Henry Hanson papers
Scope and Content
- 1919 - 1959
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
Ingrid Brunt, also a grandaughter of Henry Hanson, donated the rest of the collection in 2021.
- A Guide to the Henry Hanson papers, 1919-1959
- 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.
- Language of description
- Script of description
- 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.
Part of the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library Repository
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