University of Chicago Library

Guide to the Howard Taylor Ricketts Papers 1891-1977

© 2011 University of Chicago Library

Descriptive Summary


Ricketts, Howard Taylor. Papers




16.5 linear feet (27 boxes)


Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center
University of Chicago Library
1100 East 57th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.


Howard Taylor Ricketts, pathologist. The papers include personal and professional correspondence, research notes and manuscripts relating to his work with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and typhus, and assorted memorabilia.

Information on Use


The collection is open for research.


When quoting material from this collection, the preferred citation is: Howard Taylor Ricketts. Papers, [Box #, Folder #], Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library

Biographical Note

Howard T. Ricketts was born in Findlay, Ohio and educated at the University of Nebraska (B.S., 1894) and Northwestern University Medical School (M.D., 1897). After serving his internship at Cook County Hospital, he was appointed research fellow in pathology at Rush Medical College (1898-1900). In 1900, Ricketts married a former classmate, Myra Tubbs; their nine year courtship is amply documented in Ricketts personal correspondence.

Following his marriage, Ricketts spent a year in Europe studying immunology at hospitals and laboratories in Vienna, Paris, and Berlin. (See notebooks, 6:2-3) In 1902, he became an associate in the Department of Pathology and Bacteriology at the University of Chicago and was promoted to assistant professor in 1904. Just prior to his death in 1910, Ricketts accepted an appointment as Professor of Pathology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ricketts’ research in pathology began at Rush Medical College, where he began a series of experiments on blastomycosis-a skin disease-which resulted in an important monograph: Oidiomycosis (Blastomycosis) of the Skin and its Fungi (Box 7). His most noted medical research, however, was his discovery of the cause of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Starting in 1906, he ran a series of experiments-in Chicago and Montana-which proved that the disease was transmitted by wood ticks. Eventually, this led to the discovery of a suspicious bacillus in the blood of both victims and infected ticks. When the bacillus was finally isolated in 1916, it was named "Rickettsia" in honor of the man who first noted its presence.

Ricketts never completed his work on Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, being drawn instead to the study of a related disease, typhus. In 1909, he was given a one-year leave of absence from Chicago to investigate a typhus epidemic in Mexico City. In a matter of months, using protocols developed in the spotted fever research, Ricketts was able to isolate the louse as the carrier of Mexican typhus, and on April 23, 1910 he announced discovery of a micro-organism-apparently a bacillus-in the blood of body lice and typhus patients. The confirmation of this discovery, however, was left to others, for ten days later Howard Ricketts died, a victim of the disease.

Scope Note

Series I: Correspondence. The personal correspondence is arranged chronologically and consists almost exclusively of Ricketts’ letters to Myra Tubbs during their extended courtship and engagement (1891-1900). His letters are both intimate and informal, containing detailed information on medical school, his early research in pathology, and the numerous odd-jobs which financed his education. Later letters describe living and working conditions in Montana and Mexico.

The professional correspondence consists primarily of job offers from various universities as well as Ricketts’ correspondence with President Judson regarding research funds, promotions, and departmental business.

Series II: Research Notes. This series contains notes and correspondence relating to Ricketts’ research in blastomycosis, typhus, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, as well as the data and protocols from this work, arranged chronologically under research subject headings. Also, included here are a series of notebooks compiled at Northwestern, Chicago, and during his European tour.

Series III: Writings. Consisting mainly of manuscripts, drafts and off-prints of articles, arranged chronologically, this series also contains an annotated copy of Ricketts’ Infection, Immunity and Serum Therapy (Chicago, 1906), based on his research at Chicago from 1902 to 1906.

