Spokane and the Nation: The Influenza Epidemic of 1918-1919

Malcolm D. Haworth, Michael Kratzer, Michael Page, V. Keven Shipman, Marcus Wallace, and J. William T. Youngs

Eastern Washington University

Newspaper Articles:

What was it like to live in Spokane during the influenza outbreak of 1918-1919? These articles from local newspapers present a wide variety of stories. Some describe the city's efforts to defend itself against the disease. Others indicate ways that daily life in the region was changed by the outbreak. And still others provide grizzly details of lives lost during the worst plague ever to strike the United States.

• “Influenza Now in 3 Army Camps,” Spokesman-Review, September 18, 1918, page 2 — Influenza has reached epidemic proportions at army camps in the East. In New England, at least 70 deaths have occurred during the last 24 hours, mostly in Boston.

• “66 Die in East From Influenza,” Spokesman-Review, September 19, 1918, page 3 — Naval personnel and others on the East Coast are continuing to be afflicted with influenza. Many communities have closed schools because of the epidemic.

• “Influenza at Nine Army Camps,” Spokesman-Review, September 21, 1918, page 1 — Five more army camps have influenza, including Camp Lewis in Tacoma. During the past 24 hours 120 people have died in New England. Laboratories across the nation are working on a vaccine.

• “Sneeze ‘Nice,’ Cough Politely and Fear Not Spanish Influenza,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, September 21, 1918, page 5 — Dr. J.B. Anderson, Spokane’s leading health officer, gives tips on how to avoid both transmitting and receiving influenza.

• “Many in Camps Die of Influenza,” Spokesman-Review, September 22, 1918, page 1 — The influenza epidemic continues to spread among army and navy camps.

• “Toll From Spanish Influenza Growing Fast in This Country,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, September 23, 1918, page 5 — The Surgeon General of the Army, William C. Gorgas, issued rules for citizens to follow to prevent contracting influenza.

• “Influenza Still Rages,” Spokesman-Review, September 28, 1918, page 2 — In the past 24 hours, there have been 6,842 new influenza cases in army camps, and 170 deaths. Montana has seen its first cases of influenza.

• “Discover Serum for Influenza,” Spokesman-Review, September 29, 1918, page 3 — Doctors successfully tested a vaccine that shows great promise in stopping the onset of pneumonia. The epidemic has yet to be stopped, with over 8,000 new cases developing the previous day.

• “‘Hit Influenza When It Comes,’” Spokane Daily Chronicle, September 30, 1918, page 3 — City health officer Dr. J.B. Anderson outlines his plan to combat the influenza epidemic if it were to strike Spokane.

• “128 New Cases at Camp Lewis,” Spokesman-Review, October 6, 1918, page 3 — Influenza is spreading rapidly at Ford Lewis; eleven recent deaths.

• “Close Schools First Day That ‘Flu’ Appears,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, October 7, 1918, page 1 — Spokane’s health officer, Dr. J.B. Anderson, announced that all public gathering places will be closed as soon as cases of Spanish influenza appear in the city.

• “Amusements to Close If ‘Flu’ Bug Shows Up,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, October 8, 1918, page 6 — Spokane’s health officer, Dr. J.B. Anderson, has said that all public meeting places will be closed at the first sign of Spanish influenza in the city.

“City Acts to Stop Spread of Influenza,Spokane Daily Chronicle, October 9, 1918, page 1 — Most public places in Spokane have been closed because of the influenza epidemic.  Public officials warn that the disease has killed “hundreds” in the east and may become dangerous in Spokane.

• “Nurses Will Render Aid to all Influenza Cases,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, October 10, 1918, page 2 — Local nurses praised for their courage in volunteering to help those infected with influenza. 

• “‘Flu’ Brings Woe to Dr. Anderson,” Spokesman-Review, October 10, 1918, page 5 — Dr. J.B. Anderson, Spokane’s leading health official, has been fielding questions from the citizens of the city ever since the ban on public gatherings.

• “Get Report of Nineteen Fresh Cases,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, October 11, 1918, page 1 & 8 — This article explains how Spokane is responding to the Influenza outbreak, including closing pool halls and bowling alleys.

• “How to Prevent ‘Flu,’ Told by Health ‘Boss,’” Spokane Daily Chronicle, October 11, 1918, page 8 — Dr. J.B. Anderson, Spokane’s leading health officer, offers instruction on avoiding the flu.

• “Officials Act at Proper Time,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, October 11, 1918, page 11 — Health officials ban public gatherings and note impact of crowds on spreading diseases.

• “Concert Plans Are to Proceed in Spite of Ban,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, October 11, 1918, page 18 — A scheduled concert featuring the Paris Symphony orchestra is still planned for November 12. 

• “Make Vaccine for Influenza,” Spokesman-Review, October 13, 1918, page 11 — An influenza vaccine has been tested at Washington State College; classes scheduled to resume there, as danger of epidemic is believed to be over.

• “School Doctor Gives ‘Flu’ Aid,” Spokesman-Review, October 18, 1918, page 6 — On October 17 179 new cases of influenza were reported to the health office. Dr. J.B. Anderson expects the city-wide quarantine to last another 7-10 days.

• “Nine More Die of Pneumonia,” Spokesman-Review, October 19, 1918, page 6 — Nine people in Spokane and the surrounding area died of influenza-related pneumonia the previous day. Due to many of Spokane’s nurses leaving to help with the war effort overseas, the city faces a nurse shortage.

• “Influenza,” Spokesman Review October 20, 1918, n.p. — This full page ad, taken out by the Spokane Health Department and paid for by local merchants, gives suggestions on how to prevent influenza, and also how to treat it.

