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Saturday, July 18, 2020

The "Spanish Lady"

This month telling my World War I "Hello Girls" program and next month as the "One-Room School Teacher" I  will have the opportunity to include some information about how nearly 100 years ago we went through the chaos of a pandemic before.  A recent controversial photo shows an average family from then. Why is it controversial?  As fact checker,, points out it's hard to be sure if the cat in the photo is masked or merely happens to have facial markings in that area looking like it is wearing a mask.  The museum with the photo said it is small and old and impossible to verify.

Still Snopes agrees some people did mask their cats.  They show a dog, but I prefer this bit of sports history featuring a canine mascot.

Just as current pandemic information has taken time to shake out the facts, this Axios article is primarily about the sports of Baseball, Football, and Hockey.  Beyond sports, it shows back then it was even more difficult to spread the news.  This was due to a fear it might violate a federal Sedition Act because we had entered World War I.  Especially interesting here is Babe Ruth was treated with "medicine" that nearly killed him, rather like current criticism of using an inappropriate malaria medicine.

Similarly here's another sports focused article.  The sport is soccer and it comes from Philadelphia, with lots of good cartoons about the cancellation of sports.  It shows even in the early 20th century, when sports were not the big business they are today, people were desperate to have their "sports fix."

 More seriously the National Library of Medicine shows national guidance from then now looks both familiar and simplistic. 

 Now we would say gauze is insufficient, but even then people were making them.

Today masks are both homemade and a fashion item, but here's one I've yet to see for smokers.

That mentions a San Francisco ordinance: 

which leads into the problems mask laws currently face

Just like today, you will find people saying it's no worse than the flu we normally see.
Homemade cures and patent medicines were suggested.
 and this one which might at least keep people "socially distant."
I wonder if onions were in this Cleveland soup kitchen offering to children.
While looking at the state to the south of Michigan, this graduate of the University of Michigan for my degree in library (and now also information) science enjoyed this look at how U. of M. defeated the Buckeyes during that pandemic for a bit of history in that long rivalry.

Still closures happened either at first or eventually.

That was from Pullman, Washington, but the tiny town of Pullman, Michigan and other Michigan towns of all size were affected.'s display of Flint mask order and other orders
I particularly found useful See-how-1918-flu-pandemic-impacted your Michigan county.  It's interesting to see how each county hit a spike, whether from the holidays or otherwise.  A 2018-19 look at the state as a whole called it our deadliest year.

Of course metro Detroit was a major hotspot, too, as their timeline shows.

Right now the big debate in Michigan and nationally has to do with the safety of reopening schools.  Back then virtual learning wasn't an option, but when cases became so numerous tracking was impossible, most schools closed down for a time.

Stepping back from our state and returning to a broader look, offers an audio presentation with graphics from 2010, then updated this year.

As always, Wikipedia has a fascinating article worth getting for its thorough overview.  What I found interesting was its explanation of how the virus kept mutating until it killed off the people meant to die, then it stopped being a problem.  Still it was an H1N1 virus, so it could be said to be related to later 20th century influenzas.

I titled this "the Spanish Lady" which was one of its names, but the only reason Spain was named was because it was neutral in World War I, so it was willing to announce the problem of the virus when the warring parties hesitated to let what was happening be known.  To add to the Spanish connection, Spain's King Alfonso XIII did become gravely ill (but lived until 1941 after abdicating).

Often the high death rate of Philadelphia, who refused to cancel a city parade, is contrasted with St. Louis, where I grew up.  St. Louis "flattened the curve" and it supposedly paid off.  The Wikipedia article still lists them as hit by the "third wave."  I just remember as a child seeing a plaque to those lost in the Spanish Influenza in a church on the campus of St. Louis University.  As a child I didn't know much about that almost forgotten pandemic.

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