GRIT Newspaper 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic

Check out GRIT’s 1918 newspaper report on the Spanish Flu pandemic covering obituaries, hospitals, medical tent cities, and ads selling “proven” cures.

From our archives, here’s how GRIT covered the 1918-19 influenza pandemic when it was a rural newspaper based in Williamsport, Pa.  

From the spring of 1918 through the fall of 1919, the “Spanish Flu” infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide and killed at least 50 million – 675,000 in the United States – according to the Centers for Disease Control. Without accurate records, the precise number of fatalities is unknown.

With this many deaths, one would assume the news of the day - including the weekly GRIT newspaper - would be full of reports, warnings, and updates on spread. But during the first wave of the disease, which first gained national attention in the United States after military personnel on bases in Kansas began getting sick in the spring of 1918, people seemed to be more focused on the end of World War I and the prospects of prohibition. That began to change by the fall of 1918 when the flu made its deadly reappearance.

This second wave, which lasted until May 1919, would prove to be even deadlier than the first wave. As one reads in this snapshot of GRIT coverage from October-November 1918, we see how that pandemic was beginning to affect every aspect of life in the country back then, much as the coronavirus pandemic is affecting every part of ours today.

These clippings from October, 1918 describe how influenza was once again taking the lives of healthy, young soldiers in local military encampments much like it did when the flu first appeared at Ft. Riley, Kan., that previous spring.

From the October 20, 1918 edition, this article describes how local hospitals are being overrun by the sudden increase in patients requiring hospitalization.
8/4/2020 6:07:41 PM

Just like during the 1918 pandemic, some people are in denial about this new Covid-19 virus. Their fear of the virus's impact on the economy is greater than fears about this deadly virus, so they flaunt rules about wearing a mask. That reaction didn't work in 1918 and it's not working in 2020. No, it's not a hoax and Dr. Anthony Fauci's suggested precautions are not "fake news." Rebellious deniers in 1918 were known as uncaring Slackers who put their personal freedoms above the health of fellow citizens. The same irresponsible attitude exists today.

5/15/2020 7:57:11 AM

Covid - 19, the latest in a string of the this virus that was first detected and numbered in 1965. Just like seasonal flu, it comes around seasonally also and in many ways is similar. A vaccine?, just like flu vaccines, they will be behind the curve, based on last years variety, so staying shut down and shut in makes no sense. New York is now reporting that 66% of their hospitalizations of Coronavirus cases are people who sheltered in place, avoiding outside contact with others. The number of cases worldwide as well as in the U.S. are pure fiction. They don't and can't include the number of people who have had the virus and like having the flu just stayed home, not seeking medical care. I would guess millions, just like with the flu every year. Most cases are not critical, or even serious enough for hospitalization. This whole thing is a global political power grab and a "follow the money" scam. I'm 76 years old and not taking part in any of the stupid fear mongering restrictions. I let the local Walmart know how useless their "precautions" are. What sense does it make to remove the soda machines from the entryway so people won't push the buttons with bare hands and yet they can go into the store and handle every product inside, including fresh produce? They had a "seniors hour" early in the morning in March so seniors could go in and shop without the "crowd" of regular customer traffic. Guess what, The aisles were jammed with seniors almost tripping over one another in the grocery department. Right now, the arrows on the floor, 6 foot separation marks at the checkout, and plexiglass shields, are all nothing but "feel good, we're doing something" inconveniences - worthless. The biggest victims of this scam are our freedoms, jobs, and the economy.

5/15/2020 7:23:55 AM

Makes one wonder what people will say when they look back on us in 100 years. So much to add here, as I’m sure everyone™s thoughts could fill this page. Stay well and remember we are AMERICANS FIRST! We don’t give up, we find a way!

Live The Good Life with GRIT!

Grit JulAug 2016At GRIT, we have a tradition of respecting the land that sustains rural America. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing to GRIT through our automatic renewal savings plan. By paying now with a credit card, you save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of GRIT for only $16.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and send me one year of GRIT for just $22.95!

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters