December 1918

Quarantines and regulations, being lifted, being reinstated, being imposed occur throughout the month, in all corners of the country and across the globe (December 7, 9. 14, 16, 19, 24, 25). In Seattle fifteen workers are employed putting quarantine signs on private residences (December 7). In Oklahoma city, OK the health officer issues “10 flu commandments,” number one is to use a handkerchief (December 9), in Chickasha, OK houses are also placarded and no one living there can attend church or school (December 24). In Topeka, KS plans for restrictions to address the third wave allow shops to open, and are endorsed by the chamber of commerce (December 16). In Grand Marais, MN an infant and a nineteen year old Chipewa are dead from pneumonia (December 4).

The reckoning has begun for the war (December 8, 22, 27, 31) The cost of the to the US Treasury is estimated at $25B, the federal domestic budget is $6B (December 31). Woodrow Wilson call for an “organized moral force” to ensure the peace (December 22). The use of chemical weapons is debated as soldiers return badly wounded (December 8) and the Washington, DC Humane Society calls for man end to chemical weapon experiments on animals (December 1). The German war dead is estimated at 6 million (December 27). The war has left 400,000 Armenian and Syrina children orphaned (December 27). One million men have been demobilized since the end of the war (December 29), and the return of prominent fighters is reported - Ty Cobb, who served in the chemical corps (December 28) Johnny Evers from the Chicago Cubs (December 28)

The influenza is also subject to review (December 1, 2, 5, 17, 19, 22, 30). A Carlsbad, NM newspaper argues that the influenza underscores the need for a state health department, as do the 2000 preventable infant deaths in the state (December 2). holiday crowds are blamed for a new blooming of cases in the District of Columbia (December 30). The Washington Times reports that twice as many Americans have died from influenza than in the war, and that the biggest threat is the American tendency to forget (December 17). In Liberal, KS a new two-week quarantine is declared as another wave occurs (December 19). Pulmonary tuberculosis cases are increasing in Spain the UK and the US as a result of the influenza (December 5). The American Public Health Association focuses on the lessons from the influenza epidemic (December 1), and Dr Woodward (in Boston since August 1918 and former DC health officer) gives a report to a New York physicians meeting (December 22).

The Irish parliament is established in Dublin (December 29).

Strikes in the United States and Germany are regularly reported (December 3, 6, 9, 12, 22). The Spartacus movement in Berlin is confronted by troops (December 9) and Premier Ebert has Prussian Guards raid their offices (December 12). American Federation of Labor leader Thornton warns that workers will not accept post-war wage cuts (December 6). Striking Toronto police return to work (December 22),

The influenza outbreak continues into the new year before finally killing as many as 100 million worldwide before its end in 1919.

November 1918

George Creel, head of the Committee on Public Information, announced the end of the censorship regulations (November 19).

The GOP win a majority in the House of Representatives and a tie in the Senate (November 5, 6, 7), but the results are delayed by the war measure control over the telegraphs. In Ohio a Democratic Party Governor (James Cox) is elected, the Prohibition amendment passes and both Ohio legislatures turn Republican (November 8).

The deaths from spanish flu are reported in every state of the United States, front pages are dominated with the congressional and state elections and the end of the war. The Bamberg, SC paper publishes a blanck front page, unable to collate the news because of the influenza (November 21). Second and third waves of the flu are reported, with numerous warnings about the dire consequence of ignoring quarantine and public health advisories (November 3, 5, 15, 16, 27). The Pennsylvania Health Department reports there have been 35,000 deaths in the state and more will occur if regulations are ignored (November 14), in Louisiana the state health officer insists the regulations stay in place (November 16). The citizens of Ogden. UT are encouraged to report all cases, walk in the open air, stay in bed, and follow all health orders (November 27). The quarantine is lifted at Bellevue hospital in NYC, but the regulation against spitting will be enforced (November 3). In Harrisburg, PA the quarantine is lifted and churches will hold mid-week series (November 5).

The armistice is reported (November 11) and celebrated under conditions prescribed by the influenza; gas masks are required in Grants Pass, OR. Gas masks are also required at marriage ceremonies (November 2) to protect the assembled celebrants.

