Bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) clones have proven invaluable for genetic manipulation of herpesvirus genomes. BAC cloning can also be useful for capturing representative genomes that comprise a viral stock or mixture. The Towne live attenuated cytomegalovirus vaccine was developed in the 1970s by serial passage in cultured fibroblasts. Although its safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy have been evaluated in nearly a thousand human subjects, the vaccine itself has been little studied. Instead, genetic composition and in vitro growth properties have been inferred from studies of laboratory stocks that may not always accurately represent the viruses that comprise the vaccine. Here we describe the use of BAC cloning to define the genotypic and phenotypic properties of viruses from the Towne vaccine. Given the extensive safety history of the Towne vaccine, these BACs provide a logical starting point for the development of next-generation rationally engineered cytomegalovirus vaccines.