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Overview of the Philip S. Hench Walter Reed Yellow Fever On-line Collection

The Philip S. Hench Walter Reed Yellow Fever On-line Collection is a compilation of several distinct manuscript collections housed in different libraries. This extensive on-line archive comprises correspondence, notes, reports, printed materials, photographs, negatives, and artifacts spanning a period of almost one hundred years. The core of the on-line archive is the Philip S. Hench Walter Reed Yellow Fever Collection, a monumental array of items occupying seventy-two linear feet of shelf space and 147 boxes in the Department of Historical Collections and Services, The Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, University of Virginia. Additional material from The Claude Moore Health Sciences Library includes selected items from the Henry Rose Carter Papers, the William Bennett Bean Papers, and the Wade Hampton Frost Papers. The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library of the University of Virginia houses the important and equally extensive Jefferson Randolph Kean Papers, many of which are included here. A small but significant deposit of Walter Reed's letters are held at the Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia. Finally, the many government documents reproduced here as photostats derive from originals in the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D. C. The Hench Reed on-line archive presents a series of complex and interrelated stories, all linked to the U. S. Army Yellow Fever Commission's demonstration in 1900 that the mosquito Aedes aegypti is the vector for the transmission of yellow fever.

In 1999, The Institute for Museum and Library Services awarded the Department of Historical Collections a quarter-million dollar grant to select, transcribe, and digitize a large complement of original materials from the Philip S. Hench Walter Reed Yellow Fever Collection. About 5,500 items from this collection comprised the first phase of the digitization project, which opened on-line in December 2001. A second digitization phase expanded the scope of the first, and included additional Hench materials as well as those from other manuscript collections and libraries. This second phase added about 1925 documents and photographs to the existing web site, making available a grand total of 7424 items in January 2004. Every document in this vast and important public health collection is fully searchable. Some avenues for exploration using the collection include the history of medicine and science, social history, military history, biographical information on the principal players in an astonishingly successful public health investigation and campaign, the history of family and interpersonal relationships in the nineteenth century, tropical medicine, and biomedical ethics.

The following sections discuss in greater detail the various manuscript collections which comprise this on-line archive.

Section One

The Philip S. Hench Walter Reed Yellow Fever Collection

Claude Moore Health Sciences Library
University of Virginia

The Philip S. Hench Walter Reed Yellow Fever Collection is organized into series pertaining to six key individuals: Walter Reed, Jesse W. Lazear, Henry Rose Carter, Jefferson Randolph Kean, Albert E. Truby, and Philip S. Hench.

The Walter Reed Series (1874-1936) and the Reed Family Additions (1877-1902) comprise Reed's original letters (1874-1902) concerning his entry into the U. S. Army Medical Corps; his courtship of and marriage to Emilie Lawrence; his military posts in the American West; and the seminal work with yellow fever in Cuba. Subsequent materials (1902-1936) relate to a variety of topics, including the establishment of the Walter Reed Memorial Association; Howard Atwood Kelly's biography of Reed; pensions for Reed's widow and others associated with the experiments; the enactment of the Yellow Fever Roll of Honor; the awarding of Congressional Gold Medals; and the preservation of Reed's boyhood home, Belroi, in Gloucester County, Virginia.

The Jesse Lazear Series (1866-1937) comprises virtually all of Lazear's surviving correspondence (1875-1901) with his mother, Charlotte C. [Lazear] Sweitzer, and concerns medical courses taken at the University of Edinburgh and in Germany; his impressions of Europe; his interest in bacteriology and work at Johns Hopkins University; and important details of his involvement with the Yellow Fever Commission in Cuba. Subsequent materials (1901-1937) include the correspondence of his wife, Mabel Houston Lazear, principally concerning pension efforts and the credit accorded Lazear for his yellow fever work.

The Henry Rose Carter Series (1880-1932) spans Carter's long and distinguished career in public health, with correspondence (1880-1925) concerning the activities of the Marine Health Service, including inspection and quarantine of vessels; Carter's own work in yellow fever, notably including his hypothesis of an extrinsic incubation period in the spread of the disease; and his long association with the Rockefeller Foundation's tropical disease prevention and research programs. The correspondence (1925-1932) of Carter's daughter, Laura Armistead Carter, particularly concerns her work editing and preparing for publication her father's book, Yellow Fever: An Epidemiological and Historical Study of Its Place of Origin.

The Jefferson Randolph Kean Series (1899-1937) consists of letters (1899-1901) of Kean and his first wife, Louise Young Kean, to her mother, Mrs. Mason Young, before and during the period of the Yellow Fever Commission's work in Cuba, while Kean was Chief Surgeon of the Departments of Havana and Pinar del Rio and Acting Chief Surgeon of Cuba. The Keans discuss family and military post news as well as the progress of the yellow fever experiments. Later correspondence (1902-1937) concerns sanitary work in Panama and Cuba, the Ambulance Corps in World War One France, and Kean's efforts to ensure the accuracy of publications about the yellow fever work, principally from his position as editor of The Military Surgeon.