The Red Cross and the War Work Boards shift their roles to post-war responsibilities (November 13, 25, 29, 30). The War Work Board of Alexandria, VA calls for continued civilian sacrifice to ensure troops are fed, and expects another $30,000 from the city (November 13). The Lake Division Red Cross asks volunteers to continue to provide influenza and civilian relief and await plans for the demobilization (November 25). Maryland plans to wind up the Americanization and Compulsory Work Board by the end of the year (November 30).

Newspapers of all types - local, national, syndicated - personalize the epidemic - with biographies and stories of multiple deaths in families. The Penn crew has three casualties, with Lt Glanz succumbing to flu (November 17). Mary Saunders a homesteader in Trego, KS since the 1870s dies from flu one hour after her 18 year old daughter (November 28). The Logan, UT newspaper describes the illnesses of local residents Ms Anna Clark and Mrs Banning, squeezed between advertisements for chiropractors (November 23). In South Dakota Ira Shauf and Lillian Chapman are reported dead, even as Cod Kimball reports his onions have protected his family. There is also coverage of the longer term consequences of the epidemic: in New York there are tens of thousands of orphans in need of adoption (November ; leadership positions can’t be filled in the Parkersburg, WV masons shrine (November 20).

October 1918

The influenza deaths are reported in every corner of the United States, even as the war continues and the 1918 election campaign is underway. In the District of Columbia there are 32 deaths on October 7, in Philadelphia 572 deaths are reported on a single day (October 13), and there is a report of 7000 cases from Tipton County, TN out of a population of 30,000. The conditions in the camps are a regular focus (October 2, 7, 9, 17, 19, 25). The commandant of the marine training camp is has died of pneumonia (October 7), Ty Cobb has reported to Camp Humphreys to a chemical warfare unit (October 2), and Camp Oglethorpe is struggling to maintain a health workforce (October 19).

The Ohio Dry Federation is complaining that “wet fraud” is being perpetrated: alcohol is being used to treat the influenza at Camp Sherman (October 25). In Belmont County (WV) the Dry Federation reports that the Kaiser is chuckling because wheat is being diverted to produce alcohol and not for feeding the troops (October 30). In Philadelphia saloons are ordered closed at 7pm (October 4), and in New York the saloons and hotel bars are required to all only heatless crackers, pickles and olives (October 20). Additional food restrictions are encouraged by Presbyterian leaders, who also inform the congregation to protect themselves from the influenza in order to help others (October 16). The Red Cross discourages shipping liquor in Christmas packages (October 23).

Tents (October 2) and temporary hospitals in Philadelphia (October 3) are supplemented with many public health measures to stop the epidemic spread. Early saloon closings in Philadelphia (October 4), public facilities in El Paso and Phoenix (October 6), serum vaccination for shipworkers in Seattle (October 8), sheriff enforced dispersal of public gatherings in Columbia, SC (October 9), churches, movie palaces and soda fountains in Morgan City, LA (October 10). The Baptist General Association delays its national convention for a month (October 12).

The Red Cross is set to distribute 1 million packs of cigarettes, 2 million tons of coffee and 8 million meals a week in Europe (October 11). The men of St Jospeh, MO have demonstrated their virility by supporting the Red Cross and the Liberty Bond drive (October 26), now the Democrats party says they need to do the same by voting for the party ticket. The 4th Liberty Bond drive in Wilmington, DE is set at $56 per capita, this is the equivalent of 2 weeks of the average wage (October 23).

September 1918

The reporting of the influenza epidemic explodes across the country, with deaths in the camps [Devens, Lee, Upton] (finally) getting covered (September 18, 20). The New York commissioner Copeland is praised as patriot for issuing anti-kissing advice (September 6). National coverage starts with Boston (September 10, 11, 13, 16); Surgeon General Blue reports outbreaks in Virginia Beach (September 14) and has spread from Boston to shipyards in New London, New York and Philadelphia (September 16); reports from Wilmington, NC (September 23), Seattle September 24), Newark, DE (September 25) and Lumberton, NC (September 25) cover restrictions on movement, quarantines, move theater closings and school shutdowns.

The influenza outbreak is a dominant topic on front pages, with Chan gets in death rates and cases being reported daily. NYC health authorities start requiring all cases be reported (September 18); health authorities report there is no need for alarm (Philadelphia September 19, New York, September 22).

Herbert Hoover reports rationing will be lifted in 1919 because of the success of the harvest (September 22). The state department has stopped trying to send food aid to Russia because it is proving too difficult to distribute (September 3). Rumors of Lenin’s death circulate (Setpermber 2, 3, 4).

