Rockefeller Archive Center

Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports are created by recipients of research travel stipends and by many others who have conducted research at the RAC. The reports demonstrate the breadth of the RAC's archival holdings, particularly in the study of philanthropy and its effects. Read more about the history of philanthropy at Also, see the RAC Bibliography of Scholarship, a comprehensive online database of publications citing RAC archival collections.
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Popular and Medical Attitudes toward Cancer Virus Research and Cancer Vaccination, Drawn from the Collections of the Rockefeller Archive Center

January 1, 2013

In 1913 Richard Broadman, a lawyer from Jersey City, New Jersey, wrote to the Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research (RIMR) with an urgent inquiry. He and his wife had just come into possession of mattresses used during the care of his wife's aunt, who had died after a long illness a decade earlier. Broadman feared that it might pass the illness to those who used the mattress in the future (although this had not prevented him from allowing the household maids to use it). Amidst widespread concern over germ theories of disease in the early twentieth century, this was perhaps not remarkable What was remarkable, was what disease Broadman wrote about to assuage his wife's concerns, querying the staff of the Institute if there was a risk from "the danger of communication of the disease of cancer whether there is any danger lurking in the use of these mattresses." Broadman himself was skeptical, but only because he doubted cancer "germs" could have survived in the mattress, not because he doubted the existence of such germs themselves!

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