• “Epidemic New in Name Only,” Spokesman Review October 20, 1918 page 7 — City health officer John B. Anderson states that doctors must comply with all decisions made by the health board in regards to the influenza epidemic.

• “‘Don’t Kick! Help!’ Says Health Man,” Spokesman-Review, October 21, 1918, page 6 — Spokane’s lead health officer, Dr. J.B. Anderson, posts rules and regulations on how to treat patients at the Lion Hotel, site of the city’s emergency influenza hospital.

• “School Teachers Called to Nurse Influenza Cases,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, October 22, 1918, page 1 — Spokane school teachers are being asked to volunteer as nurses at both Fort George Wright and the emergency influenza hospital at the Lion hotel. At Fort Wright 137 cases have been reported.

• “Call for Help to Handle Flu at Big College,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, October 23, 1918, page 1 — Over 300 students at Washington State College are in the hospital, sick with influenza.

• “Father, Mother Die; Baby Lives: Mr. and Mrs. F. Redick Succumb 7 Hours Apart — Influenza,” Spokesman Review, October 24, 1918, page 1 — Husband and wife succumb shortly after the birth of their child.

• “Flu Situation is Some Better, Reports Show,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, October 26, 1918 page 1 — Fewer flu cases reported to health district, but local banks are beginning to require that their employees wear flu masks.

• “Flu Ban Lifted for Members of Gonzaga’s Corps,” Spokane Daily Chronicle October 28, 1918, page 1 — The number of people contracting and recovering from influenza in Spokane was approximately equal at the time. 

• “Prof. E.L. Overman Dies at Pullman,” Spokesman-Review, October 28, 1918, page 5 — A highly-respected professor and many students have died at Washington State College.

• “‘Pan’ Closes Five Weeks,” Spokesman Review, October 28, 1918, page 6 — Traveling vaudeville performers are stranded in Spokane because of the closing of various theatres by health officials. 

• “Flu Puts Curb on Gang Doings for Hallowe’en,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, October 29, 1918, page 1 — The soaping of windows (a Halloween prank) was an activity that the police wanted to stop because women did not have the time to clean the windows afterward since they were busy helping with the flu epidemic.

• “Cheney Plans to Fight Influenza,” Spokesman-Review, October 29, 1918, page 7 — Cheney Normal School (now Eastern Washington University) takes measures to fight the influenza outbreak and care for the sick.

• “Crest of Flu Epidemic Has Been Reached Here,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, November 1, 1918, page 5 — Dr. J.B. Anderson, Spokane’s health officer, said that the influenza epidemic has reached its peak in the city.

• “Every One Must Wear Gauze Mask,” Spokesman-Review, November 4, 1918, page 1 — State board of health officials ordered that people must wear gauze masks while they are in public.

• “Crowds Rush to Buy Flu Masks,” Spokesman-Review, November 9, 1918, page 6 — Spokanites eager to own flu masks; Red Cross eager to make a profit; new regulations require masks in elevators.

• “Less Than Fifty New Flu Cases,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, November 20, 1918, page 2 — Only 27 new cases of influenza had been reported in Spokane the previous day. The worst is over.

• “Calls on Women to Halt Meetings and Help Nursing,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, December 2, 1918, page 1 — The president of the City Federation of Women’s Organizations, Mrs. J.M. Simpson, has called on women in Spokane to call off their regular meetings and volunteer their time with the Red Cross.

• “Four Hundred New Flu Cases in Last Two Days,” Spokane Daily Chronicle December 2, 1918, page 6 — Almost 400 people in Spokane have become ill with the flu in a two-day period. Despite the sudden re-emergence of the epidemic, city health officers do not feel the need to place the city under another quarantine.

• “Close Spokane Schools; May Put Back Flu Ban,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, December 3, 1918, page 1 — In response to the outbreak of influenza among schoolchildren, the city health board today closed all Spokane public schools.

• “Extend Flu Ban At Once,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, December 6, 1918, page 1 — Due to the renewal of the epidemic in Spokane, a modified quarantine is in effect for the city.

• “Epidemic Soon Over, Says Report,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, December 17, 1918, page 6 — Dr. J.B. Anderson, Spokane’s health officer, reports that there is a marked decrease in the number of new cases of influenza in the city.

• “Churches Object to Being Dragged into Flu Tangle,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, December 19, 1918, page 1 — The Spokane Ministerial association has voiced their opposition to theater owners using their name in a complaint against the city health board.

• “Flu Conditions Much Improved,” Spokane Daily Chronicle December 27, 1918, page 5 — Dr. J.B. Anderson offers cautious optimism that the holiday shopping season won’t cause a recurrence of the epidemic.

• “Find Family Ill, No Food or Fuel,” Spokesman-Review, January 9, 1919, page 7 — In Spokane authorities found an entire family that had been stricken with influenza.

• “Influenza Cases Decrease,” Spokesman-Review, January 12, 1919, page 6 — Influenza cases in Spokane are on the decline. So far the disease has killed 441 people in the city.

• “Flu Hospital Cared for 617,” Spokesman-Review, January 13, 1919, page 6 — The emergency influenza hospital at the Lion Hotel is closing its doors after 89 days of treating patients.

• “Crowds Boost ‘Flu,’” Spokesman-Review, January 16, 1919, page 6 — Dr. J.B. Anderson, Spokane’s health officer, says that a revival of the influenza epidemic may happen. Theater owners have been letting crowds into their theaters.

• “Brother, Sister Die Same Day,” Spokesman-Review, January 17, 1919, page 6 — Two young children in the Krohling household on Mission Avenue died on the same day from influenza. Their mother and three of their siblings are also ill.