Tag Archives: Coca-Cola

Love in the time of malaria

With summer in full swing, mosquitoes are biting, and with every bite comes the possibility of disease. Nowadays our concerns focus on Zika and West Nile viruses, transmitted by different species of mosquito. As recently as the 1930s, however, the most ravaging mosquito-borne disease in the American South was malaria–still one of the most epidemic infectious diseases in the Southern Hemisphere.

For a region dependent on agriculture and a workforce necessarily exposed to flying pests outdoors, the costs of malaria were high in both human and economic terms. Children missed school, dragging down their academic achievement and future prospects. Farm workers missed days of labor, reducing their income and their families’ well-being. Large-scale employers often hired twice the number of necessary workers, anticipating significant absenteeism.

In Baker County, Georgia, Coca-Cola magnate and Emory philanthropist Robert Woodruff saw the devastating impact of the disease on the men and women who lived around his Ichauway Plantation. He offered to establish a research center to study the spread and potential containment of the disease, and with the help of Emory administrators and physicians, a field station was opened in 1939. This field station, which operated until 1957, arguably was the seed from which both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Rollins School of Public Health would spring. Sean Suarez has told the story in Southern Spaces with the help of archives from the Stuart A. Rose Library.

Photos in the Rose Library photograph collection add richness and humanity to the tale.

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A visiting nurse makes a call on a family near Ichauway Plantation, circa 1940s. Photos courtesy of Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library.
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The field station on Ichauway Plantation would later coordinate its efforts with the U.S Office of Malaria Control in War Areas, forerunner of the CDC.
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Field research included monitoring mosquito populations in the marshy areas of Baker County.
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The only good mosquito was a netted mosquito, usually trapped at towers like this one at Ichauway.

During World War II, as U.S. military personnel were deployed to North Africa and the South Pacific–regions where malaria posed a significant threat to military effectiveness–the federal government established the Office of Malaria in War Areas in Atlanta to intensify the kind of work going on at Ichauway. After the war, this office would become the Communicable Disease Center–now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which moved next door to the Emory campus with the help of Robert Woodruff. In time, collaborations between the Emory School of Medicine and the CDC would lead to the founding of one of the top schools of public health in the United States, the Rollins School of Public Health, named for one of the great families of Emory philanthropists.

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Researchers proved their epidemiological chops by mapping the incidence of malaria in Baker County.

Ichauway plaque copy

Gary Hauk

Asa Candler’s NON-million-dollar letter

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Asa Griggs Candler Sr.

Many Emory people know of the “million-dollar letter” written by Asa Griggs Candler Sr. on July 16, 1914, to the Educational Commission of the Southern Methodist Church.

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That was the spur to planting Emory University in Atlanta and eventually moving Emory College from its home in Oxford. Less well known are the hundreds of other Candler letters deposited in the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory.

Candler was a great letter writer — great not only in the volume of personal and business-related missives he penned but also in the candor of his messages. As he aged, his penmanship deteriorated, looking as if every line was dashed off in a frenzy to keep up with his thoughts. But the first letter we have from him shows something else.

Candler letter to Griggs

Written to Candler’s namesake–Dr. Asa Griggs, of West Point, Georgia–the letter presents the young Candler, age 21, looking for better prospects. Having considered a career in medicine, he opted instead for pharmacy. “The country has enough [doctors] without they [the country] were better. Besides I think there is more money to be made as a druggist than as a physician.”

Having secured a position in Cartersville, Georgia, where he had spent two years learning the business, Candler now was ready for greater things. Was it possible, he wondered, that the physician for whom he was named, and who was “so widely known both professionally & socially,” might open a door or two for him? “I am not particular about the place,—where it is—will go to any place where I can do well.”

No evidence exists that Dr. Griggs responded to the young Asa, but within a year Candler had made his way to Atlanta, knocked on several doors, and landed a job assisting pharmacist John Howard. He also met Howard’s daughter, Lucy, who would become Asa’s wife. Fifteen years later he would buy controlling rights to John Pemberton’s recipe for Coca-Cola.

Gary Hauk