Skip to main content


Henry Hanson papers

Identifier: MS-52

Scope and Content

This collection includes articles, correspondence, a scrapbook, journals, a manuscript, photographs, an expense ledger, an interview, a diary, biographical sketches, post cards and invitations, and other materials that document the professional life of Henry Hanson. It also includes materials related to the naming of the Henry Hanson building in Jacksonville, Florida.


  • Creation: 1919 - 1971


Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions on access to the items in this collection.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions governing the use of the items in this collection.

Biographical/Historical Information

Henry Hanson was born July 4, 1877 in Glenwood, South Dakota and credits his father for passing down a “pioneer spirit” that led him to “scientific and medical research.” He received an A.B. in 1902 and an A.M. in chemistry in 1904 from the University of South Dakota. He then moved to Baltimore to pursue an M.D. at the Johns Hopkins University which he achieved in 1908. After briefly working in Milwaukee, in 1909, Hanson moved to Florida to become Director of the Division of Bacteriological Laboratories of the State Board of Health.

When the U.S. entered World War I, Hanson joined the Army Medical Corps and was stationed in Panama for the duration. Hanson distinguished himself and was appointed Chief Sanitary Inspector of the Panama Canal Zone in 1918. When the Peruvian government recruited him in 1919, Hanson brought his family to Peru. He recounted their adventures in The Pied Piper of Peru: Dr. Henry Hanson’s Fight against “Yellow Jack” and Bubonic Plague in South America, 1919-1922 which was published posthumously in 1961 by the Florida Department of Public Health. Hanson also summarized this work in his diary, stating that there were almost 20,000 cases of yellow fever during this period and nearly two million house inspections and five million container inspections carried out in the massive campaign.

After the successes in Peru, Hanson went to Columbia under the auspices of the International Health Board and the Columbian government to continue work on eradicating yellow fever and other tropical diseases. Hanson's wife, Jane, and their two children, Martha and Karl, stayed in Panama. Jane was expecting the couple's third child (Virgil), and sadly passed away in childbirth. Hanson wrote in his diary on the anniversary of his wife's death: “El dia mas triste de mi vida el 19 diciembre 1923.” (Translation: The saddest day of my life on December 19, 1923).

Hanson’s struggle in deciding to join the West Africa Yellow Fever Commission only a couple of years after his wife's death is shown through letters to Dr. Henry Rose Carter. “While I am becoming somewhat reconciled to this individual existence puttering along with one specimen after another I still ‘feel the call of the wild’ and should like to be out fighting again.” Hanson spent the majority of his time in Southwestern Nigeria focused on work with over 5,000 house visits in twenty-two months.

After returning to the United States in 1927, Hanson and his family moved to Florida where he accepted a position with the Bureau of Communicable Diseases, State Board of Health of Florida. He became the State Health Officer in 1929 and served two terms from 1929-1935 and 1942-1945. In the intervening years, Hanson worked as the traveling representative of the Pan-American Sanitary Bureau 1936-1942.

Dr. Hanson’s focus on public health issues included rodent eradication (perhaps recalling the “burning of Paita” when he burned houses to kill rats and thus end a bubonic plague outbreak in the Peruvian town of Pieta in 1920) and establishing statewide mosquito control efforts. After a very successful career, he retired in 1945 and moved to Jacksonville, Florida.

Dr. Henry Hanson passed away at age 76 on February 13, 1954. In 1959 the Florida State Board of Health laboratory building was renamed “The Henry Hanson Building.” This information is taken from a biographical sketch written for the UVa Historical Collections web exhibit on Hanson.


1 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Spanish; Castilian

Acquisition Information

Jane H. Monroe, a granddaughter of Henry Hanson, donated the diary in 2011.

Ingrid Brunt, also a grandaughter of Henry Hanson, donated the rest of the collection in 2021. Brunt also donated additional materials in 2024.

Physical Description

2 boxes, 5"x10.5"x15.5," 1 linear foot, 28 folders

Processing Information

Additional material was processed in 2024 by Amanda Greenwood.

A Guide to the Henry Hanson papers, 1919-1971
A Collection in Historical Collections, Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, MS-52
© 2021 By the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. All rights reserved.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021-06-30: The finding aid title changed from "Diary of Henry Hanson" to the "Henry Hanson papers" when new items were added to this collection.
  • 2024-05-17: Finding aid inventory was updated when additional accession was processed and interfiled with existing collection.

Repository Details

Part of the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library Repository

Claude Moore Health Sciences Library
1300 Jefferson Park Avenue
P.O. Box 800722
Charlottesville Virginia 22908-0722 United States