Commentary on Hamilton Spectator article on the Spanish flu pandemic and Dr. Jaffrey

Commentary on the Hamilton Spectator article, "The Day the Pandemic Came to Hamilton," by Mark McNeil, October 27, 2018, front page (continued on A8). Read the online version of the article here.

Spectator article doesn't "step up," full of bias 

The Spectator article about the Spanish influenza pandemic, which featured my grandfather Dr. Jaffrey, engaged "experts" Ann Herring and Chris Rutty, both of whom were known to have a previous bias and conflict of interest with my grandfather, and it produced an article that deliberately left things out, intentionally downplayed his story, and neglected to give Dr. Jaffrey any (not one!) of the accolades and distinctions he rightfully owns. [read accolades below]. The writer knew about this conflict of interest and bias, and I objected with fervor, but I was shrugged me off and told that they knew best (something about letters after their name). But one could not have engaged two more biased individuals than Ann Herring and Chris Rutty. and the writer should have known better. It was in the interest of both to make Dr. Jaffrey look as insignificant as possible. Read below to find out why. .

I suggested this story to the Spectator and I shared all of my extensive research with the writer which I now regret. Yet, the story as I presented it was ignored (except for freely using my research, and often wrongly). The facts were not presented correctly and incorrect statements were made. Again, unfortunately, you, the reader, would never know that. I now feel that I owe it to my grandfather to set the record in his favor again, and hopefully you will learn more of his story than was presented in this article. He waited 100 years for this, and I feel that I've let him down. Yes, there was a large photograph in the print newspaper, but this article did my grandfather no favors. There is an uncanny irony to the story as well, 1918 and 2018, as the events have played out. I have written a short book detailing the story. If anyone is interested in a copy, let me know.

How bias and conflict of interest showed up in the article, and corrections to the story

   In regards to Dr.Jaffrey, the underlying tone of this article was trivializing, patronizing and dismissive, and the debunking nature of the article put a damper on an enthralling Hamilton story of great achievement. After building him up, the "expert" then made a critical assessment, declaring what happened, didn't happen, worked and didn't work. Comments about "tender loving care" and "would get better anyway" were dismissive (not to mention incorrect or misleading) and only served to undermine Dr. Jaffrey's achievements. But it is in the interest of these 'experts' to do so.  

   When I suggested this story to the Spectator and gave away all of my extensive research to the writer, it was not to have him setup in this way, and it was unethical use of my story and my research. Besides a large photograph of my grandfather in the print version of the newspaper, and the mention that I (Margaret Stowe) said the story had been 100% ignored, the article did not do anything to champion Dr. Jaffrey or his story, in fact, I am more than a bit heartbroken that those who read the Spectator article today or in 100 years, that is the story they will get, a biased misrepresentation, in fact, the story isn't there at all. I feel responsible, and now I have the sad job of writing this commentary. 

   Dr. Jaffrey was even left out of the article's published Timeline of the pandemic! Hard to believe. (Well...if Ann Herring could leave him out of her book on the Hamilton pandemic (researched by 19 researchers), then I suppose anything is possible.) 

What was wrong with this article. Biases and omissions (numbered sections below give details)
  1.  Biased experts and conflict of interest.
  2.  The Connaught Labs connection was completely deliberately left out! No one reading the article would even know that happened.
  3.  Not one distinction is mentioned (that he rightfully deserves)
  4.  Not one single front page headline or accolade quote from an article!
  5.  No mention of Hamilton General Hospital (WOW!)
  6. Missing from Timeline - Dr. Jaffrey's work (big news in 1918) was completely left out of the article's Timeline (in an article that featured him!).
  7.  Says there were a "few other doctors locally" doing this work. This is absolutely false and a real put down. Where did the writer get this information? (Answer, from a biased expert.) 
  8.  The article doesn't even get Dr. Jaffrey's job title right.
  9.  Last but not least, I (Margaret Stowe) did not get a lick of credit for any research used in this article, and setting Dr. Jaffrey up critique-style was an unethical use of my story and research.


As mentioned, Chris Rutty and Ann Herring, the "experts" brought in to make comments on Dr. Jaffrey and the Hamilton pandemic, had previously completely ignored Dr. Jaffrey, leaving him out of their own published works on the pandemic.

