Here it comes again!

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For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

Allentown, November 20, 1918: “The city is on the verge of a recurrence of the influenza epidemic.”

Why? “The carelessness of a few.”

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Allentown shut down for two weeks.

It has been open now for two weeks.

And the Flu is back in an “extremely serious” way.

Lack of social distancing. Lax quarantining.

The disease has not been respected seriously enough.

And now Allentown must consider shutting down again.

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.

November 15, 1918: “Ding, dong, the witch is dead.” Not

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The war is over. Like the dread influenza epidemic seemingly
it has run its course, and is no more.”
Morning Call, November 15, 1918

There is nothing like an Armistice after a four-year war to presage a return to normalcy.

To the way it was.

Time to open up again.

And after a two-month siege with the Flu as well.

Two great converging battles simultaneously won.

“Ding, dong, the witch is dead.”

For a short period of time after the Armistice — the period from November 11 to December 1, 1918 — the Morning Call records the signs of Allentown and surrounding areas opening up again: schools open, temporary satellite hospitals close, postponed meetings are rescheduled, medicines now tout their efficacy for the lingering post-Flu weakness rather than as preventatives or therapeutics.

One touching example. Local art, community creativity sprouts again: “Jay Wellington resumed practice on his local talent play ‘Three Cheers’ on Friday evening at the Y.M.C. A. after an interruption of about six weeks made necessary by the influenza epidemic.” When the thespians are out, we’ve turned a corner!

Allentown dusts off the “All Clear” siren.

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But not so fast!

Mother Nature didn’t get the memo.

Macungie: “Notwithstanding the raising of the ban against opening public places throughout most of our state, there are still numerous cases of influenza in this community.

Northampton: “It is reported that influenza is again gaining a foothold in the borough. The epidemic was practically stamped out when the quarantine was lifted.”

East Texas: “Influenza is prevalent at East Texas. . . . There is scarcely a home that does not have members down with the disease.”

Emaus: “From all indications the influenza cases are again on the increase in this borough, as many as 200 children have been absent from school in one day.”

Hellertown: “It was hoped that the influenza would give our town the cold shoulder, but nothing so fortunate is happening. Since the reopening of the schools the disease has broken out with a vengeance among the school children.”

In the same boat, Allentown, always restless under restriction, quickly needed to go back to the drawing board.

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”

Spanish flu more deadly than World War I — much more

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For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

Gadfly has been reading through the Morning Call in the post Armistice period — November 11 – December 1, 1918 — looking for signs of a second wave like we are starting to talk seriously about now. Some interesting info on that will be coming soon.

But this article caught Gadfly’s attention.

Around 58,000 died in the interminable Vietnam War, and we are now approaching 100,000 deaths in the several months of the coronavirus war.

Same with the Spanish Flu. More people dying at home than in the war.

Our deaths at the present moment are larger than the total number of American casualties in World War I and 4 x greater than the number of deaths.

Something to think about.

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“Good, big-hearted men” take care of children displaced by the Spanish Flu

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“Obey the laws, and wear the gauze;
Protect your jaws from septic paws.”
popular jingle, 1918

Gadfly’s used to washing his hands.

He’s spent a lot of time in research libraries digging through old dusty books and files.

So he’s enjoying his saunter through the 1918 Morning Call files on the Spanish Influenza pandemic.

He’s now read from mid-September when the Call announced that the Flu had “arrived” in America to the Armistice ending World War I, November 11.

It’s a shame Gadfly does not have access at this time to the Bethlehem papers. That might be of more interest to us. The Morning Call seemingly had “correspondents” many places — even such places now unfamiliar to him as Lynnville, Yoder’s, Zion Hill, Ashfield — but virtually no news from Bethlehem.

Gadfly’s been on the lookout for news that gives us some perspective on our current situation. In the last post, for instance, we see the restiveness and revolt against lock-downs that we are now experiencing. Late October crossing into November was a  weird time in the Flu history. The same day that Harrisburg was observing a day of prayer for the passing of the disease, the Palmerton headline was “Three daughters from the same family die.” Allentown, always straining under the quarantine, opened up November 1, literally two days after a report headlined “High Mortality Rate Due To Influenza: Epidemic Has Not Yet Run Its Course in This City” and just across the page from “Influenza Takes Toll Of Five at Hockendauqua.”

Who can make sense of all that?

As November 1918 turned, then, the number of new cases was dizzyingly up or down depending on where you were and when you checked.

Familiar territory. Welcome to the Monkey House. Welcome to May 12, 2020.

But something different caught Gadfly’s eye in that same November 1 paper announcing Allentown’s freedom from quarantine.

Something about children.

Something he hasn’t been thinking about now.