The draft has secured the names of between 13 and 14 million American men, almost 15% of the total population (September 17). A widow with sons serving in France is fire-bombed out of her house by racists in a neighborhood of Kansas City (September 28).

August 1918

The influenza outbreak in Europe is affecting the conduct and perception of the war (August 2,3,4,7,8,17,21,22). The English coalmining (August 2) and shipbuilding (August 8) productivity is down due to massive absenteeism. Dublin and Belfast are experiencing a widespread outbreak (August 7).

German children are dying from malnourishment (August 2). Belgium is experiencing high death rates due to the lack of food (August 7) and the Swiss government reports that the famine in Germany is adding to the spread of Spanish Influenza (August 22). The information from Switzerland is provided by a Committee on Public information delegate in Zurich. Americans are encouraged to forgo wheat to ensure the troops are fed (August 21), and to Save Food to feed 120 million civilians in Europe (August 9, 17). US and English food production has increased despite labor shortages (August 3, 17, 28).

The influenza outbreak is acknowledged in New York City (August 11). The city is at the epicenter of communications and its physicians, their advice and the progression of the outbreak dominate national news (August 11, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 30). The former NYC commissioner Goldwater calls for a federal response to the epidemic, due to 50% of physicians being deployed to serve the war effort (August 11). A Norwegian passenger ship is the focus of health authorities in Brooklyn (August 14, 15, 21) as many as a dozen passengers are quarantined for flu symptoms. New Yorkers are reported to be unconcerned because they have been pre-warned about the influenza (August 26), current commissioner Copeland describes the outbreak as mild (August 30).

Baseball players are given until September 1 to find essential employment (August 3). The order is later relaxed to after thei season is finished. Attendance at games is well off normal (August 21). By the end of the month the Cubs and Red Sox are winning their divisions and set for the World Series (August 30).

The Army confirms its racial policies for healthcare provision, and that African American nurses will be recruited to treat the African American soldiers at Camp Funston (August 10). The National Medical Associaiton of African American doctors meets at Virginia Union, there are no papers or discussion on influenza, although there are many on general diseases in the camps (August 31).

July 1918

Strikes and labor unrest are compounded by the spread of influenza. Factories  (July 1) and mines (July 2) are closed in England due to influenza, munitions workers strike in Birmingham, England (July 30), in Frankfurt, Germany a third of the factory workers are absent due to the flu (July 14). President Wilson seeks to takeover the telegraphs to ensure national security (July 1). The War Labor Board finalizes rules for women in the workforce (July 22).

The German Army has halted another offensive strike due to the number of troops that are sick with influenza (July 2). The Committee on Public Information issues a widely reproduced article that wants not to depend on German weakness, but on American strength (July 18). Germany restricts the publication of the numbers affected (July 11, 14, 26), the Swiss Army reports 109 dead from influenza (July 24) and 11,500 sick. The Red Cross commits $100K (600K francs) to relief in Switzerland (July 25). The medical corps have to add 3 special influenza hospitals for 6 troop transports heading for Scandinavia, 125 officers and 1000 enlisted are sick (July 17).

New York's leading public health physicians describe the widespread influenza in the city as a mild variant of the 1889 grippe (July 16). Annie Daniel, MD notes that a child born on the New York City East Side has a mortality rate six times higher than a soldier at the front (July 21). Physicians report that influenza has reached Belfast, Ireland, but never reached alarming proportions (July 27). German cities experience typhus and malaria outbreaks in addition to the influenza (July 26).

Herbert Hoover, the US food administrator, argues the war is being won by American agriculture, and its ability to feed the Allies (July 23). The Senate blocks an attempt to attach attach the Prohibition amendment to the emergency food bill (July 11).

June 1918

The influenza is being reported in new places: Tientsin, China (June 1); Brooklyn, NY (June 2); Morocco (June 3); Berlin (June 17); Camp Lewis (June 20), Lancashire, England (June 29). The outbreak is severe in the German army ranks and undermining their fighting ability (June 25, June 27). The German troops captured by the French confirm the outbreak is widespread in the enemy ranks. (June 29).

The Brooklyn outbreak is said to have spread to Babe Ruth when he pitched there for the Boston Red Sox. The Salt Lake Bees pitcher Ken Penner pitches them to victory over San Francisco despite being stricken with flu (June 8).