Chris Rutty represents a direct conflicting interest to Dr.Jaffrey, Connaught Laboratories of Toronto, in his capacity as historian and publicist for Sanofi Pasteur. It was Connaught Labs who, in October 1918, claimed the discovery of a vaccine that had already been discovered and used by Dr. Jaffrey in Hamilton. Actually, 
Connaught Labs didn't actually "discover" anything," they imported their vaccine, whereas Dr. Jaffrey had discovered his own, but Connaught stole the thunder.Unfortunately, no one reading the Spectator article would know that because this part of the story was simply left out. And no wonder it was left out, with Chris Rutty telling the story. It was big news at the time, front page news!, yet there is no mention of that in this article. Why wouldn't the Spectator say that? Why wouldn't the Spectator even mention the front page headlines ? Why wouldn't the Spectator want to champion its own doctor? The answer is that the writer was influenced by this biased expert, in whose interest it is to downplay Dr. Jaffrey, and the writer let this bias influence the tone (and debunking nature) of this article. A biased version was presented over the factual story of what happened. In his own displays on the pandemic, "expert" Chris Rutty boldly displays the accolades of the doctors from Connaught Labs alongside articles about the "discovery" of the vaccine by Connaught Labs. You will NEVER find Dr. Jaffrey mentioned anywhere in the publications of Chris Rutty. It is in his interest to make Dr. Jaffrey disappear, and he did a great job of trivializing his importance and presenting a patronizing tone.Given this conflict of interest, how can Chris Rutty possibly by asked to make comments on Dr. Jaffrey's story and to assess his value? And why is Dr. Jaffrey's value being assessed anyway? What about the historical story? What excuse does the Hamilton Spectator have of critiquing my grandfather's story using this biased expert? How ironic that Connaught Labs took the credit back in 1918, and the myth continues to this day.  

Ann Herring wrote a book about the Hamilton pandemic as few years ago (2012?) and left Dr. Jaffrey completely out of the story. This is frankly unbelievable, given the front page headlines and articles. How could one possible miss this? Can Ann Herring actually make me believe that she found every other Hamilton pandemic story worth mentioning except for that? It is truly head-scratching. Either she and her (19 is it?) researchers totally missed what was going on, or Dr. Jaffrey was intentionally left out. Either way, it is a very stark oversight or omission for an academic who claims expertise. What possible excuse could she come up with? And, given the importance of the subject matter, the valuable experimental science that was going on, and Hamilton having one of only a small handful of doctors doing this in the world at the time, one has to shake one’s head at the omission. What kind of an authority can Ann Herring be on the Hamilton pandemic? When I inquired with Ms. Herring, she said she had never heard of Dr. Jaffrey. How can she possibly be asked to make comments about the Hamilton pandemic scene?

I will say again, the Spectator writer knew all of this beforehand. What kind of journalism is that? My grandfather's story is at stake here. 


Dr. Jaffrey had isolated the germ(s) back in September 1918 and had already been using a vaccine for at least two weeks before Connaught Labs in Toronto started making a vaccine, yet Connaught took the local credit for the "discovery." In fact, Connaught Labs didn't "discover" anything, they received their bacilli from their U.S. sources. Dr. Jaffrey had discovered his own bacilli a month earlier, one of the earliest doctors (only a small handful in the world) to do this experimental science, that early in the game, and was using a vaccine in Hamilton even days earlier than Dr. Park in New York (who later supplied Connaught with bacilli) and two weeks before Connaught Labs announced their "discovery."

The Globe (1844-1936) (22 Oct 1918 p. 1 front page) – “Vaccine Already In Use There
"The doctors of the city claim that Dr. Jaffrey, bacteriologist at the City Hospital, two weeks ago discovered the vaccine that is being used in Toronto as a preventive against Spanish Influenza, and that it had been in use here for some time.
Hamilton Herald (21 Oct 1918, front page) "Using Vaccine against Influenza"
"The 'flu' preventative which is said to have been discovered at the Connaught Laboratory of the University of Toronto has been used in Hamilton for nearly two weeks. Dr. Jaffrey of the city hospital staff, when 'flu' first broke out among the soldiers studied the cases. He succeeded in isolating the germs, with the result that he discovered a vaccine. It has been used by medical men of the city and the nursing staff of the hospitals..." 
   Having been the first of the two city labs was part of Dr. Jaffrey's distinction, and he was hailed for that in the newspapers, not only by the Spectator but by The Globe, Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Journal etc. Yet in 2018, the Spectator, his hometown newspaper, doesn't even mention that! What do you expect when you engage the Connaught Labs official publicist as an "expert" consultant?


