From late May to early August 1934, Dr. Sawyer again visited yellow fever control operations in Brazil. This included a ten-day
trip to the Mato Grosso region to check on several puzzling outbreaks of yellow fever in rural areas, and led to the recognition
(by Dr. Fred Soper and others) of a new infection pattern: jungle yellow fever. As Sawyer also noted in this letter, this
visit was also characterized by the extended use of aircraft in making the rounds.
NOTE: The original letter is written on onionskin paper.
Item is handwritten.
Number of Image Pages:
2 (204,437 Bytes)
1934-06-16 (June 16, 1934)
Sawyer, Wilbur A.
This item is in the public domain. It may be used without permission.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
The Yellow Fever Laboratory: Rockefeller Foundation, 1928-1937
The plane that brought us here yesterday afternoon will take this on its way at dawn to-morrow. Dr. Soper and I have had
a wonderful 3-day trip. My last letter was written on the plane flying from Bahia to Rio-de-Janeiro. We arrived there at
4 p.m. and took the night train to Sao Paulo at 7 p.m. In Rio I received my first letter from you, Old Sweetheart, and I
was glad indeed to get it, particularly as it might be several weeks before I could be reached again (by forwarded mail).
It was exactly one month after I sailed from New York. That fellow who is trying to serve a summons on me will have to travel!
There is no one who would be wanting me to give expert testimony on trichinosis unless instigated by our neighbor Mr. Scholinger
across the street from the Theiler's, who once talked to me about a legal case of his. It is just as well that I was
I am glad that the trip to Vassar was so successful. And that you took along a few people who could stay awake. Even the
young cannot do without sleep.
Our trip has been an extraordinary exhibition of what air travel can do and is doing. We flew 800 miles on Wednesday, from
Bahia to Rio. The night-train took us to Sao Paulo where we took a small land plane with the capacity of a 7-passenger auto,
including the pilot and mechanic. We flew north-westward all day--about 1000 kilometers--first across mountains, then coffee
plantations, and finally cattle country. Most of the time we were very high. The next day we were again over plains and
the horizon was level and straight. We flew 800 kilometers. Gradually the country became wetter and finally there was swamp
everywhere with the crookedest rivers you ever heard of and many lakes. In the drier places there were Indian cattle (zebu
type) and game. At times we flew so low over grassy places that the trees and palms were higher than we and the animals were
terrified by the noise and scampered in every direction. We saw ostriches (S.A. variety), deer, and endless water fowl.
There were flocks of black cormorants, thousands of egrets,
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a bird like the egrets but pink or rose, giant white cranes with black necks and a red spot at the base of the neck. I needed
a bird book. Finally we landed at Corumba on the Paraguay River. Nature had pushed up a few hills and made a dry spot for
a city on the edge of the river. It winds so that it would take eight days to go from there to Cuiyaba, our destination,
by boat, but we could make it in a few hours. We left our little tin bird there and proceeded in a hydroplane of about the
same size. Part of the time we flew so high that our shadow disappeared and was replaced by a spot of light. Can Billy explain
that? It is too much for me.
When we were only moderately high we could see groups of al[l]igators on the sand banks. They looked just like Oscar at our
distance. Finally we plunged down and lighted on the river and pulled up to the shore. There was a photographer there to
take our pictures as we landed and we may have appeared in the local paper. We are taking it easy to-day, but tomorrow morning
at 4 we shall start by auto to join Dr. Burke where he is studying a yellow fever outbreak. He has reported the absence of
stegomyia in the houses and it looks as if we might be dealing with another of these steg.-less outbreaks. In the meanwhile
a control service has been started here in Cuiaba, the capital of Matto Grosso.
Last evening, tired as we were, we had to attend a reception and dance given by the Interlocutor to celebrate the 2nd anniversary
of his administration. We had no dress clothes, but neither did most of the guests at this popular affair. The orchestra
was the funniest you every saw at so formal an occasion. About 8 negroes with white sailor's caps played. Most of them
had banjoes, one played the clarinet, one had a drum, and one had a violin. The violinist had a red bandana tied round his
head and we concluded he had a toothache. A cigarette stuck out of the exposed part of his face. Evidently a concession
in recognition of his self sacrifice.