Series IV: Memorabilia. In 1941, on the occasion of the dedication of the Museum of Rochester Academy of Science, Mrs. Ricketts and Elisabeth Ricketts Palmer assembled a scrapbook documenting Ricketts’ life and work. This volume, now disbound and housed in Boxes 15-17, includes family photographs, correspondence, and research materials, as well as awards honoring Ricketts. Owing to interest in Ricketts’ work, photostatic copies of this scrapbook were distributed to several libraries, and in 1965 Mrs. Palmer prepared a "second edition" containing supplemental materials. Mrs. Palmer also compiled a clipping scrapbook; a photostatic copy is located in Box 14. In addition, this series includes commemorative medals, photographs and material relating to the Howard T. Ricketts Museum in Hamilton, Montana.

Series V: Visual Materials. This series contains a set of lantern slides with photographs and charts, probably used for a lecture on Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Also included are many anatomical slides. Most are unidentified and undated, but a small number bear labels from Chicago laboratories and hospitals, and dates from the late 1890s to the early 1900s. Among the labeled slides are samples of blood and tissue from humans and animals, including typhus-infected blood and lice. None of the slides are believed to be related to Ricketts' studies of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Related Resources

The following related resources are located in the Department of Special Collections:


Subject Headings


Series I: Correspondence

Subseries 1: Personal Correspondence

Box 1   Folder 1


Box 1   Folder 2


Box 1   Folder 3

January-May, 1894

Box 1   Folder 4

June-August, 1894

Box 1   Folder 5

September-October, 1894

Box 1   Folder 6

November-December, 1894

Box 1   Folder 7

January-February, 1895

Box 1   Folder 8

March-April, 1895

Box 1   Folder 9

May-July, 1895

Box 1   Folder 10

August-September, 1895

Box 1   Folder 11

October-December, 1895

Box 2   Folder 1

January-April, 1896

Box 2   Folder 2

May-June, 1896

Box 2   Folder 3

July-August, 1896

Box 2   Folder 4

September, 1896

Box 2   Folder 5

October, 1896

Box 2   Folder 6

November-December, 1896

Box 2   Folder 7

January-February, 1897

Box 2   Folder 8

March-June, 1897

Box 2   Folder 9

July-August, 1897

Box 2   Folder 10

September-October 1897

Box 2   Folder 11

November, 1897

Box 2   Folder 12

December, 1897

Box 3   Folder 1

January-February, 1898

Box 3   Folder 2

March-April, 1898

Box 3   Folder 3

May-June, 1898

Box 3   Folder 4

July-August, 1898

Box 3   Folder 5

September-October, 1898

Box 3   Folder 6

November-December, 1898

Box 3   Folder 7

January-February, 1899

Box 3   Folder 8

March-April, 1899

Box 3   Folder 9

May, 1899

Box 3   Folder 10

June, 1899

Box 4   Folder 1

July-September, 1899

Box 4   Folder 2

October, 1899

Box 4   Folder 3

November-December, 1899

Box 4   Folder 4

January, 1900

Box 4   Folder 5

February-April, 1900

Box 4   Folder 6


Box 4   Folder 7


Box 4   Folder 8

undated fragments

Box 4   Folder 9

expense account, European tour, 1901

Subseries 2: Professional Correspondence

Box 4   Folder 10

Job offers, 1904-1910

Box 4   Folder 11

Illinois State Pellagra Commission, 1909

Box 4   Folder 12

University of Montana, 1909

Box 4   Folder 13

Lectures, 1909

Box 4   Folder 14

University of Pennsylvania, 1910

Box 4   Folder 15

University of Chicago, 1907-1910

Subseries 3: Biographical Materials

Box 5   Folder 1

Letters concerning final illness

Box 5   Folder 2

Official resolutions of sympathy

Box 5   Folder 3

Letters of condolence, Mexican tributes

Box 5   Folder 4

Letters of condolence, colleagues

Box 5   Folder 5

Letters of condolence, personal

Box 5   Folder 6

University of Chicago memorial service

Box 5   Folder 7

Biographical materials by Myra Ricketts and T.W. Goodspeed

Box 5   Folder 8

Biographies by Henry Ricketts, Myra Ricketts and H. Gideon Wells

Box 5   Folder 9

Biographical notes

Box 5   Folder 10

Published biographies

Series II: Research Materials and Notes

Subseries 1: General notes

Box 5   Folder 11

Shewey’s Cycle Road Map of South Eastern Wisconsin, 1896; Rules and Regulations for the Government of the Medical Staff of the Cook County Hospital, 1897

