The Other Pandemic 1918

The newspaper announcement below is from the November 9th, 1918 edition of the Belfast Telegraph. The headlines were saved for news of the stories about the final days of WW1 and the November 11th Armistice.

Influenza Outbreak, Belfast Telegraph, Saturday, November 9, 1918

Influenza Outbreak, Belfast Telegraph, Saturday, November 9, 1918

The text of the announcement is a bit fuzzy. Here’s what I think it says:

 

COUNTY BOROUGH OF BELFAST

INFLUENZA OUTBREAK.

THE PUBLIC HEALTH COMMITTEE RECOMMEND IN THE INTEREST OF PUBLIC HEALTH, THAT ALL SCHOOLS (BOTH SUNDAY AND DAY SCHOOLS) AND PLACES OF PUBLIC ENTERTAINMENT BE CLOSED FOR AT LEAST TEN DAYS

And that the following Precautions be observed by the Public generally:

  1. Avoid all crowded gatherings.
  2. Secure good ventilation and cleanliness in the home not forgetting the sleeping apartments.
  3. Take good, plain, nourishing food; avoid cold and fatigue as far as possible, and wear warm clothing as a precaution against Pneumonia.
  4. Spray all rooms used as workshops, factories, etc., morning and afternoon, with a solution of proper disinfectant, in the strength of a small capful of disinfectant in three gallons of water, and secure thorough ventilation throughout the properties
  5. In case of sickness go to bed at once, call in medical aid, and take special care to destroy the sputum preferably by burning as it is very infectious.
  6. If the foregoing precautions are followed and medical aid called in immediately on the first appearance of illness, the disease need not normarily be particularly dangerous.

HW BAILIE
Medical Superintendent Officer of Health
7th November, 1918

 

In October of 1920, my grandmother, Christiana Cambridge Poore (Kerley), travelled by ship from Belfast, Ireland along with her parents and 4 siblings, heading to a new life in Canada. Family members who had been living with them in Belfast had recently passed on. Her grandmother had died 2 years earlier and her aunt, never married, had died the previous year. It is unknown to me if their deaths had anything to do with the pandemic.

The 1918 Spanish flu was the first of two pandemics caused by H1N1 influenza A virus; the second was the w22009 swine flu pandemic. At the time, it was called the Spanish flu, not because it originated in Spain but because the Spanish newspapers were the first to report the outbreak. The true origin of the outbreak was unknown.

Spanish flu struck Dublin about 2 years after the 1916 Easter Rising which the city was still recovering from. Unlike the current coronavirus pandemic, the Spanish flu claimed the lives of many healthy, young adults as well as the elderly. Many victims were between the ages of 20 and 40.

The Other Pandemic in Canada

Here’s a snapshot of how the pandemic was playing out in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada where my father’s father, Robert Robertson Smith, was living at the time. He was married to Margaret Solan and first-born infant son Robert Louis Smith and also living with his father, James Smith. The Nanaimo Daily News dated October 16th, 1918 has 3 articles about the flu but was somewhat overshadowed by the “end of war” news.

Nanaimo Daily News, Wed Oct 16, 1918, full-page - pandemic articles

Nanaimo Daily News, Wed Oct 16, 1918, full-page

 

Nanaimo Daily News

On the front page of the December 5th, 1918 issue of the Nanaimo Daily News, the announcement of the emergency hospital in Nanaimo being closed let people know that the flu situation in the city was “clearing up”.

Emergency Hospital Closed Last Night Nanaimo Daily News December 5, 1918

Emergency Hospital Closed Last Night
Nanaimo Daily News
December 5, 1918

 

Below is the full page from the same December 5th, 1918 newspaper, again highlighting the attention to the war situation. Click or tap twice for full-screen reading (goes for my other images, as well)

The Nanaimo Free Press
December 5th, 1918

 

The following 4 excerpts are from the Vancouver Province, dated October 16th, 1918.

 

Alberta, Canada Fall 1918

In the next province, over in Alberta, 3 men pose in a field wearing masks.

Spanish Flu Alberta Field 1918

Spanish Flu Alberta Field 1918
Men in an Alberta field wear masks during the Spanish flu, Fall 1918, Canada
Unknown author / Public domain

 

Alberta Board of Health Poster

 1918 influenza epidemic poster issued by the Board of Health in Alberta, Canada.

1918 influenza epidemic poster issued by the Board of Health in Alberta, Canada
Alberta Board of Health / Public domain

 

Crowded Victory Celebrations helped Spread Pandemic

Then as now in 2020, large and crowded gatherings helped to spread the pandemic. Back then it was the crowds of the Victory Day celebrations.

