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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Processing History
  • Scope and content of Collection
  • Preferred Citation
  • Publication Rights
  • Access
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Acquisition Information
  • Arrangement
  • Digitized Material

  • Contributing Institution: Special Collections
    Title: Poona Plague Pictures
    Creator: Adams-Wylie, Charles Henry Benjamin, 1871 or 1872-1900
    Identifier/Call Number: 96.R.95
    Physical Description: 1 album(s) (147 photographs and 4 loose items)
    Date (inclusive): 1897-1908, undated
    Abstract: The album, most likely compiled by Dr. C. H. B. Adams-Wylie, the plague medical officer at the General Plague Hospital in Poona (Pune), India, from 1897-1898, records the work of that hospital in great detail. The photographs portray the daily work of the hospital and include portraits of hospital staff, views of the hospital wards and grounds, and detailed close-up studies of plague patients. Photographs taken outside the hospital compound document the measures instituted by Pune's Special Plague Committee and enforced by the British and native soldiers, such as forced house inspections and the holding of residents within observation and segregation camps.
    Physical Location: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record  for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    Language of Material: English .

    Processing History

    Cataloged in 1996 by Ruth Lachman. In 2014 Beth Ann Guynn substantially updated the cataloging and wrote the finding aid.

    Scope and content of Collection

    The album was most likely compiled by Dr. Charles Henry Benjamin Adams (later Adams-Wylie), who served as the plague medical officer at the General Plague Hospital in Poona (Pune), India, from some time in 1897 until his departure on January 15, 1898, as jubilantly noted in the caption for a general view of the hospital.
    The album records the work of the General Plague Hospital in great detail. The photographs document the daily work of the hospital and include portraits of hospital staff, views of the hospital wards and grounds, and detailed close-up studies of plague patients. Photographs taken outside the hospital compound document the measures instituted by Pune's Special Plague Committee and enforced by the British and native soldiers, such as the white-washing of homes; views of the segregation camps where residents were sent while their districts were disinfected; and views of the observation camps that held households with family members known to have the plague; as well images of burial grounds and Hindu funeral pyres.
    Also included in the album are plague-related photographs taken in Bombay, including a view of the Jamisetji Hospital, and other photographs taken in Sukkur and Reti that appear to be of a more personal nature. Adams-Wylie appears in the General Plague Hospital staff group portraits in the album's opening pages as well as in the snapshot captioned "The Chummery."
    Several of the 148 photographs (including the two-part group portrait panorama) in the album are by or can be attributed to Pune-based British photographer F. B. Stewart, including a number that were reproduced in the illustrated weekly news journals The Sketch and The Graphic. Other photographs of a more amateur nature were likely taken by Adams-Wylie or his close associates.
    Titles for the photographs are taken from the handwritten captions, unless otherwise noted. Consequently, some titles may include language now considered to be racist or biased. All photographs are gelatin silver prints except for a handful noted as being albumen prints.
    Inserted loose in the album are four additional items, at least three of which can be tied to C. H. B. Adams-Wylie and his wife Lilian. These include a letter from Lilian's uncle, Alexander Sclanders, primarily concerned with the setting of her wedding date to Dr. Adams and asking the couple to reconsider going to plague-ridden India when, as he suggests, Adams could easily set up a practice in a desirable location in England. He asks that both Lily and Adams discuss their plans with him. Also present are a small snapshot of two young couples in fancy-dress marked "Adams" on the verso and a group portrait of the staff of Adams-Wylie Hospital taken in 1908. A photograph of an Indian temple complex is the fourth item found loose in the album.
    The album is half-bound in green and black morocco leather with "Photographs" embossed in gilt on the front cover. The front flyleaf bears the title Poona Plague Pictures written in a devised font composed of bones and skulls.

    Preferred Citation

    Poona plague pictures, 1897-1908, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 96.R.95.