Box 5   Folder 12

Zoology notebooks; Northwestern U., 1891-92

Box 5   Folder 13

Botany notebook; Northwestern U., 1891

Box 5   Folder 14

Comparative anatomy, ca. 1893

Box 5   Folder 15

Osteology of the Dog, 1895

Box 6   Folder 1

Pathology; cultures of blastomyces; neurotoxins; lecithin and tetanolysin; two notebooks, 1901-03

Box 6   Folder 2

Notes taken in Germany under Kovaks, Turk, and Hirschel; 1901-02

Box 6   Folder 3

Analysis of Ehrlich paper on hemolysis; protocols of experiments carried out in Vienna; two notebooks, 1902

Box 6   Folder 4

Organic Chemistry, Professor Stieglitz, Autumn 1903

Box 6   Folder 5

Quantitative Analysis, Stieglitz, Autumn, 1904

Box 6   Folder 6

Laboratory instructions, Immunity, 1909

Subseries 2: Blastomycosis

Box 7   Folder 1

Correspondence, 1902-1909

Box 7   Folder 2

Case reports

Box 7   Folder 3

"Oidiomycosis (Blastomycosis) of the Skin and its Organisms," paper for the Chicago Pathological Society, April 1901

Box 7   Folder 4

Oidiomycosis (Blastomycosis) of the Skin and its Fungi, annotated typescript. Introduction and Chapters I and II

Box 7   Folder 5

Oidiomycosis (Blastomycosis) of the Skin and its Fungi, annotated typescript. Chapters III and IV

Box 7   Folder 6

Oidiomycosis (Blastomycosis) of the Skin and its Fungi, annotated typescript. Chapters drafts

Box 7   Folder 7

Oidiomycosis (Blastomycosis) of the Skin and its Fungi, annotated typescript. illustrations

Box 7   Folder 8

Oidiomycosis (Blastomycosis) of the Skin and its Fungi, annotated typescript. bibliography

Box 7   Folder 9

Oidiomycosis (Blastomycosis) of the Skin and its Fungi, annotated typescript. bibliographic cards and research notes

Box 7   Folder 10

Ricketts’ unpublished reply to Hyde-Montgomery charge of plagiarism in JAMA, June 1902

Subseries 3: Typhus

Box 8   Folder 1

Correspondence, 1909-1910

Box 8   Folder 2

Typhus slide index

Box 8   Folder 3

Human blood examinations

Box 8   Folder 4

Blood examinations

Box 8   Folder 5

Pediculus vestamente

Box 8   Folder 6

Clinical and autopsy notes

Box 8   Folder 7

Protocols of experiments

Box 8   Folder 8

Correspondence regarding typhus slide, ca. 1940

Subseries 4: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Box 8   Folder 9

Correspondence, 1906

Box 8   Folder 10

Correspondence. 1907

Box 8   Folder 11

Correspondence. 1908

Box 8   Folder 12

Correspondence. 1909

Box 8   Folder 13

Correspondence. 1910-11

Box 8   Folder 14

Bacteriology of original cases, 1906

Box 8   Folder 15

Unsuccessful rabbit inoculations; successful guinea pig inoculations; 1906

Box 8   Folder 16

Monkey experiments, Autumn, 1906; minimum intravenous pathogenic dose; comparative infectiousness of subcutaneous and peritoneal inoculations, 1906

Box 8   Folder 17

Protocols of clinical histories; misc. notes, 1906

Box 9   Folder 1

Clinical histories; plasmolysis experiments with Heneman, 1907

Box 9   Folder 2

Protocols of 76 passages of the Eddy strain of the virus, May 7, 1907-August 1908

Box 9   Folder 3

Protocols of experiments showing transmission of spotted fever by female tick from guinea pig to guinea pig, 1907