The Army is being expanded to 5 million men (June 27). Secretary Baker says there will be no race discrimination in the draft (June 23). The Army is expanding the officers corps to take back training of the troops from foreign officers (June 11), while the Army appropriations bill expands the medical corps by adding another level of general officers (June 20).

Georgia is the thirteenth state to pass the Prohibition amendment (June 27). Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels states that more ships are being built in the "dry areas," contradicting his fellow Administration members (June 26).

Another coal shortage is being anticipated (June 8, June 18). Food shortages and civilian sacrifice (June 5) are reported through the month, but a bumper wheat crop is expected to be able to feed the troops and Aliies (June 7). Food is rejected as adulterated at Camp Silo (June 30). 

May 1918

The outbreak of influenza becomes the focus of reports from Europe at the end of the month (May 27, 28, 30). The ability of the German troops to fight is reported (May 27), the origin of the outbreak is placed in Spain (May 28, 30). U.S. troop health in the camps continues to be reported as "very good," despite the increase in deaths from pneumonia (May 16).

Reports for the camps focuses more on morale and entertainment. The national wrestling championship will feature a match between representative of Camp Cody and Camp Bliss (May 1). A soldier from Camp Meade writes how important the Liberty Bonds are to his welfare, detailing how much food and ammunition it will purchase. (May 3).

Partisanship, patriotism and free speech restrictions are all issues. The banning of the the Hearst owned press is banned in New Jersey (May 19, 26) is questioned by Teddy Roosevelt. The Sedition Bill is passed by the Senate (May 5), two days latter they pass a bill without debate outlawing the Wobblies (May 7). A national meeting of Republicans criticizes the conduct of the war and the manipulations of George Creel head of the Committee on Public Information (May 29).

Support for the The Red Cross remains a key definition of patriotism (May 14). A fundraiser for the Red Cross at Camp Raritan is expected to bring in $10,000 (May 10).  A railroad executive is accused of not supporting the Red Cross (May 24) resulting in calls for his dismissal.

The Suffrage Bill is delayed the Senate (May 6). 

Sinn Fein leader DeValera is arrested for opposing the war (May 8), later in the month the arrest total exceeds over 500 (May 19).

April 1918

Influenza and pneumonia are prominent in Army Medical Corps reports from Camp Lewis (April 1), Camp Pike (April 4). From now until the end of the 1918 the Army Medical corps weekly troop health report will be a regular feature of news coverage. A frequent part of the commentary will be the poor habits and pre-draft health of the troops. 

Large-scale influenza/grippe outbreaks are reported in the Ford factories (April 2), although the reports were more in depth outside the state than in Michigan. In Mexico, Missouri (April 3, 17) schools are closed as a result of grippe. Yet, the Vermont Health Department's annual report expresses little concern about pneumonia or influenza.

Robert Prager in Collinsville, Illinois is lynched for "pro German sentiments." (April 6). There are numerous reports about how vigilantes mete their brand of justice, particularly in the mid-West: a farmer is bound over on a $1000 bond and lectured on democracy (April 8); a citizen is tarred and feathered for not buying a Liberty Bond (April 29); an "alien property custodian" is engaged to cease "enemy-owned livestock."

The speed of the sale of Liberty Bonds is an ongoing concern (April 7, 10, 19, 29). A newsboy who uses his tips to buy a Bond is the subject of a CPI profile (April 7).

The Sinn Fein led resistance to the British drafting of Irishmen continues (April 14). The restriction on alcohol sales continues as New Hampshire end all sales (April 30).

March 1918

Report are concentrated on war preparation during March 1918. US soldiers risk severe punishment for sleeping on duty (March 1), desertion (March 8), and avoiding the draft (March 10). War bonds or other fundraising efforts are the topic in several local posts (March 1, 2, and 6, 11, 18, 19, 20), with one of them featuring an event for which 50 lbs of whale meat had been secured (March 20), as other meats were saved for the troops. While the meat rationing has reduced beef consumption by 30%, according to one testament in a Senate hearing, a beef shortage is predicted unless cattle feeders and farmers are given relief (March 12).

Influenza starts to appear more frequently in the news, and the extent of it in the army is noted (March 29). "Grippe will not be so fashionable when it becomes generally known that many of our army mules are suffering from influenza” reports Indiana’s Jasper Weekly Courier (March 15). The first private checked into Camp Funston with influenza at the beginning of the month (March 4) and by the end, 163 of soldiers at Camp Sherman have influenza (March 21). The widespread vaccination of pigs is reported on March 18, and another post argues that protecting pigs can prevent influenza (March 7).