In September 1918, Dr. Jaffrey was one of the earliest doctors to do this experimental science during the pandemic and was one of only a small handful in the world at the time. Locally, he was UNIQUE. Why didn't the Spectator say that? Instead, they said he was only one of many doctors locally who did that, which is completely false. The article simply seemed to refuse to give Dr. Jaffrey any distinction! Why? Answer, because one or more experts told him that Dr. Jaffrey wasn't that important, and he believed him. In addition to these distinctions below, in December 1918, the Hamilton doctors stated that in the Spectator

"Dr. Jaffrey was indispensable to Hamilton during the pandemic."

And when Dr. Jaffrey got sick himself in December (not influenza), Hamilton had to import another doctor from outside with the expertise, as there was no doctor in Hamilton that could carry on Dr. Jaffrey's serum work in his absence.     
For the record - Dr. Jaffrey's distinctions
  • Isolating germ - In September 1918, Dr. Jaffrey was one of the earliest to isolate (what they thought were) influenza 'germs' during the pandemic.Only a very small handful of doctors in the world had done this work (discovering bacilli and creating vaccines) and, locally, Dr. Jaffrey was unique in his achievements, well ahead of  Connaught Labs (who later took the credit). The closest doctor who created a vaccine at that early time was Dr. Reed in Kingston. But in September, there were a very few globally.When the flu first hit the military camps, Dr. Jaffrey risked his life by going among the soldiers, dead and dying to do this experimental science for which he had a talent and passion.
  • Vaccine - He created one of the early experimental heat-killed bacterial vaccines, weeks before Connaught Labs, and was inoculating soldiers and medical people a week earlier than Dr. Park in New York (who supplied Connaught with bacilli. Dr. Jaffrey has discovered his own bacilli.).
  • Serum - Dr. Jaffrey then created one of the early (only) serum treatments that was used by the medical profession to treat the desperately ill and dying and was reported to work so well he was supplying both Toronto and Hamilton.This was also heralded in the press. No one else was making serum, and only a few other doctors in the world had done so at that early time. In fact, most were working on vaccines, serums like Dr. Jaffrey's (which was reported to have excellent results*) were rare.
I ask, "Why didn't the Spectator mention any of these things?" They were all known to the writer. Hamilton had one of the earliest doctors in the world to do this work, and the article didn't even mention that! What do you expect when you engage the Connaught Labs official publicist as your "expert" consultant?

[* This is not a history, but studies, reports and accounts show that something "did happen" during the pandemic from the experimentation with heat-killed bacteria based vaccines and serums (diphtheria based), and much was learned from their use. It is acknowledged that there was an evident preventative effect, not on influenza itself, but on pneumonia, which showed up in reports of less cases, less deaths among cases and amongst the seriously ill, as in the case of Dr. Jaffrey's serum, which was reported by multiple credible doctors to have excellent, even life saving, results.
  This make comments made by Chris Rutty about patients "getting better anyway" seem uninformed and only served to undermine of the great story that had just preceded it. Once again, the setup, build the story up, then, the judgmental style "critique," brings it down. This suggests that doctors were giving serum to people who weren't that sick and had no way of knowing if they would get better anyway. This shows a lack of knowledge of the real life drama that was going on in the hospitals. They weren't giving away serum, it was hard to make, and they only had small quantities. It was used only on those who were desperately ill and those deemed to be dying, and it was administered in hospitals only, and only by Dr. Jaffrey. And instead of watching the "desperately ill" and "those expected to die," die one after the other, multiple credible doctors saw many of these patients quickly improve after receiving doses of Dr. Jaffrey's serum. They DID "put the two together," but this was negated and trivialized in the Spectator article by these unnecessary simplistic statements.  
"The first?" A note about claims in the press that Dr. Jaffrey was "the first"

The press reported several times that he was "the first” to discover a vaccine. He wasn't the first in the world, we know that, but there were only 2-3 others globally in September and early October, and they were for the most part in the U.S. military. Dr. Jaffrey was without doubt one of the early few, globally, and was absolutely the first in this area (and likely, in Canada). Dr. Reed in Kingston in early October was as close as it gets. Dr. Jaffrey was the only one, working on his own in the Hamilton City Labs, well before Connaught Labs in Toronto. The headlines were published with good reason.