Box 9   Folder 4

Histologic study of infected and non-infected ticks; routes of infection; skin, stomach, infectivity of bile and of urine; infectivity of salivary glands and gut in male tick 15; miscellaneous immunity tests, 1907

Box 9   Folder 5

Diagrams and measurements of Idaho and Montana ticks; protocols of tests of ticks, 1907

Box 9   Folder 6

Protocols of experiments of infectiveness of male and female ticks, 1907

Box 9   Folder 7

Heredity experiments

Box 9   Folder 8

Larval infections 1 & 2, 1907

Box 9   Folder 9

Deviation of complement as test for spotted fever, autumn, 1907

Box 9   Folder 10

Charts sent to AMA exhibit, June, 1908; Protocols dated February-March, 1907

Box 9   Folder 11

Outline and charts for AMA exhibit

Box 9   Folder 12

Notes and index on gophers, 1908

Box 9   Folder 13

Charts 1-10 on gopher research concerning transmission of spotted fever.

Box 9   Folder 14

Ticks in Nature (LoLo Valley), August 12, 1908

Box 9   Folder 15

Experiments with wild animals other than gophers, Summer, 1908

Box 9   Folder 16

Experiments with domesticated rabbits; notes on experiments with Gomez, 1908

Box 9   Folder 17

Index of rabbits and guinea pigs; infection of Idaho and Montana ticks with Spotted Fever; tests of normal Montana ticks, 1908

Box 9   Folder 18

Clinical records, 1908 (Peter Thompson, Milton Savage, et al.); use of serum therapeutically.

Box 9   Folder 19

Microscopic studies of infected guinea pigs and peritoneal exudate, 1908.

Box 9   Folder 20

McKinney strain; guinea pig passages

Box 9   Folder 21

Protocols of guinea pig experiments of virus with fever

Box 9   Folder 22

Influence of incubator temperature on immune serum, 1907; desiccation experiment, 1906; centrifugation, 1908; filtration, 1909; minimum pathogenic doses, 1909

Box 9   Folder 23

Index of Montana ticks, 1908

Box 9   Folder 24

Cultivation of Montana ticks; hereditary tick infection experiments; tests of "Old Infected ticks," Montana; heredity tests of Idaho and Montana ticks, 1908

Box 9   Folder 25

Hereditary tick infection experiments; records of tick transmission from male to female, 1908

Box 9   Folder 26

Tick records on hereditary immunity, 1907-09

Box 10   Folder 1

Protocols of tick experiments, 1908-09

Box 10   Folder 2

Instructions for Dr. Maver; protocols of experiments with antigens and antibodies; notes on fixation and embedding of ticks

Box 10   Folder 3

Notes on bacillus of Spotted Fever; descriptions of organisms in tick eggs, 1909

Box 10   Folder 4

Effect of glycerin on virus, 1906-08; effect of light on the virus in ticks ‘eggs, 1908-09

Box 10   Folder 5

Records of Idaho, Montana and Woods Hole ticks including the source of "natural tick strain" of Spotted Fever

Box 10   Folder 6

Studies of Montana ticks, 1909

Box 10   Folder 7

Tick eggs and tissues, 1909

Box 10   Folder 8

Dr. Maver’s tick records from Wood’s Hole, Mass. and Missouri, 1909

Box 10   Folder 9

Index of Idaho tick records, 1909

Box 10   Folder 10

Tick Records, 1909-10

Box 10   Folder 11

Notes on Montana and Idaho ticks, 1909

Box 10   Folder 12

Protocols of tick experiments, including natural infection

Box 10   Folder 13

Agglutination experiments with the bacillus using eggs of infected ticks as source

Box 10   Folder 14

Questions of the extension; hereditary transmission of; infectivity of tick in the nature of Spotted Fever

Box 10   Folder 15

Correspondence with Dr. Hektoen (copies), 1906-10

Box 10   Folder 16

Personal expense accounts; Spotted Fever and Typhus problems (two notebooks), 1909-10