The Spanish Flu was a disease that devastatingly struck whole families, whole households, and all at once. There are many stories about husbands and wives sick together and even dying together. If the children were lucky enough to survive (there was no thought of child immunity then — stories of children one month old dying were common), what happened to them?  On November 2 Schuylkill county announced 3000 orphans, 500 of whom maintained at public expense.

Wow!

So this joyful article about care for children in Allentown permanently or temporarily orphaned by the Flu caught Gadfly’s attention.

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“Good, big-hearted men” from the Kiwanis Club opened a temporary home for children stranded by the Flu in the Saeger Mansion, then at 4th and Walnut, across the street from Allen Park and Trout Hall in Allentown.

See: Allentown home for children

A fairly recent Morning Call article says, “Fourth Street was once the grandest address in the Lehigh Valley — think of a millionaires’ row.”

And thus the “magnificent” Saeger Mansion, one of the “most commodious” homes in the City, with foyer window and skylight by Tiffany’s, but recently vacated at that time, was turned into a storybook setting for the care of children permanently or temporarily cast away by the Flu.

Quite a project, one Gadfly is not sure we see the need of today.

A “wave of revolt”: one pandemic’s pretty much like another — except for one thing

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For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

October 31, 1918

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May 10, 2020

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Schuylkill County revolts and our governor does nothing.

Peter Hall, “Schuylkill County tells governor it’s going rogue, easing coronavirus restrictions without permission.” Morning Call, May 20, 2020.

Six Schuylkill County elected officials, including all three county commissioners, informed Gov. Tom Wolf that next Friday, the county will ease restrictions put into place to curb the spread of the coronavirus, in defiance of the governor’s order to remain closed. In doing so, Schuylkill joined Lebanon and Dauphin counties in declaring an end to the shutdown without waiting for permission. “We have heard the pleas of our residents who desire the ability to safely re-open their businesses and safely return to work,” the letter Saturday from the Schuylkill officials said.

“I trust and have faith in the great people and businesses of Pennsylvania to operate in a manner that protects those of our population in harm’s way and allows our residents to go back to work, enjoy their communities and have a quality of life. I, however, have no faith in Gov. Wolf and Secretary Levine’s ability to do the right thing,” Haste wrote, calling Wolf a dictator.

Wolf’s spokeswoman said Saturday night that the governor is aware of the statements and is hopeful that everyone will act in the best interest of public health.

The City of Lancaster revolts and they are given a time-out.

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Now this is pretty interesting.

Let’s play Gadfly “Jeopardy.”

Question: He was the Pennsylvania governor during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918.

If you cock your ear, you can hear the Jeopardy theme playing.

You don’t know?

The correct answer is Who was Martin G. Brumbaugh.

Well, even Gadfly couldn’t answer that after reading 6-7 week’s worth of articles on the Flu; he had to look it up.

Brumbaugh is never mentioned. The governor is never mentioned.

The person in charge of Spanish Flu management in Pennsylvania is not the governor (the president is absent too, but he was bringing a world war to a close) but B. Franklin Royer, Acting State Health Commissioner.

The person in charge of Flu management is not a politician.

He’s an acting Health Commissioner.

And he takes no crapola.

Now that is very interesting.

Who leads your pandemic dream team?

Women’s work in the other pandemic

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For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

Gadfly loves what he finds sometimes in the fine print as he wanders through the Morning Call archives from 1918.

Like this on the next-to-last page of the October 26, 1918, issue. The back page was always devoted to the classified advertisements (something interesting there too: an ad for 14-year-old boys and girls to work in the Schneider Shoe Factory, 228 N. Jefferson). So this was the tail end of the issue.

An article on what work women were doing as a result of the pandemic.

Yes, volunteering for the Red Cross, making and delivering food.

Yes, making masks.

Yes, circulating petitions.

Traditional woman’s work. Remember 1918 was even before Women’s suffrage.

But at the end of the article —

Pearl Moore and Sylvia Porter “pursuing occupations usually given men . . . putting on overalls” and working for the railroad.

Edna Furnival appointed as draughtsman — draughtsman — to replace a man “gone into the army.”

But most of all this one.

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Men were dying from the Flu. Probably more than women (think of the enormous number sick and dying in the Army camps) because of working outside the home.

More and more, women now had to take care of  “things.”

Gadfly found that little paragraph quite striking, quite revelatory — quite poignant.

A boozy tale

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For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

Associated Press, “Pennsylvania liquor stores to reopen today at these locations for curbside pickup.” Morning Call, April 20, 2020.

In Bethlehem, 30 E. 4th St.:  610-861-2109

The noon WFMZ telecast led with the news. Booze now available. Huzza!

You’ve seen the letters to the editor: “Keeping these vitally essential stores open could’ve helped ease a lot of tension,” and “We as Americans have a right to pick and choose what we want,”

Makes you think, doesn’t it? What’s essential and what isn’t?

