International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

  • International Leprosy Association -
    History of Leprosy


    Arquivo Nacional do Brasil


    Category Institutional Archive
    Country Brazil
    Address Praça da República, 173 – Rio de Janeiro, RJ – 20211-350
    Telephone 55 21 2179-1228


    The National Archive of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro holds manuscripts and photographs relating to leprosy dating from 1820s to 1970s.

    Two of the manuscripts held here (I S 3 31 – Série Saúde) relate to the Hospital dos Lázaros in Rio. The first is a request dated 29 October 1828 from the administrative body of the hospital to the monarch Dom Pedro I, regarding an increase in military protection in the surrounding area. The second, dated 6 April 1830, is from the Marquês de Caravella (Secretary of State for ‘Negócios do Império’ [Imperial Business]). The poor treatment of patients by the surgeon and employees in the hospital is described and the Marquês also emphasises that the hospital administrative body should take necessary measures to resolve the problem. He believes in the sincerity of the patient complaints and in their right to justice.

    There is a series of documents (I S 3 32 – Série Saúde) regarding the work of Luis Martinho dos Santos Gradil, who acquired medical knowledge and developed remedies over many years, allegedly including a cure for leprosy. In a document dated 18 May 1856, Manuel Gomes describes the case of a slave in Fazenda da Glória, a province of Rio de Janeiro. This man had suffered from leprosy six or seven years earlier. He had been treated by a number of doctors, all of whom affirmed that there was no hope for him. The patient’s feet and hands were badly affected by the time Luis Gradil was called to him. He used his remedies and the patient was cured. Another manuscript from 12 April 1864 is from Luis Gradil to Dom Pedro II. In this document, he is asking the king for permission to test his cures in a hospital of the Court, under medical supervision. He is also the author of a four-page manuscript (5 May 1864) that describes curing the wife of Francisco Luís Tinoco from morphea. He asks for recognition as to the efficacy of his work. A letter dated 7 May 1864, from Luis Gradil to José Ferreira Viemas, asks for a testimony describing Viemas’ condition before and after treatment administered by Gradil. Viemas’ reply is also included here, dated 9 May 1864, in which he confirms that two months before, he was suffering from leprosy, but recovered after Gradil’s treatment.

    Also held here is a printed report (unpublished) on the Santa Casa de Misericórdia de São João Del Rei, dated 1879-1880, and signed by the ‘Provedor’, Padre [Father] José Maria Xavier (I S 3 31 – Série Saúde). It contains information regarding the buildings for patients that are located at the back of the plot of land where the institution stands. Patients are segregated by sex, but Padre Xavier emphasises that reforms are needed. In the Appendices to the report, there is information regarding movement of patients in the hospital and financial data.

    The photographs belonging to the archive for the publication, Correio da Manhã, one of the main methods of communication in Rio de Janeiro, are in the National Archive. The reference ‘PH/FOT/5159 – Leprosários’ includes the following images:-

    - circa 1930/1940, a general view of the buildings at the inauguration of Itanhenga Leprosarium in Espírito Santo.
    - Eunice Weaver preventório, Paraiba: 15 August 1941, view of a building in the preventório; 12 June 1957, shows a building and children playing on the patio in front of the institution; 12 June 1957, a woman with baby; 12 June 1957, a musical infant band in the preventório.
    - 24 May 1955, preventório in Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, showing buildings under construction.
    - 22 December 1957, construction of a municipal leprosarium in the residential area of Cabuçu, Rio de Janeiro. The caption tells of protests from people in the district.
    - 21 October, 1958, Three elderly women in Colônia Santa Isabel, Minas Gerais. They are wearing the clothes of ‘internas’ and have marks on their hands and arms.
    - 27 February 1970, photos showing a person with leprosy selling cheese at a market. (location not specified).

    Under the reference PH/FOT/6635 – Hospitais/Guanabara (Colônia Estadual de Curupaití), there are the following photographs:-

    - 28 January 1972, images showing the colony of Curupaití, including views of the houses and gardens, residents (including children) going about their daily lives, including one photo of a resident who had been in the colony since 1935. Some photos carry captions, some of which relate that the colony has 900 residents; that the article was written to denounce the conditions in the colony; that the residents are in poor conditions and the buildings are rundown. In the background of the photo carrying the latter caption, broken windows are evident, as well as poorly managed vegetation.
    - 2 October 1972, two photographs depicting the III Feira de Entidades, an event organised to collect funds for the Christmas social programme of the colony.

    Entry made 14 January 2003


    Name Valéria Morse
    Organization Arquivo Nacional do Brasil
    Address Praça da República, 173 – Rio de Janeiro, RJ – 20211-350
    Telephone +55 21 2179-1228
    Fax +55 21 3806 6135 / +55 21 2242 5494

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