Collection ID: FA038

Collection context


Scope and Content:

The Benjamin E. Washburn papers contain few items of a personal nature. Consisting of reports, correspondence, scrapbooks, diaries, photographs, books and journals, the papers concern Washburn's employment with the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission (1913-1914) and the International Health Board/Division (1915-1939).

The papers focus on Dr. Washburn's Jamaica years. In addition to various reports and complete scrapbooks, they include correspondence regarding the Hookworm Campaign with the Jamaican Central Board of Health, The Rockefeller Foundation, and the United Fruit Company. Washburn's highly regarded venture in popular health education, the journal "Jamaica Public Health," is also among the Jamaica material.

After the transfer of the IHD Regional Headquarters for the Caribbean region from Kingston, Jamaica, to Havana, Cuba, in 1937, diaries required of Foundation staff are the only documentation of Dr. Washburn's professional activities.

Biographical / Historical:

A physician, public health officer, and author, Benjamin E. Washburn was born in Rutherford County, North Carolina, in 1885. Dr. Washburn received undergraduate (1906) and graduate (1909) degrees in English and history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and graduated from the University of Virginia in 1911 with a degree in medicine. It was during his internship in Wilmington, North Carolina, that he met Zillah Howe, a nurse from Michigan, whom he married October 6, 1912.

Following a brief private practice in Rutherford County, North Carolina, Dr. Washburn began his long connection with Rockefeller organizations as an employee of the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission. As field director for Haywood, Stanley, and Caswell counties in North Carolina, he led a hookworm eradication campaign; he later (May-December 1914) became a full-time health officer in Nash County, North Carolina, as part of a program of community sanitary work funded by The Rockefeller Foundation.

In 1915 Dr. Washburn was appointed field director for the International Health Commission's campaign for control of hookworm in British Guiana and Trinidad. Returning to North Carolina in 1916, Washburn, as county health officer in Wilson County, developed a program of health work intended to serve as a model for other counties and as a training center for International Health Board field staff. In 1917, Dr. Washburn was appointed director of the new state Bureau of County Health Work where he was responsible for the creation of cooperative health programs in ten North Carolina counties.

Dr. Washburn left North Carolina again in 1930 to direct the IHB's Hookworm Campaign in Jamaica and remained to inaugurate and oversee the Malaria Campaign, the Tuberculosis Commission, and the Bureau of Health Education. In 1935, he was appointed regional director for the International Health Division in the West Indies and Central America. Washburn retired from The Rockefeller Foundation in 1939.

Upon retirement, Washburn returned to Rutherfordton, North Carolina, where he was active in state and local public health affairs. He also served as health editor for the Raleigh, North Carolina, "Progressive Farmer" from 1940 to 1951 and wrote several books devoted to his health interests.

Dr. Washburn is the author of "Jamaica Health Stories and Plays" (1929); "The Health Game" (1930); "A Country Doctor in the South Mountains" (1955); "As I Recall" (1960); "Rutherford County and Its Hospital" (1960); and "A History of the North Carolina State Board of Health, 1877-1925" (1966).

For a full list of activities, organizations and honors, see "Who's Who in America," v. 27, 1952-1953, p. 2537.


The Benjamin E. Washburn papers are divided into four series:

Series 1 - Field Office Files

Series 2 - Scrapbooks

Series 3 - Miscellany

Series 1022 - Photographs

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard



Open for research. Brittle or damaged items are available at the discretion of RAC. Researchers interested in accessing digital media (floppy disks, CDs, DVDs, etc.) or audiovisual material (audio cassettes, VHS, etc.) in this collection must use an access surrogate. The original items may not be accessed because of preservation concerns. To request an access surrogate be made, or if you are unsure if there is an access surrogate, please contact an archivist.


Rockefeller Foundation has title, copyright, and literary rights in the collection, in so far as it holds them. Rockefeller Archive Center has authority to grant permission to cite and publish archival material from the collection.

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