    Publication Rights


    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Biographical/Historical Note

    Bubonic plague, as part of the widespread third plague pandemic, reached the Indian subcontinent from China, where it had first appeared in 1855, around 1896. Appearing first in coastal cities, it spread to the inland city of Poona (Pune) in the state of Maharashtra late in 1896, and by February 1897, with a raging mortality rate double the usual epidemic norm, half the city's residents had fled to outlying areas. In order to bring the plague under control W. C. Rand, an Indian Civil Service officer and head of Pune's newly-formed Special Plague Committee, instituted what were seen by the native population as excessively strict safety measures. These included the use of British and native troops to enforce entry into private dwellings for the examination of occupants and the discovery of afflicted or deceased persons; removal of residents to hospitals or observation and segregation camps; the destruction of possibly contaminated personal possessions; preventing plague victims from entering or exiting the city; restriction of the burial of plague victims to designated rather than traditional burial grounds; and the banning of traditional Indian medical practices. Although the extreme measures quickly brought the epidemic under control, response to their severity fomented rebellion in an already politically charged district. Despite the fact that the measures were lifted a few months later on May 19, resentment was such that on June 22 Rand and his military escort, Lt. Ayerst, were assassinated by the Chapekar brothers on their way home from the celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee at Pune's Government House. Such events, along with the spread of plague to rural areas, caused the British government to switch tactics and focus instead on mass inoculation using the plague vaccine developed by Waldimar Haffkine, a Russian Jewish bacteriologist.
    Charles Henry Benjamin (C.H.B.) Adams-Wylie was one of the junior British doctors who served at the General Plague Hospital in Pune in 1897 and 1898, where he was a plague medical officer known then as Dr. Adams. He was born in 1871 or 1872 and did his medical training at Edinburgh University and Middlesex Hospital. In 1899 he married Lilian Oimara Wylie, a trained nurse, and changed his name to Adams-Wylie by deed of poll. Shortly thereafter Adams-Wylie was commissioned into the Indian Medical Service as a lieutenant and the couple went to Bombay, where they worked tirelessly vaccinating victims against plague, paying for additional plague vaccination incentives and food for the poor with their own funds. In 1900, after the advent of the Second Boer War, Lt. Adams-Wylie served as a medical officer to troops transferring to South Africa. He subsequently volunteered as a sanitary worker at Bloemfontein while Lilian, known to her family as Lily or Julia, went to Capetown as a nurse. Lt. Adams-Wylie died at Bloemfontein from enteric fever that same year. After his death Lilian Adams-Wylie continued in her nursing career. In 1902 she founded the Adams-Wylie Memorial in Bombay for the poor in honor of her late husband. In 1904, she married Charles Hotham Montague Doughty, an army officer and diplomat and the nephew of the travel writer Charles Doughty, who also appended Wylie to his name. Doughty-Wylie fell at Gallipoli in 1915; his wife died in Cyprus in 1961 after a long and distinguished medical career.
    F. B. (Francis Benjamin) Stewart was a British photographer and filmmaker who was based in Pune beginning in the 1880s. He worked for the British military and government as well as for private businesses such as the Warwick Trading Company. He died in Pune in 1919.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired in 1996.


    Arranged in a singles series: Series I: Poona plague pictures, 1897-1908, undated.

    Digitized Material

    The collection was digitized by the repository and the images are available online:

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Diseases -- Complications -- India
    Epidemics -- India
    Gelatin silver prints -- India -- 20th century
    Pune (India) -- Social conditions
    Plague -- India
    Photographs, Original
    Panoramas -- India -- 19th century
    Gelatin silver prints -- India -- 19th century
    Albumen prints -- India -- 19th century
    Great Britain -- Colonies -- Administration
    Great Britain -- Colonies -- India
    Group portraits -- India -- 19th century
    Photograph albums -- India -- 19th century
    Sclanders, Alexander
    Stewart, F.B. (Francis Benjamin)
    Adams-Wylie, Lilian Oimara