In 1864, Tilbury Fox described the contagious impetigo of children and infants. He called attention especially to the vesicular form which now appears in maternity wards. In 1891, Almquist showed that the infecting organism was a staphylococcus. In 1900, Matzenauer linked pemphigus neonatorum to impetigo contagiosa by proving the identity of the activating microbe. Animal inoculation generally failed, but in 1911, Landsteiner and his associates produced pemphigoid lesions in the chimpanzee.
With these several discoveries, the knowledge of impetigo remained about the same until 1917. Curiously, in the fifty-three years that elapsed after its recognition by Fox, particular attention was not called to the disease in any widespread epidemic. In 1917, however, as a questionnaire verified, this condition, hitherto rare and sporadic, suddenly changed its type and appeared in more or less virulent epidemics. Few maternity cases were exempt, and some physicians who had not had any experience with impetigo as a nursery problem were overwhelmed by the flood of cases. Everywhere nurseries were treated like hospitals for contagious diseases, but only with partial success. Many were closed entirely, and others should have been.