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The Wilbur A. Sawyer Papers

Letter from Wilbur A. Sawyer to Margaret Sawyer pdf (176,962 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Letter from Wilbur A. Sawyer to Margaret Sawyer
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. Although Sawyer and Soper were now able to travel by plane to some areas, this letter made it clear that roads and accommodations were still quite primitive in much of the region.
Item is handwritten.
Number of Image Pages:
2 (176,962 Bytes)
1934-06-23 (June 23, 1934)
Sawyer, Wilbur A.
Sawyer, Margaret
This item is in the public domain. It may be used without permission.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Yellow Fever
Exhibit Category:
The Yellow Fever Laboratory: Rockefeller Foundation, 1928-1937
Box Number: 2
Folder Number: 12
Unique Identifier:
Document Type:
Letters (correspondence)
Physical Condition:
Series: Correspondence, 1911-1995
SubSeries: Personal correspondence, 1911-1995
Folder: 1934
Cuiaba, Matto Grosso, Brazil
June 23 1934
Dear Margaret:
Yesterday afternoon the flying boat soared over the town and settled on the river. After a day of rest it will return to Corumba to-morrow morning, carrying this letter and also Dr. Soper and myself.
Since I wrote last we have been in an area to the east of here in which there is yellow fever. We spent 5 days on the trip in a rented car with a chauffeur. We carried all our gasoline in cases on the running board. The roads were dirt roads and were sometimes almost impassible on account of sand or ruts. At other times they almost disappeared and had tall grass growing in the middle.
The yellow fever area is almost uninhabited. The largest hamlet has about 300 people, and one can go for leagues without seeing a house, a man, or even a cow. It will take months of study to find out what has happened, and it is lucky that we have the protection test to help. There have been 14 recognized cases in an area almost 50 miles wide, and 12 deaths. Dr. Burke will stay here and find out whether the other people are immune or not.
We slept in hammocks like the natives. Every house has rows of hooks in the walls and travelers simply invite themselves to stay over night. We slept in one house which was infested with bats, had a grown up imbecile that roared like a wild animal from time to time, and there were two children with whooping cough. Nevertheless the family were most hospitable and we had hot fritters with our cafe com leite in the mornings. We bathed by starlight in the early morning in the stream that flowed through the fazenda.
I saw a wonderful flock of ostriches the other day. There must have been several dozen of them, but they did not wait to be counted. They ran across our trail and into the bush. A black wild-cat and a wild guinea-pig ran across the road in front of us. One evening we left the chauf[f]eur in the car until after dark. We found him much excited on our return, for a jaguar had looked him over, and he had fired two shots to frighten it away. All males seem to carry revolvers in holsters in their belts in this country.
The trip has gone very well so far and we are feeling fine. The outdoor life is good for one and it was cool at night in the yellow fever area on account of the altitude.
Yesterday a man from the diamond region to the east called on us. The diamonds are panned out of the river bank. Every miner has a place 12 hands wide and can dig as far from the river as he wants. There are thousands at work in the town and it is apparently a pretty rough place,--like the early mining camps.
Our program is on schedule so far, but subject to change. My next letter will probably be from Bolivia.
I hope all is well at home and that the weather is not too hot. With love to you and mother and all.
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