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Throwback Thursday: The Spanish flu pandemic hits Winona in October 1918
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Throwback Thursday: The Spanish flu pandemic hits Winona in October 1918

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Editor’s note: In October 1918, the Spanish Influenza pandemic claimed 195,000 American lives, including that life of President Donald Trump’s grandfather, Fredrick Trump. Winona was not immune from the contagion, as reported in the Winona Republican-Herald throughout that deadly month.

Oct. 4, 1918

Closing is way to fight influenza

Washington, Oct. 4 — The only way to stop the spread of Spanish influenza is to close churches, schools, theaters and public institutions in every community where the epidemic has developed, in the opinion of Surgeon General Blue of the public health service. “ I hope that those having the proper authority will close all public meeting places if their community is threatened with the epidemic. This will do much towards checking the spread of the disease.”

Flu ward

American Red Cross nurses tend to flu patients in temporary wards set up inside Oakland Municipal Auditorium, 1918. 

Oct. 5, 1918

Avoid public gatherings is health advice

“Keep away from public gatherings.”

That is the advice Dr. D. B. Pritchard, city health officer, gives to the people of Winona who wish to ward off Spanish Influenza.

The physician further declares that it was the most logical and best preventive.

With the death of the Rev. Thomas Normoyle at St. Mary’s college last evening, which was indirectly caused by an attack of Spanish influenza, many Winonans began to express grave concern today relative to the epidemic.

Several persons called the Republican-Herald office to inquire about the symptoms of influenza.

Likewise several physicians were obliged to answer questions.

One Winonan suggested temporary closing of theaters, schools, etc., as a timely move.

Oct. 8, 1918

East End hit by mild form of epidemic

There is an epidemic of Spanish influenza in the East End but the majority of the cases are of mild form,” Helen Stack, visiting nurse, stated today.

Miss Stack believes that the epidemic is not serious.

According to the nurse, some families have three or four cases in the home. The St. Stanislaus school is taking every precaution to keep the disease from spreading. Children who have influenzas m their homes are barred from attending school while youngsters subject to a cough, sneezing, sore throat or any other symptoms of influenza are sent home.

Taking precaution

A nurse wears a cloth mask while treating a patient in Washington, D.C.

Oct. 9, 1918

Influenza situation is not alarming in Winona

An organized effort to combat the spread of Spanish influenza in Winona before the epidemic reaches a serious stage was launched late Tuesday afternoon. There are more than 100 cases of influenza here, but few are serious, and it is the belief of the Red Cross officials that they will be able to stop the spread of the disease within a short time.

Dr. Pritchard further stated today that there are many cases of influenza in Winona, but the epidemic was not a serious one. He declared that only a few cases had assumed a serious aspect and that local physicians were attending them.

The local epidemic is mostly in the East End. In some homes, the entire family is affected by the disease in a mild form. There is hardly an office or business house in Winona that does not house one or more cases of Spanish influenza in a light form. In many cases, employees have gone home sick with the disease and the activities of several business establishments has been crippled as a result.

Oct. 11, 1918

Spanish ‘flu’ reaches serious stage and Red Cross sends out appeal for many nurses

Indications that the epidemic of Spanish influenza has reached a serious stage in the northwest is evident from an “S.O.S.” call for nurses which was received in Winona today from the Northern Division of the American Red Cross at Minneapolis. Whether or not Winona will be able to furnish any nurses for the call as they may be needed here to cope with the local situation

Several representative citizens are beginning to take the local situation seriously and a few voiced the opinion that drastic action should be taken here. It was suggested that the schools and theaters be closed and that all public gatherings be temporarily abandoned. One Winonan stated that he thought it advisable to postpone church services on Sunday.

Oct. 12, 1918

Spanish ‘flu’ warning made public today

A letter of warning concerning Spanish influenza has been received in Winona from the state board of health. There are several points in the letter that are of interest to every Winonan. In part the message follows:

“Don’t become frightened.

“Follow your usual daily routine.

“Spend all the time you can in the open air. “Smother sneezes and coughs in a handkerchief. “Avoid crowds and unnecessary visits to the sick.

“Dress properly — use common sense to protect your health.

“Should you feel sick, go to bed and call a physician.”

The letter also emphasized that the greatest necessity at this time is to avoid hysteria.

“There are about 1,500 cases of influenza and pneumonia, mostly of a mild form, in Minnesota” said the letter. “That is one case among 1,000 people in the state. Outbreaks may be expected to continue and to reach a high point during the next two weeks. Common sense precaution should cause the wave to disappear then: otherwise there may be another increase in cases, another climax in the epidemic.”

No mask, no ride

A streetcar conductor in Seattle in 1918 refusing to allow passengers aboard who are not wearing masks.

Winona manufacturers voice loud protest at manner in which the influenza situation is handled here

With one death recorded during the last 24 hours and a storm of protests against the city’s attitude in combating the Spanish influenza, Winona regarded the epidemic with a great deal of seriousness today. General closing in Winona is urged and the employment of a sufficient number of nurses to cope with the local situation is also strongly argued.

“Our payroll has dropped from $1483.72 a week to $453.90 a week due to the epidemic and every employee who is either sick with influenza or at home caring for relatives ill with the disease, needs the money,” declared W. F. Kohler of the Minnesota Harness Factory today in registering a straight-from-the shoulder protest against the city’s attitude in the influenza epidemic.

“Someone is showing a great deal of laxity concerning the influenza epidemic here and it either rests with the city officials or someone else,” Mr. Kohler stated. “Those in authority here have not given the matter enough attention and it is those that are suffering that are urging action.”

“Local doctors are not able to cope with the situation as several of them have told me that they had more calls than they could handle,” Mr. Kohler said.