To many, liquor is essential.

Morning Call articles in the month of October 1918 tell a funny story of how our ancestors handled liquor deprivation during the Spanish Flu pandemic.

The state health department turned down a petition for an exemption of the ban from the Wholesale Malt and Liquor Dealers Protective Association. An association protecting the right to imbibe?

A brewing company presented a conundrum to the Allentown Health Board when it “requested the privilege” of selling a beverage one half of one percent alcohol. The Health Board debated whether such minuscule content constituted an alcoholic drink — a debate reminiscent, no doubt, of such questions as “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” presented to St. Thomas Aquinas. Nice try by the brewers. No resolution is reported.

The local Health Board was no place for dummies. A special meeting was required because physicians were issuing prescriptions to liquor dealers for liquor. Health Department headquarters in Harrisburg was called in on this one. The hope was that they would restrict such permissible requests to a quart or less. Can you see the label? Take two shots and call me in the morning.

Farmers found cider so in demand to quench thirsts that they could get “the fancy price of 35 cents a gallon.” A jug by any other name . . .

Black market booze went for $3 a quart. You can hear the babies around town crying for lack of milk.

Saloon owners did lose licenses for illegal sales as they succumbed to the siren call of illegal demand. Why don’t we use the term “saloon” much any more? It has such a delightfully wicked aura.

Wouldn’t you have loved to know serial slurpers “Brindamour” and “Brick ” O’Donnell, surely among the most colorful anti-heroes of the local pandemic? Good boys, I imagine them, whose mother the widow Mary Kate Brogan O’Donnell, sat nightly by the fire chewing the hem of her apron in terror at the roar of gunfire rattling her humble crockery, but who, “driven to desperation by the quarantine of saloons,” crossed over into denizens of rat holes and railroad yards as a result of their addiction to the demon drink.

Flu 91Brick was captured in a “state of stupefaction,” but Brindamour, showing moves that earned him that football scholarship to Notre Dame and maternal dreams of a fulfilling career, danced around the flying bullets of that committed North-Ireland foe of fun Patrolman Harsch (“Harsh”!) to live and slurp again as he matured into a life of lovable criminality. There’s a Cagney movie based on him.

But seriously.

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Open bars cause an emigration like the Muslims fleeing the Middle East.

If you had a boat capable of crossing the Delaware in October 1918, you could make some money. Like selling parking spaces in front of your house during Musik-Fest.

May the American soldiers “croak of influenza”!

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For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

During the week of October 15, 1918, just after cases of the Spanish flu peaked in Bethlehem, readers of the Morning Call would learn that “the most rigid precautions” in our city (we saw earlier that the paper called them “draconian measures”) was the reason our city recorded such a low death rate.

The readers would learn that the Allentown streets needed to be flushed to combat the disease and that the Flu was demonstrating the need for a hospital, an issue much and long debated.

They would learn that they were lucky if they had the Consolidated Phone Co. rather than Bell, because Consolidated used an automated system that was not prone to the disruption caused by the flu-depleted corps of female operators at Bell.

They would learn of heroism and unselfish sacrifice, of the woman in Philadelphia who volunteered to take the place of the flu-downed ambulance driver at Women’s Mercy Hospital and worked “day and night” transporting the multitude of cases.

They would learn of bitter tragedy — the kind that makes you doubt the existence of a Divine Being — of good-hearted Miss Eva Gusset who “died from burns caused by her clothing catching fire from melting camphor gum and turpentine to ease members of her family who were afflicted with influenza.” (Gadfly shudders imagining the scene.)

But most bizarre of all, they would learn of a mini-war among the female workers of the Flu 74Bayuk Brothers Cigar Co., 610 N. Jordan, Allentown, a company in which “there are ten times as many aliens as American girls,” a company in which Austrian Annie Strokel said, “she would rather kiss a nigger than the American flag” and that “she hoped all the American soldiers would croak of influenza.” Moreover, a company in which the Austrian “girls” refused to buy the Liberty Bonds that financed the war, explaining “Shall we pay for bullets to shoot our brothers?”

Wow! Gulp!

We have to remember the situation. World War 1 was in its fourth long year. In fact, October 1918 was a period of last-ditch desperate fighting by the Germans. The Morning Call was full of such news. The war would end November 11 in abject surrender.

Tempers among Austrians working shoulder to shoulder with jubilant Americans must have been ragged.

Think of alienating conditions on the factory floor as the Austrian girls, predominant in number, spoke in their native language.

Look at the factory boss in financial quandary trying to “keep peace” — if the Austrians strike or quit, he will have to close. The almighty dollar is intertwined with patriotism and freedom of speech.

Surely one of the most striking stories of the war on the home-front. And we don’t even know how it turned out. There’s a movie in this.

