Powerful pictures taken during the 1918 Spanish Flu

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Spanish flu was an epidemic prevalent throughout 1918 and 1920. The deadly influenza epidemic went on to affect around 500 million people, which was a third of the world’s population at that time. The rate of infections and deaths caused by the pandemic makes it one of the deadliest in human history.

These 10 powerful pictures perfectly sum up the 1918 Spanish flu.

1) Two men advocating the use and wearing of masks in Paris. The Spanish flu was followed by World War I, here their signs roughly read as ‘Germans are defeated but the flu is not, mask yourselves and each other’.

A picture of two men advocating use and wearing of masks in Paris during the 1918 spanish flu
Men advocating the use of masks (photographed in 1919) (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

2) Like today, anti-maskers were prevalent during the 1918 pandemic as well. In 1918, the San Franciso government passed a law which made it mandatory to wear masks in public places. Initially, people complied. However, later some questioned the effectiveness of a mask. These individuals went on to form the Anti-mask League in San Francisco.

A picture of the poster for a meeting of anti mask league of san francisco during the 1918 Spanish flu
Poster for a meeting of Anti-mask League of San Francisco

3) Barbers in Cincinnati wore masks to prevent the spread of the virus. Additionally, barbers all over the country adopted this practice.

A picture of Barbers in Cincinnati wearing masks
Barbers in Cincinnati wearing masks

4) During the 1918 Spanish flu, there was a great emphasis on getting fresh air through open windows. The anti-tuberculosis league also stated that taking precautions against influenza is crucial for protecting yourself against deadly diseases such as tuberculosis and pneumonia.

A picture of a propaganda for keeping your windows open posted on the inside of a public transport vehicle during the 1918 Spanish Flu
Propaganda poster by anti-tuberculosis league posted on the inside of a public transport vehicle

5) The masks during the 1918 Spanish flu were made out of gauze. Red Cross volunteers made and donated many such masks to the public.

A picture of the red cross volunteers making masks out of gauze
Red Cros volunteers making masks out of gauze

6) A bus conductor checks if the individuals are wearing a mask before they can board the bus.

A picture where the bus conductor checks if the individuals are wearing a mask before they can board the bus. 
A bus conductor checks if the individuals are wearing a mask before they can board the bus.

7) It was mandatory to wear a mask during the 1918 Spanish flu, doing otherwise would get you jailed or fined. Here a policeman confronts a man who isn’t wearing a flu mask.

A picture of a policeman confronts a man who isn't wearing a flu mask during the 1918 Spanish Flu
A policeman confronts a man who isn’t wearing a flu mask

8) This picture shows citizens of San Francisco waiting in line at Montgomery Street to receive masks.

Picture depicting citizens of San Francisco waiting in line at Montgomery Street to receive masks
Citizens of San Francisco waiting in line at Montgomery Street to receive masks

9) Wearing a mask during the 1918 Spanish flu was highly advisable by the government. There were many advertising campaigns and songs to advocate their use. The people pictured are advocating the use of masks, saying doing otherwise would result in imprisonment.

A picture of the wear a mask or go to jail campaign during the 1918 Spanish Flu
Wear a mask or go to jail campaign

10) Exhibitors Herald, an American industry trade paper, published this in their paper during the height of Spanish flu. They urged the motion picture theatre owners to stand the gaff. Further stating to keep calm and to keep their theatres well ventilated.

A picture of stand the gaff published by Exhibitors Herald for the motiona picture theatre ownders during the 1918 Spanish Flu
Stand the gaff published by Exhibitors Herald

 

Enjoyed the above article? You may also enjoy Clever War Propaganda Posters – Here are 12 Facts

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