So, this statement proves itself to be true.

“Dr. Jaffrey was one of the earliest small handful of doctors globally to isolate influenza bacilli in September 1918, and was the first to discover and use both an experimental vaccine and a serum treatment during the pandemic.”
   Having done a considerable amount of research, I cannot think of another doctor anywhere about whom this can be said, and who did this within the short early time period. Dr. Leary in the U.S. was the only other, though Leary didn’t create both a vaccine and a serum, he sold his vaccine as either/or preventative or treatment. Dr. Jaffrey’s serum was based on the diphtheria serum which is different that the heat-killed bacteria based vaccine he had made a couple of weeks earlier. Dr. Jaffrey was successful with both experimental processes, within a short period of time. So, I believe the claim that he was "the first," is well founded, and I feel very comfortable using the statement above. 
Why didn't the Spectator give him any distinction in this regard? This wasn't important enough to mention?  


Though the article mentions press "coverage," it doesn't mention the several front page articles and headlines, and not a single one is shown! The article shows another front page with the word "influenza" in the the headline, but it had nothing to do with Dr. Jaffrey. There were so many with Dr. Jaffrey in the headline! Why didn't the Spectator show one his those? Why? The only explanation is bias. For some reason, Dr. Jaffrey's headlines were ignored in 2018 by this own local newspaper, the Hamilton Spectator, who had been so proud of his achievements back in 1918!! In 1918, Dr. Jaffrey was flooded with praise and accolades, in 2018, no accolades. 

Recent displays by Chris Rutty about Connaught Labs and the pandemic story continue to proudly display 1918 articles that announce the "discovery" of the vaccine alongside photos of the doctors. Yet the Hamilton Spectator article wouldn't even show Dr. Jaffrey's headlines or mention any of his achievements and accolades! And not a single press quote! And there are 10 good ones! The Spectator didn't step up, it deferred down. Here are a few quotes (resulting from my hard earned research).

Ottawa Journal (30 Oct 1918:4)
“Hamilton has every reason to feel proud...has brought such distinction on the city.”

Hamilton Herald (Fri 25 Oct 1918, front page)
"To Dr. Jaffrey fell the honor of having first discovered the vaccine which is being used by the medical profession here as a preventive, and now this physician has brought to light that which the greatest scientists of the country have been searching for, a serum..."

The Globe (1844-1936) (26 Oct 1918, p. 2) - “Claims He Has Found A Serum – "Hamilton Bacteriologist Using One From Blood of ‘Flu’ Patients Recovered.”- Hamilton Oct 25 – Dr. Jaffrey, the bacteriologist, announced that he has discovered a serum that has been used with remarkable success on victims of Spanish Influenza..."
Fredericton Gleaner (Oct 30, 1918) - “To a Hamilton physician has come the distinction of having first prepared a serum for influenza…”
Oct 22, 1918 - “Men of science are united in saying that Dr. Jaffrey has given them just what all have been looking for, a safe and sure anti-toxin for la grippe.” 
Nov 2, 1918 – “No man has stepped to the front more rapidly than Dr. W. Reginald Jaffrey"
This last quote makes a very important point. He stepped up as early as any doctor in the world and he achieved all of that, by himself, in the Hamilton city lab.

Here's a front page article.
Hamilton Spectator 21 Oct 1918 front page



This article doesn't even mention the Hamilton General Hospital a.k.a. the City Hospital once! Quite unbelievable. Dr. Jaffrey's story took place there! I can hardly believe this was left out. Dr. Jaffrey was Pathologist the City of Hamilton and the Hamilton General Hospital, in charge of the city laboratory from 1915-1919 (this article didn't even say that). 

Wouldn't you think the Hamilton General would be interested in adding this to their list of the hospital's historical moments and achievements? Wouldn't you think they'd like to hang a picture of Dr. Jaffrey somewhere or include something about him in their archive? But calls to the greater Hamilton conglomerate never resulted in any returned calls or emails. Oh, Hamilton. Regardless of that, why the Spectator article would neglect to mention the Hamilton General Hospital is really a mystery (like why this article is so diminutive.).