On New Year’s Eve of 1918, my grandfather Fred Kerley was on his way back from the WW1 frontlines in France after having made a stop in Bournemouth, England to visit his father and other family members, the last visit of his lifetime, before journeying back to his adopted Canadian homeland in Victoria, British Columbia.

The picture below shows victory crowd in London, England in December of 1918.

Victory Celebrations in Britain after the First World War

Victory Celebrations in Britain after the First World War A crowd waits to greet Field Marshall Douglas Haig as he
passes down Pall Mall (East), London, on his arrival back to England, 19th December 1918
Horace Nicholls / Public domain

 

Mons, Belgium November 11th, 1918

Rider-Rider, W (Lt), Canadian Official photographer

Canadian troops marching through the streets of Mons,
Belgium on the morning of November 11th, 1918 / Public domain

 

Open Air Barbershop in the USA

The University of California, Berkeley, California<br Open-air barbershop during the influenza epidemic

The University of California, Berkeley, California
Open-air barbershop during the influenza epidemic National Archives and Records Administration / Public domain

 

New York City Conductorettes wearing Masks

Medical Department Influenza Epidemic1918 Masks for protection against influenza. New York City conductorettes wearing masks

Medical Department Influenza Epidemic 1918
Masks for protection against influenza.
New York City conductorettes wearing masks
National Archives and Records Administration / Public domain

 

Masked Women in Australia 1919

Women wearing surgical masks during the influenza epidemic in 1919<br /> Location: Brisbane, Queensland<br /> State Library of Queensland, Australia / No restrictions

Women wearing surgical masks during the influenza epidemic in 1919
Location: Brisbane, Queensland
State Library of Queensland, Australia / No restrictions

 

Stay at Home with your Player Piano

Then as now in 2020, advertisers did their best to relate their products to the ongoing pandemic. Strange claims about flu prevention and alleged cures were regularly advertised. Why not purchase a player piano?

 

Stop the Pandemic -Stay at Home with your Player Piano -Grunewald's Ad New Orleans, 1918

Grunewald’s Ad New Orleans, 1918 Uncredited.
Grunewald’s music store &/or advertising staff of The Times-Picayune / Public domain

Flattening the Curve

This chart shows the pandemic mortality in America and Europe during 1918 and 1919. You can see that it spiked heavily during October and November of 1918.

Spanish Flu Death Chart

Spanish Flu Death Chart
(Image: courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine) / Public domain

 

Spittoons and Spitting

Spitting was heavily discouraged and spittoons lost their allure. Many places passed laws against spitting in public other than into a spittoon.

After the 1918 flu epidemic, public use of the spittoon was discouraged and use began to decline.

There are 1500 cases in the Navy Yard<br>30 deaths have already resulted <br>Spanish Influenza sign in the Navy Yard in 1918<br /> U.S. Navy / Public domain

Spanish Influenza sign in the Navy Yard in 1918
U.S. Navy / Public domain

 

New York City

Business as usual as a New York typist carries on with her job in 1918.

Typist in New York City wearing a face mask. 1918 Uncredited / Public domain

Typist in New York City wearing a face mask. 1918 Uncredited / Public domain

 

Socializing over the Bell Telephone during 1918 Pandemic

Bell System Flu Quarantine<br />Bell System / Public domain

Bell System Flu Quarantine
Public domain

 

Even the Cat is Wearing a Mask

1918 Spanish Flu showing Family wearing masks

1918 California, USA Spanish Flu showing family and cat all wearing masks

 

Expediting Widows’ Pensions

Below is an official New Zealand government letter pleading to expedite pensions for widows who had lost their husbands in the influenza epidemic.

[File:From Hon. Minister in Charge of Pensions, Wellington 1918. Subject That claims for widows&#039; pensions arising out of Influenza epidemic be dealt with without delay (Page 3).jpg|thumb|From Hon. Minister in Charge of Pensions, Wellington 1918. Subject That claims for widows&#039; pensions arising out of Influenza epidemic be dealt with without delay (Page 3)]]

From Hon. Minister in Charge of Pensions Wellington 1918.
Page 3 Archives New Zealand / CC BY-SA
(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Looks like the current coronavirus pandemic and precautions will be with us for a while yet but like everything else, this too shall pass. See you on the other side.

Port Alberni, British Columbia, Canada Sunset

Port Alberni, BC, Canada
April 7th, 2020

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