Dr. Sawyer was in Brazil from May 15 to June 26, 1930, to inspect the Rockefeller Foundation's yellow fever work there.
He brought 200 white mice with him, so that the yellow fever lab in Bahia could begin using the recently developed mouse protection
test for determining immunity to yellow fever. In this letter, he described some of the sights seen, including the "Graf
Zeppelin" airship, one of the technological wonders of the late 1920s.
Item is handwritten.
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3 (249,840 Bytes)
1930-06-05 (June 5, 1930)
Sawyer, Wilbur A.
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Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
The Yellow Fever Laboratory: Rockefeller Foundation, 1928-1937
Your nice letter of May 10 and Peggy's of May 11 have reached me here. They were forwarded from Rio de Jane[ir]o by aeroplane.
The stamps that brought them are enclosed for Gertrude and Billy. The hotel reservations you have made seem to be for the
Rio was very beautiful, and these northern cities, Bahia and Recife, are also attractive. I stayed only a few days in Bahia
and then came on to Recife. When we were in Bahia the Graf Zeppelin came by on its way to Rio and circled over the city,
flying low. On the return voyage the Zeppelin reached Recife the same day we did and was moored to the mast when we arrived.
Dr. Murray of the U.S. Public Health Service was on the boat with us and he invited us to accompany him in his inspection
of the Zeppelin as a preliminary to giving it clearance papers for the United States. So we went out there in the afternoon
and went all through the ship, not only the part for passengers but also the interior. The frame looks like Billy's erector
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It was a long way from end to end and we had to walk on a narrow board. The first mate wanted to know if it was necessary
for us all to see the interior, and Dr. Murray told him it was and that Dr. Rickard was in charge of yellow fever in Pernambuco,
Dr. Connor in Brazil, and I in Africa and America. He let us in!
I have been traveling like mad. To-day we spent the whole day riding in the railway train to the south western part of the
state of Pernambuco, where there have been recent cases. We have also made a number of long automobile rides, and I have
seen so many towns and villages that they are blending into a hazy type with individual characteristics blotted out. Everywhere
there are fields of sugar cane, much of it in blossom with heads like those of a giant grass.
If you were here, you would welcome your old vegetable friends of Brisbane,--pineapple, custard apple (pina), choco (chuchu)
(the summer squash hanging on our vine), etc, etc. Jacaranda is the name of their finest hard wood,--almost black, but I
cannot find out whether the tree is our beautiful friend of Brisbane. The poin[s]ettias are in flame and the Antigone (?)
or "Honolulu" vine is as beautiful as ever. It rains part of every day at this time of year and my rain coat has
been in frequent use.
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My outfit has proven about right this trip and very little was forgotten. I have used practically everything I brought.
The inevitable thing forgotten was only nail scissors. I have used all the languages I have any knowledge of: French, German,
English, and Spanish mixed with Portuguese. I had a nice talk in German with the head of a Franciscan monastery at Olinda,
near Recife. He showed us the old carvings which they are restoring and the ancient paintings on wood in the church. This
region was held for a time by the Dutch as well as the Portuguese.
I saw the Frobishers in Bahia. They seem happy and he is still interested in complement fixation. Now he will also have
the white mice to play with. 196 were still present and accounted for when I handed the cages over to him.
I am sorry to have been away on your birthday and Ruth's. Hope you had a happy day! I am enclosing some prints of photographs.
Please keep them for me unless you want to send them to some one. I can of course have new prints made for the album from
With much love to all the group,
P.S. How do you suppose I took the pictures of your dogwood tree in absen[t]ia?