Animal Vaccination Scene 1872

1872, Charles Guillou. The Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.We came across this sketch of smallpox vaccine production in the Historical Medical Library’s collection of materials from Charles F. Guillou (1813-1899).

Dr. Guillou was a native Philadelphian who spent many years as a U.S. naval surgeon. In fact, he kept spectacular visual diaries on several scientifically and diplomatically important journeys. He was part of the Wilkes Expedition that explored the Oregon coast, Antarctica, and parts of the Pacific Ocean. He also sailed with the U.S. Frigate Constitution and met and impressed King Kamehameha IV during the ship’s stay in the Hawaiian islands. After Guillou finished his naval service, he returned to Hawaii, opened several hospitals, and served as Court Physician to the king.

From Hawaii, Guillou made his way to Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he purchased Dellwood Farm.

Among Dr. Guillou’s drawings was this detailed sketch of a smallpox vaccine harvesting scene. The title of the sketch is “Bovine, or Genissary (heifer) vaccinarium. Dellwood Farm, Virginia, 1872.” The female attendant appears to be holding an instrument and working on the vaccinated underbelly of the cow. Rows of marks (at least 15) are evident.

Whether Guillou used the vaccine for his family or for his patients, or whether he tried his hand at manufacturing vaccine for a commercial enterprise, we don’t know. We have very little information about his time in Virginia.

The year 1872 would have been a very early date for production of pure animal vaccine. Henry A. Martin, MD, is widely credited with having brought the practice of serial passage of vaccine in animals to the states from Europe around 1870. (Previously, vaccine had been passed via serial transmission in humans, with an occasional “boost” given by re-vaccinating cows with humanized vaccine. The rarity of cowpox in the wild precluded frequent harvesting of cowpox matter as a source of vaccine.) 

In his 1877 essay “On Animal Vaccination,” Martin writes 

“The variolous epidemic which prevailed in various parts of the country, and reached its acme in 1872-3, produced a very extraordinary demand for virus. A great many physicians were induced by this demand to undertake the vaccination of animals, and the distribution of the virus thus obtained. Many dealers also perceived an opportunity to make money, and employed medical students, clerks, etc., to vaccinate animals with virus obtained from Dr. Foster and myself. There is no doubt that some of the gentlemen who became my rivals had ample knowledge and ability to do so with success, and to accomplish an eminent service to the community in supplying excellent virus at a time when it was needed in amounts beyond the power of two producers to supply. “

Martin had obtained his animal vaccine from French physician Jean DePaul, who had harvested matter from a spontaneous case of cowpox in a cow in Beaugency, France. (In “On Animal Vaccination,” Martin notes that wild cowpox was not known to occur naturally in the United States.)

As far as Dr. Guillou is concerned, we don’t have many records of his time in Virginia, though we do know that his wife died and was buried there. (We have some of his journals and memorabilia, but other than a few photographs, there is no mention of Dellwood.) In 1882 Guillou moved to New York City, where he was a manufacturing pharmacist. He died in New York City in 1899.


Charles F. Guillou Collection Finding Aid. The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Charles F. Guillou Obituary, University of Pennsylvania Medical Bulletin, FEBRUARY 1899.

Martin HA. On animal vaccination. Boston: James Campbell, 1878. Reprinted from the Transactions of the American Medical Association, 1877.