Subseries 5: General Research Materials

Box 11   Folder 1

Gradebook, "Junior Skin and Venereal, Group B," undated

Box 11   Folder 2

Notebook, "Urine Specimens; Blood and Stomach Analyses," 1897-1898

Box 11   Folder 3

Notebook, "Medical Records," February, 1898

Box 11   Folder 4

Notebook, "Morgue and Medical,"1898

Box 11   Folder 5

Notebook, "Ward 14, Case Book," 1898

Box 11   Folder 6

Notebook, " Post Mortem and Medical Records for [illegible]," 1897-1898

Box 11   Folder 7

Notebook, "Surgery Quiz," undated

Box 11   Folder 8

Pamphlet, "Subjects of Research Being Pursued by Members of the Chicago Chapter of the Society of the Sigma XI," 1904

Series III: Publications

Box 12   Folder 1

Infection, Immunity, and Serum Therapy, annotated first edition

Box 12   Folder 2

Infection, Immunity, and Serum Therapy, annotated first edition, Holograph manuscript, Chap. I-XXIII

Box 12   Folder 3

Infection, Immunity, and Serum Therapy, annotated first edition, Holograph manuscript, Chap. XXIV-Appendices

Box 12   Folder 4

Infection, Immunity, and Serum Therapy, annotated first edition, Notes and preliminary drafts

Box 12   Folder 5

Infection, Immunity, and Serum Therapy, annotated first edition. Correspondence concerning a second edition, 1907-10

Box 13   Folder 1

"Oidiomycosis (Blastomycosis of the Skin and its Fungi"

Box 13   Folder 2


  • "Three Cases of Blastonycetic Infection of the Skin; One Case Limited to a Tumor of the Lower Lip," by Frank Montgomery and HTR
  • "A report of two cases of Blastomycosis of the skin in man, with a survey of the literature of Human Blastomycosis," by James N. Hyde and HTR.
  • "A new mold fungus as the cause of three cases of so-called Blastomycosis or Oidiomycosis of the skin."
Box 13   Folder 3

"Lymphatotoxic Serum; notes on its constitution; Preliminary experiments bearing on its influence on experimental infections," typescript, 1902

Box 13   Folder 4

"Preliminary report on the action of neurotoxic serum," by T. Rothstein and HTR (annotated draft), 1903

Box 13   Folder 5

"A case of diplococcemia, characterized by repeated attacks of fever, muscular pains, and erythematous eruption," by Llewellys Barker and HTR (annotated draft), 1903

Box 13   Folder 6


  • "The nomenclature of immunity"
  • "Recent studies on snake venom"
  • "The etiology of syphilis"
  • "Concerning soluble typhoid and dysentery toxins"
  • "Gastrotoxic serum and the polytropic action of cytotoxic sera in general"
  • "The nomenclature of Toxins" (typescripts), 1903
Box 13   Folder 7


  • "An organism from Cutaneous Oidiomycosis (Blastomycosis); remarks on classification"
  • Untitled draft submitted to Proceedings of the Chicago Pathological Society, 1904
Box 13   Folder 8

"The reduction of methylene blue by nervous tissue", 1904

Box 13   Folder 9


  • "Receptor studies suggested by the side-chain theory of immunity"
  • "Autoagglutination of the erythrocytes"
Box 13   Folder 10

"Our Serotherapeutic measures," 1904

Box 13   Folder 11

"The effect of tetanolysin on sensitized erythrocytes" 1905

Box 13   Folder 12

"Fundamental principles of immunity," 1905

Box 13   Folder 13

"Concerning the possibility of an antibody for the tetanophile receptor of orythrocytes; a receptor study," 1905

Box 13   Folder 14

"The adjuvant action of serum, egg-albumin, and broth on tetanus intoxication," by HTR and E.J. Kirk, 1906

Box 13   Folder 15


  • "The role of the wood-tick (Dermacentor Occidentalis) in Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever," 1907
  • "Further Observations on Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Dermacentor Occidentalis," 1906
  • "The Transmission of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever by the Bite of the Wood-tick (Dermacentor Occidentalis)," 1906
Box 13   Folder 16

