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.