As far back as the 1700s, it was recorded that certain infectious disease processes could exert a beneficial therapeutic effect upon malignancy. Most prominent among the numerous deliberate efforts made to take advantage of these observations was that of a pioneering New York surgeon, William B. Coley, active career 1891-1936. Using a bacterial vaccine to treat primarily inoperable sarcoma. Coley accomplished a cure rate of better than 10%. This review examines the history of these efforts and presents a discussion of their corresponding relevance to present day immunotherapy.