The overall general health in US military training camps is reported to be “very good,” despite an increase in deaths from 18 to 223; most of these deaths are due to pneumonia (March 29). The importance of keeping the troops healthy is recognized, as physicians in the medical reserve are considered for a rank increase (March 14). In the general public, a “war” on “secret diseases” (STDs) is declared (March 3), a third case of smallpox is reported in Barre, Vermont (March 5), and exposure to communicable diseases, including influenza, is sufficient to exclude at school and Sunday school (March 22). 

February 1918

Throughout the month there are reports of serious influenza cases, pneumonia and grippe. None of the reports fear an impending pandemic, and other outbreaks and health issues are more prominent concerns. The bolshevikis are in control of Russia, and prepare to finish their involvement in the war. The description of patriotic efforts are widespread and contrast with reports on the brutal tactics of the Germans.

Outbreaks of smallpox (February 26), scarlet fever (February 14 and 27) lead to schools closings. The month is full of reports of pneumonia: a popular truck driver succumb in Maui, Hawaii (February 15); numerous troops at Camp Cody, Deming, New Mexico (February 13); a report from Chicago that pneumonia has cause 45,000 deaths in the last ten years, and is the leading killer in between January and April (February 23). The (lack of) ventilation is the projected cause for the deaths in Chicago, and the close proximity of living is cited on February 18 and 25 as causing disease among the troops at the camps.

Influenza is very colorfully described in a report (February 8) from Holbrook, Arizona as "the disease more than any other that causes a man to hate himself." The incidence of influenza lags behind injuries in Pennsylvanias health report (February 2) and tuberculosis in the report of deaths from Michigan for December 1917 (February 6). The grip, remedies and the difference between colds are in almost every newspaper, and in specific reports on February 18 and 19.

The cold weather continues to grip the country (February 3 and 7), disrupting transportation and the supply of energy. New York harbor is blocked due to ice (February 7), the Brattleboro, Vermont fuel committee commands the local population for agreeing to a local ban on entertainment until the end if April to conserve fuel (February 11). 

The grip of the national authorities and local enforcement (sometimes unofficial) of sedition laws is evident. The Committee of Hundred bring sedition charges in Montana against a circuit court judge for uttering pro-german remarks (February 4). William Crouser was fined $44 for verbally abusing the Red Cross in Mantiwoc, Wisconsin (February 7). While in the UK Bertrand Russell is imprisoned for libel, claiming the US would occupy England and France after the war (February 10).

Washington's birthday is celebrated with 10,000 troops marching through New York City (February 22), The garment workers donate their wages for the day to the bond drive. On Lincoln's birthday Larabee's Flour compares President Wilson to the Great Emancipator, and wraps Larabee's mission of feeding the troops and achieving the peace together (February 12).


January 1918

January 1918 is characterized by historically cold weather, coal shortages, increased food rationing and regulation, completion of Bolshevik control of the Revolution, state-by-state ratification of Prohibition and severe recriminations against anyone suspected of being less than a "loyal American." But where is the Great Influenza? Less than everywhere, and a poor competitor for newspaper space to other daily hazards and assaults to health . 

There are scattered reports from the communities hosting the huge new cantonments and camps for training troops (1/13 and 1/27 - Camp Funston; 1/16 Camp Dodge). Yet, the main focus of the Fosdick Commission, the regulator of troop health, is on STDs, alcohol and other infectious diseases (tuberculosis, measles). Commercial outlets, restaurants and bars in the militarized communities are licensed, sometimes for the first time in these states' histories.

The Red Cross undertook a massively succesful recruitment of 16 million volunteers to begin the year (1/8). The organization becomes a talisman for demonstration of personal commitment to the war effort, with houses being painted yellow of men refusing to allow their children to volunteer (1/31).

The American press is immensely rich with information. The number, location and variety of formats of newspapers is remarkable. Content was supplemented by the 75,000 employees of the Committee on Public Information, a government sanctioned and underwritten "news organization." Irish independence, voting rights for women, meatless Mondays, food and coal shortages, mysterious fires, Liberty Bond drives, and agricultural prices all compete for attention in an America at War in Europe. The Great Influenza is hinting at its presence, but will explode in the coming months.