Headlines From 1918 Flu Could Be Ours Today

Display ad 8_wash your hands_lifebuoy soap

This 1918 ad for soap which ran during the Spanish flu pandemic emphasizes proper hand washing. Source: Chicago Tribune Archives

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Stay indoors. Isolate sick family members. Wear a mask, especially if you’re caring for a sick person. Wash your hands often, and don’t touch your mouth, nose, or face.

Sound familiar?

Covid-19 may be ravaging the world today, but 102 years ago in 1918, another deadly global pandemic was sweeping the world. Spanish Influenza—so-called because it was first openly reported there, rather than originating from Spain itself—ravaged the world over a terrifying two year period, killing millions of people and leaving the world particularly gutted in the wake of World War I.

Reading Chicago Tribune articles from 1918, I find it simultaneously comforting and disturbing prescient. They could easily be today’s headlines—minus the period wording, of course. Look and see if you can spot any Covid-19 related trends in these headlines from 1918:

SPANISH INFLUENZA: Epidemic Appears in Various Cities of the Country (Sept. 19)

GRIP SHUTS OFF JACKIE LIBERTY AT GREAT LAKES: Naval Camp Under Strict Orders to Stamp Out Spanish Influenza (Sept. 20)

SAYS INFLUENZA AT GREAT LAKES IS NOT ALARMING: Capt. Moffett Calms Relatives of Sailors; Admit Visitors Today (Sept. 22)

120 NEW CASES OF INFLUENZA AT SHERIDAN IN DAY: North Shore Towns Close Schools and Theaters as Precaution (Sept. 24)

20,211 CASES OF INFLUENZA IN U. S. ARMY CAMPS (Sept. 24)

STATE DEMANDS REPORT OF ALL NEW ‘FLU’ CASES: Epidemic Under Control, Is Belief; 77 Deaths in Day at Great Lakes (Sept. 26)

EPIDEMIC VICTIM: Evanston Girl, Settlement and Red Cross Worker, Dies of Pneumonia Following Spanish Influenza (Sept. 27)

200 PHYSICIANS CALLED TO FIGHT “FLU” EPIDEMIC: Request for State Action Comes from National Defense Official (Sept. 28)

‘FLU’ TO AFFECT HALF OF NATION, PHYSICIANS SAY: Predict Influenza Year But No Call for Alarm (Sept. 30)

INFLUENZA CASES OVERTAX NURSES AND PHYSICIANS: Hospital Aids Contract Disease; Forces Can’t Meet Demands (Oct. 2)

TURN GOLF CLUB INTO A HOSPITAL FOR INFLUENZA: Exmoor Meets Emergency in North Shore Epidemic; 54 Patients (Oct. 3)

NEED OF NURSES TO COMBAT ‘FLU’ GROWS URGENT: Red Cross Put in Charge of Work; Makes Plea for Volunteers (Oct. 4)

OFFICIALS MOVE TO CHECK “FLU” AT WASHINGTON: Try to Stop Gathering of People as Epidemic Grows (Oct. 16)

INFLUENZA: Hundreds of Deaths and Thousands of New Cases Reported in Many Cities (Oct. 16)

‘NONESSENTIAL’ CROWDS BARRED IN EPIDEMIC WAR: Churches and Saloons Exempt; Conventions, Athletics, Parties Hit (Oct. 17)

REYNOLDS CALLS FACE MASK BEST EPIDEMIC CHECK: Disease Contracted Only Through Nose or the Mouth, He Says (Oct. 18)

CABARETS CLOSE, OUTDOOR GAMES OFF, ‘FLU’ ORDER: Ban Extended to Cover All Sorts of Public Meeting Places (Oct. 18)

SOCIETY and Entertainments: Parties at Casino Continue Despite Influenza Ravages (Oct. 19)

ALL WHO PERIL HEALTH OF CITY TO BE ARRESTED: Alcock Orders Police to Enforce “Influenza” Rules Strictly (Oct. 19)

SALOONS RAIDED, CROWDS TAKEN IN BATTLE ON ‘FLU’: Whole City Warned to Wear Masks as Crisis Nears (Oct. 20)

2 YOUNG DOCTORS GIVE LIVES IN INFLUENZA FIGHT (Oct. 26)

‘FLU’ EPIDEMIC PASSING; DEATH RATE DECLINES: Restrictions on Public Gatherings to Be Maintained (Oct. 26)

LOOK OUT! “FLU” WILL LURK ABOUT FOUR MORE YEARS: Danger Until the Last Trace Goes, Warning of Doctors (Dec. 4)

WORKERS INSIST WOLF IS AT DOOR IF THEY FALL ILL: 72 Cents an Hour Wage Now Asked from Packers (Dec. 19)

INSURANCE LOSS FOR YEAR SETS NEW RECORDS: Government Action and Influenza the Chief Factors (Dec. 31)

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Creepy, isn’t it? Yet, I think these headlines offer something else as well: a bit of hope. If the world can survive a global pandemic that killed roughly 50 million people with rudimentary drugs, lack of medical personnel, and an even greater lack of understanding regarding viruses, I’d like to think that our world has a chance of beating Covid-19 too.

So, for the next little while folks, I’ll be diverting this blog from my more usual programming to discuss the Spanish Flu and how to relates to our situation in 2020, with the hopes of bringing a bit of comfort and knowledge to you all.

Stay safe Dear Readers,

M. S.

About lupachi1927

My name's Megan, and I'm a writer with an interest in history. While I might not be a real historian, I'm a very thorough researcher. This blog is my place to post about all the interesting historical tidbits I find that can't use in the novel I'm working on, which takes place in Chicago in 1927. If you're looking for research help, writing feedback, or just want to say hi, feel free to drop me a line! :)
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