Who’s the Most Perfect Baby of All?

May 2, 1927
Los Angeles


While attending medical school in Philadelphia, Dr. Maud Wilde was horrified by the number of mothers who brought their children to the college dispensary suffering from illnesses that could easily have been prevented.  This, coupled with high infant mortality rates in the United States, convinced her that something must be done.  In 1927, roughly 6% of infants born in California did not survive to their first birthday.

perfectbabyAnd so, Baby Week in Los Angeles was born.  The program began in 1916 under Wilde’s direction, with the sponsorship of the Los Angeles District Federation of Women’s Clubs and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.  Features included lectures, educational booths, and most importantly, a physical screening for Los Angeles children under the age of 6.  By 1927, over 88,000 children had been measured, weighed, and tested for a variety of disabilities, as well as malnutrition by Southern California doctors.

To infuse the proceedings with a little more fun, the Baby Show was introduced, and quickly became the centerpiece of Baby Week.  Any mother whose child had been screened, and earned a “score” above 90% was invited to enter them in the contest.  Of the 400 babies entered in this year’s competition, 8-month-old Lorene Phillips scored the highest – 99% perfect.

Dr. Wilde placated the audience, saying, “Of all the 88,000 babies we have examined, not one has scored 100%.  To produce 100% perfect children, we must have 100% perfect parents.  However, we must not be discouraged.  It is possible that at the next show one of you mothers will exhibit the perfect baby.”

On the Frontiers of Medicine

Jan. 31, 1907
Los Angeles

Showing once again that Los Angeles is out of touch with Sacramento, local health officials are fighting an education bill that would lift mandatory smallpox vaccinations for schoolchildren.

Vaccinations were opposed for several reasons in the Legislature. Assemblyman Sackett said the law unfairly placed the burden of enforcement on schools. Assemblyman Percival, a Christian Scientist, apparently objected to the measure on religious grounds. Other opponents said the only reason health officials supported the shots is to protect their jobs.

“People do not realize what the repeal of the compulsory vaccination law would mean,” says health officer Dr. Powers. “If that law were not in force here we should need five health officers in place of one.”

“Those who question the efficacy of vaccination would do well to look over the records of the local health office and compare the amount of contagious disease 15 years ago with what exists today,” Powers says. “Our population is five times as great as it was then but there has been no increase in smallpox. To repeal the compulsory vaccination law means to invite a scourge of smallpox to come north from below the Mexican border and sweep the state.”

The Times notes that Powers and his aides are watching trains and hotels for visitors from Chicago, which has been suffering epidemics of diphtheria and scarlet fever. The anti-vaccination bill was defeated in February 1907.

Read more about smallpox in Los Angeles here.


E-mail: lmharnisch (AT) gmail.com


Dec. 20,1907
Los Angeles

Mr. C.D. Roberts of 1900 E. Main was feeling a bit unwell. He had bad headaches, an irregular appetite, saw dark spots before his eyes and felt as if something in his stomach was alive.

Not sure what to do, Roberts consulted the European Medical Experts at 745 S. Main St., where he was treated with the secret cure of

A Foul Wind Blows Over Boyle Heights

Oct. 12, 1907
Los Angeles

After repeated complaints to police because half a dozen dead dogs had laid in the streets for two weeks, the health department tried to charge C.T. Hanson, who held the contract for removing carcasses. But according to the city attorney, Hanson was only guilty of not abiding by his contract and nothing more.

In fact, Hanson had tried to get out his contract, claiming that he was losing money, but the city refused.

Aren’t We Healthy?

Sept. 7, 1907
Los Angeles

Henry Sief of the health office has released the latest figures on infectious diseases in Los Angeles and the news is wonderful.

There were only 20 cases of diphtheria in August, a 31% decrease from the 29 cases in July. Scarlet fever was down to 9 cases in August, a 55% drop from July, when there were 20. Tuberculosis is down to 10 cases from 24.

Best of all, there were no measles or smallpox cases, Sief says, while there was one smallpox case in July.

Typhoid, however, is on the rise, with 15 new cases in August, compared with 12 cases in July.

Mathematical problems, alas, prevent us from knowing the exact mortality figures for August 1907. The Times reports that deaths included 61 Los Angeles natives, 163 people from Pacific Coast states and 251 from elsewhere in the U.S., then gives the total of 328 as opposed to 475. Sixty-one people, or 12.8 percent, died of tuberculosis, The Times says.