The Truby-Hench-Kean Series (1938-1954) is a selection of correspondence between Brigadier General Albert Ernest Truby, retired, former commanding officer of the Detachment Hospital Corps, Columbia Barracks, Cuba; Dr. Philip Showalter Hench; and General Jefferson Randolph Kean, retired, former Chief Surgeon in the U. S. Army Medical Corps. This correspondence, principally concerning Hench's efforts to gather and verify information on the yellow fever experiments, also concerns publication of Truby's Memoir of Walter Reed, and reveals the close friendship which developed between Hench and these two participants in the famous episode.

The Philip S. Hench Series (1937-1955) is a detailed accumulation of Hench's correspondence and research, undertaken to ascertain and communicate the facts and circumstances of the yellow fever experiments. Included are interviews with surviving participants and family members; correspondence with volunteer John J. Moran and others concerning the proper identification of the site of the experiments, the preservation of the buildings, negotiations with the Cuban authorities to recognize and memorialize the site, and the ultimate establishment of the Camp Lazear Memorial in 1952; various other commemorations including the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer motion picture "Yellow Jack" and a painting by Dean Cornwell, commissioned by John Wyeth and Sons, Inc.; Hench's involvement with the Walter Reed Memorial Association; and finally Hench's position as steward of a growing collection of original manuscripts and memorabilia. The Hench Additions (1901), and the P. Kahler Hench Additions (1893-1922) include a number of important original documents, among them two letters of Army Surgeon General George Miller Sternberg concerning a promotion for Walter Reed and detailing Sternberg's views on yellow fever; a letter of Reed's describing his presentation of the experiment results to the Pan-American Medical Congress in Havana, 1901; a recommendation by Reed for John J. Moran; and Emilie Lawrence Reed's recollections of her husband's final illness.

The Alphabetical Series is a collection of documents assembled by Philip S. Hench concerning various personalities associated with Reed or with the yellow fever experiments. Among the individuals included are Commission Members Aristides Agramonte and James Carroll; Army surgeons Roger Post Ames, Dorsey McPherson, Alva S. Pinto, and Alexander N. Stark; volunteers John H. Andrus, Robert P. Cooke, James L. Hanberry, John R. Kissinger, and John J. Moran; entomologist Leland Ossian Howard; Johns Hopkins scientist Howard Atwood Kelly; George A. Kellogg of John Wyeth and Sons, Inc.; Columbia Barracks nurse Gustaf E. Lambert; Commission Member widow Mabel H. Lazear; Las Animas Hospital nurse and volunteer Clara Louise Maass; scientist Ronald Ross; and author Laura Wood.

National Archives and Records Administration materials are incorporated chronologically within each of the above series as organized by the original curators. These materials include military orders and reports, official correspondence, and other government documents. Wherever possible, each identified item is designated "Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration."

Section Two

The Henry Rose Carter Papers

Claude Moore Health Sciences Library
University of Virginia

The Henry Rose Carter Papers (1757-1947) are a necessary complement to the Henry Rose Carter Series of the Hench Reed Collection. Contained here is additional correspondence relating to Carter's work on yellow fever and malaria as a surgeon in the Marine Health Service (later United States Public Health Service). Included are photographs of and newspaper clippings about Carter, in addition to a small collection of reprints and publications by Carter and others. Also included is the correspondence of his daughter, Laura Armistead Carter with Frederick F. Russell and other members of the Rockefeller Foundation International Health Board, Wade Hampton Frost, of Johns Hopkins University, and others concerning her collaboration with Frost in the editing and publication of Carter's book, Yellow Fever: An Epidemiological and Historical Study of Its Place of Origin (Baltimore: The Williams and Wilkins Company, 1931).

Section Three

The William Bennett Bean Papers

Claude Moore Health Sciences Library
University of Virginia

The William Bennett Bean Papers consist of material assembled by Bean for his biography of Walter Reed, published by the University Press of Virginia in 1982. Included here is an exceedingly rare original letter of Emilie Lawrence Reed, concerning the death of Walter Reed.

Section Four

The Wade Hampton Frost Papers

Claude Moore Health Sciences Library
University of Virginia

Wade Hampton Frost (1880-1938), a member of the University of Virginia School of Medicine Class of 1903, was a surgeon with the United States Public Health Service, subsequently becoming a professor of epidemiology and Dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health. Among his professional papers and correspondence is one document included here, an essay analyzing Henry Rose Carter's career.

Section Five

The Jefferson Randolph Kean Papers

The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
University of Virginia

The Jefferson Randolph Kean Papers (1893-1944) are a necessary complement to the Jefferson Randolph Kean Series of the Hench Reed Collection. Materials here were generated both before and after Kean's retirement from his career in the Army Medical Corps and include personal and official correspondence, congressional bills, government reports, and various publications. Significant holdings include original letters of Walter Reed, Carlos Juan Finlay, William Crawford Gorgas, Leland Ossian Howard, and John J. Moran.

Section Six

Walter Reed Letters

The Library of Virginia
Richmond, Virginia

The six Walter Reed Letters (1874-1901) deposited in the Library of Virginia span Reed's life and career, culminating in a description of his yellow-fever experiments and results.

Historical Collections Department - Health Sciences Library

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Last Modified: February 24, 2004

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