please congratulate Gertrude on being elected president of her class. When is Ruth going to start gobbling up the rest of
the available school honors?
I sent you by the last boat two packages more. One containing a cushion cover and a hassock cover, both of which were left
out of the first package because it would have been too heavy for parcel post. The other package contains a great mixture
of things of West African manufacture. The contents were about as follows:
8 table mats (large)
2 " " (small)
1 leather bottle of lead ore used by natives for darkening their eyelids; impossible as it may seem!
1 pair small red slippers--hope someone has small feet!
2 small calabashes and 1 calabash dish.
About six Kano (Northern Nigeria) grass mats.
One Kano grass bag.
Embroidered slipper tops--to amuse the children.
[END PAGE THREE]
[BEGIN PAGE FOUR]
I took a week's trip since I wrote last and visited Ibadan, the largest purely native city in Africa with about a quarter
of a million people. I also went to Oshogbo, Ogbomosho, Ilesha, and Oyo. At Oyo I saw the palace of the Alafin, the king
over all the local kings of the four million Yorubas. At Oshogbo I saw Mohammedans parading in celebration of the end of
Ramadan, and I took movies of the performance. At first I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible, but I soon found that
the dancing singing mob was fond of being photographed. So I found a good point of vantage on the high roots of a fig tree
and photographed the groups to my heart's content as they went by. When the paraders noticed me they would sing and dance
all the harder and linger in front of the camera. After a while I found myself signaling to the mounted dignitaries that
I was through and they should move on and not block the street. The performance would have reminded you of what you saw in
[END PAGE FOUR]
[BEGIN PAGE FIVE]
I have drawn (Feb 4, '27) a check for $100 to Edward Motley, Treas, (Class of 1902, Harvard College) and am sending it
as my contribution to the twenty-fifth anniversary fund. Check number is 190. This is the first check drawn since Nov. 24.
Please enter it in your check book.
Last Sunday I heard tom-toms and walked over to a nearby village when a juju dance was in progress. The people were in a
big ring watching proceedings and there was a tom-tom band at one side. In the middle of the ring three people in costume
were working over something alive, but concealed by blankets. The ju-ju man sat at one side in his elaborate head-dress and
coverings. His face was entirely hidden. Finally the blankets were pulled off, and there lay a ten-foot crocodile, opening
and shutting its mouth. The cloth outside of the animal encased a person who wriggled enough to make the animal quite alive.
I took some pictures, but have had no opportunity to have prints made. I have sent some movie films of other events to London
to be developed.