According to Some observations on protein folding and unfolding Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology, volume 9, (1941), pages 278-282:
The highly specific properties attributed to the
gene direct our attention to the specific properties of
proteins. The wonderful specificity exhibited by the
respiratory proteins (hemoglobin and hemocyanin),
I'm not sure about the folding problem being thought relevant, but a decade before the discovery of the structure of the DNA (1953), many people did indeed assume that the genetic information was coded (directly) in proteins, e.g.
although Schrödinger used the term code and explicitly suggested that the hereditary molecule (which, like virtually everyone ...
Although there seems to be some remaining controversy over definitions between alive, re-animate, survive, dead etc. Eg: Where the 'alive' while no longer metabolising anything?
The initial skepticism regarding the actual findings however can no longer be denied: Were they really that old? (Apparently yes.) Or was this a result of unclean working ...