Out of 69 employees at the factory only 18 were at work this morning and 10 of that number were office help, the manufacturer said.

Another manufacturing concern which has been hit hard by the epidemic is the A. M. Ramer Candy factory. Officials of the concern stated today that only one-third of the 100 employees at the factory were on duty this morning.

“There is someone asleep at the switch in Winona,” stated George Ramer today. “I am certainly in favor of any drastic order that might be put into effect so that this situation may be relieved.”

Keep children home

“Children sent home from school should remain in their homes and not mingle with other youngsters,” stated Supt. J. V. Voorhees of the Winona public school today. According to Mr. Voorhees, it has been called to bis attention that come of the children sent home from the schools because of influenza symptoms have mingled with the rest of the children.

Principal Webster Davis of the Winona High school stated this noon that the attendance at both the senior and junior high schools today was the smallest it had been so far this week. The attendance has decreased each day since Monday, said Principal Davis.

“Many parents are keeping their children home because they are afraid they will catch influenza while attending school and in most cases the youngsters are running around town and exposing themselves to the disease more than they would if they were in school,” Supt. J. V. Voorhees said today. “I would advise parents to continue to send their children to school.”

Oct. 17, 1918

Influenza still serious

With two deaths recorded from Spanish Influenza in Winona during the last 24 hours, local physicians were of the opinion today that the epidemic is still serious here and that many cases have developed into pneumonia. One physician reported that there were nine cases of pneumonia in the East End and several serious cases of influenza.

It is reported that an East End undertaker has failed to comply with the state board of health order and is holding public funerals in instances were persons died of Spanish influenza.

Oct. 18, 1918

Influenza takes nine in last 24 hours

Winona’s death toll from Spanish Influenza reached an alarming stage today when it was reported that nine deaths from the disease had been recorded here during the past 24 hours and several more serious cases of the malady had been discovered.

Local physicians are working day and night in an effort to cope with the situation and every precaution is being exercised to prevent spread of the disease.

Undertakers are also working overtime in an effort to take care of the bodies. With the numerous deaths of late everyone has begun to take the Spanish influenza epidemic seriously and a heavy curtailment of public gatherings were recorded today.

Oct. 19, 1918

Five more die of pneumonia following flu

Five more Winonans have died from Spanish influenza since The Republican-Herald announced nine deaths Friday.

In every case, the influenza developed into pneumonia and the persons died suddenly. Physicians declare that the new cases of the disease are few, although there are many seriously ill with the epidemic today.

Oct. 21, 1918

Six more victims of influenza

Spanish influenza continues. Since Saturday afternoon six more deaths have been recorded as a result of the disease. Although the epidemic is reported to be under control, the death rate the past week has been the heaviest since the first cases of the disease have been reported here and merchants and manufacturers are still operating, short-handed.

One physician visited a Polish family and found the entire family, which consisted of the parents and 10 children, ill with the disease. They had little food in the house and accommodations offered those ill were very scanty.

In the East End of the city, it was found that hardly a home did not have one or more cases of influenza and that in some places the food supply was scanty.

The Margaret Simpson Home will furnish such necessities as bread, soup and rice to those who are poverty stricken and ill and the rest must be furnished by the charitable people of Winona. Food of any kind will be accepted and those wishing to make donations are urged to leave their contribution at the home of Mrs. W. M. Potter. 328 Johnson St. at the west side of the residence. The food will then be systematically distributed by the women of the home.

Oct. 22, 1918

Four more die of pneumonia

Winona’s total death toll from Spanish influenza continued to grow during the last 24 hours and at noon today four more deaths had been recorded. In every case the victim died of pneumonia following an illness with influenza.

City Council asks closing for influenza

Although the city council in session Monday night adopted a drastic resolution which calls for the closing of practically every public building in Winona until the present Spanish influenza epidemic is over, no action toward enforcing the resolution had been taken, at noon today.

Several representative citizens commenting on the action today declared that it is “eleventh hour stuff” and that they thought it was useless to close-up the city when the epidemic is citywide and on the wane

Perhaps the strongest protest against not closing came from the office of the Minnesota Harness Factory where, out of 69 employees, only 12 were on duty this morning and one of the valued employees had died from the disease.

“Regardless of whether or not closing of public places would completely check the sickness we should take steps if would save the life of one person,” W. F. Koehler said.

Winona ministers do not agree with the report that the malady is on “the wane. It is their opinion that the sickness continues to spread and base the assertion on the fact that they receive word of practically every case of sickness in their respective congregations. One minister stated today that he had 15 new cases reported to him during the last 24 hours.

Oct. 31, 1918

State health official calls booze injurious in influenza

John Barleycorn, who has been affectionately named “flu” medicine by many Winonans, had both his old and new title shattered today when Dr. H.M. Bracken of the state board of health declared that liquor was injurious instead of beneficial to persons threatened with Spanish influenza.

During the last few weeks large quantities of “booze” have been consumed in Winona. Some who had never touched liquor before took a “shot” of the “flu” medicine and after taking a few more “shots” landed in jail. No cures of influenza were reported at police headquarters but most of the prisoners were suffering from the after affects of consuming liquor.

Nov. 2, 1918

October total of flu deaths 62

Complete figures on the number of deaths in Winona during October were available last evening at the office of Health Officer Pritchard. These showed a total of 82 deaths, of which number 62 were credited to Spanish influenza or pneumonia resulting from that disease.

The report shows more than double the number of deaths recorded in Winona in September when the figure was 35. The average monthly death rate in Winona for the past year has been 28.

The recent deaths from influenza are reported to have been evenly divided between males and females.

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