"Further experiments with the wood-tick in relation to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever," manuscript and offprint, 1907

Box 13   Folder 17


  • "A summary of investigations of the nature and means of transmission of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever," manuscript and offprints, 1907
  • "A summary of investigations of the nature and means of transmission of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever," Transactions of the Chicago Pathological Society, Vol. VII, No. 3, December 1, 1907
Box 13   Folder 18

"Studies on immunity in Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever" by HTR and L. Gomez, 1manuscript and offprint, 1908

Box 13   Folder 19

"Spotted Fever Report No. One; General report of an investigation of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever carried on during 1906-07" 1908

Box 13   Folder 20

"Recent studies of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Montana and Idaho," 1908

Box 13   Folder 21

"Spotted Fever Report no. Two," December 1908

Box 13   Folder 22

Offprints on Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, 1906-10

Box 13   Folder 23

JAMA article by HTR and Russell Wilder, 1910

Box 13   Folder 24

"Vaccination in surgical infections," n.d

Series IV: Memorabilia

Box 14   Folder 1

Photographs and description of the Ricketts’ Museum in Hamilton, Montana

Box 14   Folder 2

Clippings scrapbook (photostat); Part I-obituaries and Tributes to Ricketts’ Research

Box 14   Folder 3

Clippings scrapbook (photostat). Part II; Journal articles on Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Typhus

Box 14   Folder 4

Clippings scrapbook (photostat). Part III; Tributes to Ricketts’ research

Box 14   Folder 5

Clippings scrapbook (photostat). Part IV; Articles from Mexican journals

Box 14   Folder 6

Clippings scrapbook (photostat). Part V; Posthumous honors and awards

Box 14   Folder 7

Clippings scrapbook (photostat). Part VI; Biographical articles; Ricketts Award recipients

Box 14   Folder 8

Clippings scrapbook (photostat). Part VII. Posthumous honors; articles from Mexican journals

Box 14   Folder 9

Clippings scrapbook (photostat). Part VIII. Oversize newspaper articles

Box 14   Folder 10

Correspondence to Elisabeth Ricketts Palmer, 1977

Box 14

Microfilm of clipping scrapbook

Box 14

Ribbon from Ricketts’ casket

Box 14A

Primera Reunion Interamericana del Tifo; Mexico, D.F. 1945; two silver medals

Box 14A

University of Chicago, Howard T. Ricketts Award Medal;

Box 14A

U.S. Typhus Commission Medal for Meritorious Service

Box 14A

La Sienta Asamblea Medica de Occidente in Memoria del Dr. H.T. Ricketts, November, 1963; Presented to Elisabeth Ricketts Palmer

Box 15

Howard T. Ricketts Clipping scrapbook

Box 16   Folder 1

Negatives of photographs in 1965 Ricketts scrapbook

Box 16   Folder 2

"Mock-up" notebook of the Ricketts scrapbook

Box 16   Folder 3-18

Howard Taylor Ricketts Scrapbook (unbound), Table of Contents-Page 27

Box 17   Folder 1-34

Howard Taylor Ricketts Scrapbook (unbound), Page 28-177

Box 18

Bound photostatic copy of the HTR Scrapbook, 1965

Box 18

Bound photostatic copy of the HTR Scrapbook, 1941

Box 19   Folder 1

Photostatic negatives of the scrapbook, 1965

Box 19   Folder 2

Photostatic negatives of the scrapbook, 1965

Box 20

Plaster cast of the Howard Taylor Ricketts Award Medal.

Series V: Visual Material

Box 21

Lantern slides, for lecture on Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, undated

Box 22

Anatomical slides, circa 1890s-1900s

Box 23

Anatomical slides, circa 1890s-1900s

Box 24

Anatomical slides, circa 1890s-1900s

Box 25

Anatomical slides, circa 1890s-1900s

Box 26

Wooden slide cases, empty