After featuring Dr. Jaffrey in the article, the writer leaves his activity out of the city's pandemic Timeline. I suppose that jives with Ann Herring saying that Hamilton had "nothing." 
Quite unbelievable.


Quote from Spectator article: "Others were doing similar work, such as the Connaught Laboratories in Toronto, but very few on a local level."
What "very few on a local level?" Who, exactly? I want their names and proof that they worked on vaccines and serums. This was quite an affront to Dr. Jaffrey's distinction. Dr. Jaffrey was the first and only doctor locally to do this at that time. Dr. Reed in Kingston was as close as it gets, Dr. Park in New York, one doctor in Europe, very, very few globally, and he was absolutely unique locally. What was wrong with you? Why didn't you say that? In fact, I cannot think of any doctor anywhere who did the amount that Dr. Jaffrey did in that early period of time. Connaught Labs in Toronto didn't come along until a month after these doctors (including Dr. Jaffrey) had already done it. Why didn't the Spectator say any of this? The writer knew this but didn't step up. What do you expect when you engage, and become influenced by, biased expert consultants. Very disappointing. I expected so much more. 

Why else would the writer say there were "very few on local level" unless someone had told him that. The writer had read my book (which I gave him) which mentions the other doctors who were doing this. I also have considerable expertise on this subject, but the writer openly refused to believe what I had reported, and instead, deferred to a biased expert, and in the end, it presented an incorrect picture. Bottom line, this article made a false statement, intentionally. There were not a few others locally. Dr. Jaffrey was unique, whether you like it or not.   

Message to the Spectator writer - If you are going to remove Dr. Jaffrey's distinction of being the first and only doctor in this area to do this work, I would like proof of that. Please send me the names of those other local doctors you mentioned, and dated proof that they created vaccines or serums. Thanks. 


The article didn't even give him the respect of a correct job title! He was first called the coroner, in charge of the dead. Then the word pathologist was mentioned with a 'small p' 

Job Title
Dr. W.R. Jaffrey was "Pathologist for the City of Hamilton and the Hamilton General Hospital," and in charge of the city laboratory from 1915-1919.


All of the detail of the story and the newspaper articles used or referred to in this article relating to Dr. Jaffrey (and a lot of the general pandemic info) came directly from me. The writer did not go out and find those articles with those stories. The writer didn't know about Dr. Deadman, etc, etc. That all came from my extensive research which he called up freely, yet did not give me any credit for this whatsoever. The reader would have the erroneous belief that the writer Mark McNeil did all of this research.  

It was an unethical use of my story and my research to set my grandfather up for a critique style judgement. Unethical, biased, and unfair.  


      By the way, regarding Ann Herring's comment about "nothing"

      This article also declared (quoting Ann Herring) that in the middle of the crisis the Hamilton medical authorities had "nothing" to help fight the disease. In the face of this whole story, how could she say that? She continues to ignore Dr. Jaffrey! Even long before the worst of the crisis, they DID have something. Dr. Jaffrey created a vaccine in the city lab in the first days of October after weeks of hard work, and vaccinated 1000 people, then soon after offered a serum that appeared to work, and gave some hope. This was in the newspaper and would have been known to the Hamilton doctors, the military doctors, Toronto doctors, soldiers and many of the people of Hamilton. Maybe Ann Herring didn't know that (she missed all of this the first time). It's an important omission, she completely ignored that he was even there. Hamilton did not have “nothing.” 

      If health official Dr. Roberts had been paying attention, Hamilton could have had much more. So, because of Dr. Roberts' negligence in involving the city doctors, in a sense, Hamilton did have "nothing." Dr. Roberts completely ignored what the local doctors were doing and told them to "mind their own business." It's all documented in the press. 

      Hamilton DID have something, Dr. Jaffrey worked his ass off, day and night! Hamilton had one of the earliest doctor who went among the dead and dying to discover a germ, and to make and use both a vaccine and serum treatment. Dr. Jaffrey was very important, and his story is unique, I repeat that once again, because it is correct and true. 

      And even more...
      Chris Rutty said, "The only thing that really worked in 1918 was tender loving care."


      Margaret Stowe

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