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October 15, 1918: A day in the life of the Spanish Flu

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For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

Gadfly spends a lot of time watching the television news.

These shows sift, organize, and synthesize the news for us.

The situation was quite different for the readers of the Morning Call in 1918.

Spanish Influenza news was scattered throughout a typical 14-page issue.

Here are some of the pieces scattered throughout the October 15 issue with which Morning Call readers would put together their daily mosaic on the status of the dreaded disease.

Flu 61It’s interesting in the light of our current squabbles that  all defensive activity  was orchestrated at the local/state level; only now, at the apex of the disease in Allentown and Bethlehem, was there an attempt from a national level to fight the disease.

— Those who argue today that sparsely populated areas should be “open” because safe should take a lesson from Phifer’s Corner (somewhere near Lehighton), so small that it no longer shows on the map: “Phifer’s Corner has quite a large number of cases of influenza, many of whom are dangerously ill.” If it can strike Phifer’s Corner, it can strike anywhere.

— Marcus Young is in critical condition from the Flu, completely unaware that his wife died of the “same disease” last week.

— Both ambulance drivers who took Miss Katie Urffer to Allentown Hospital for the Flu were stricken immediately afterward, one “staggered into the office” and then “fell over.”

— Albert Dion, who drew the first number in the June draft, dies at Camp Lee.

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— The Adelaide Mills were closed for cleaning.

— Nuns from a parochial school were sent to Philadelphia to tend the sick.

— Though “eager to go to France,” “no happier crusader in all America,” and in the “pink of health,” Sergeant Major Perry Tifft died in an Army hospital.

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— The Kaler Hotel in Mahonoy City was turned into a hospital.

— Drown Hall at Lehigh University, home of Gadfly’s English Department, was turned into a hospital.

Flu 64(for funerals — so macabre!)

— Masks were supplied to ambulance staff.

— “Conditions at the State Hospital for the Insane are alarming.”

— Edward Koons, “a big, powerful, robust man . . . was unable to combat the ravages of the terrible scourge.”

Flu 65Percy and Ferdie

It was, uh, a busy day on the Flu beat.

The Steel responsible for crowd banning in Bethlehem (and beyond), saving lives for profit

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“At the behest of Bethlehem Steel, Pennsylvania enacts the most stringent requirements for crowd banning in the entire country.”
James Higgins

Gadfly’s been walking you through a history (let’s call it a “pedestrian history”) of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic in Bethlehem via the daily issues of the Morning Call.

You may remember that the Flu “arrived” in the U.S. September 13 according to the headline in the Call, and in previous posts we have moved a month’s time to the apex of deaths from the Flu around the weekend of October 14-16.

It’s truly been a pedestrian history, but yesterday follower John Smith called Gadfly’s attention to the overview lecture “Bethlehem Steel, Industry, and the 1918 Influence Epidemic” by Lehigh Ph.D. James Higgins, an expert on the subject, on our local National Museum of Industrial History web site.

(Gadfly suggests linking to the lecture through the NMIH web site rather than the direct link below so that you can see several other interesting lecture/videos there, e.g., one on Martin Tower.)

Gadfly highly recommends this lecture, which is about 50 mins. long, with another 15 of Q&A.

Gadfly learned a lot about the interrelationship of Bethlehem, Bethlehem Steel, and the Spanish Flu — rather fascinating, actually.

  • Gadfly knew Archibald Johnston was the first mayor of Bethlehem; he did not know that Johnston was also a Bethlehem Steel executive, a combination which enabled firm coordination with the city of the Steel’s desire to continue profitable war work by insuring a steady work force.
  • Gadfly had never heard of Loyal Shoudy, the Steel medical director, who played an extraordinary role in the activities that produced a low death rate in the city.
  • Shoudy and Johnston got the state to enact the stringent crowd-banning requirements in Bethlehem — “draconian measures” — which Allentown, for instance, resisted.
  • The Steel completely set up and funded the emergency hospital at Washington School, Northampton Heights.
  • Such Steel measures made it less likely that the sick workers — many single men living alone with no one to care for them — would die.
  • There were house to house searches for the sick.
  • There may be mass graves at St. Michael’s.
  • The Bethlehem death rate was remarkably low.
  • The Steel protected people because production meant profits — the motive was not altruistic.

Here are key outline cards from Higgins:

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What was in the medicine cabinet?

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For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

Though Hydroxychloroquine trips off the president’s tongue as easily as a Dr. Seuss lyric, we have no medicine for the coronavirus.

Neither did the Spanish Flu sufferers.

Early indication that a New York bacteriologist “discovered a serum” went nowhere, and the public health service in Washington was not able to recommend any “effective vaccine.”

The best medicine was prevention. Over and over again readers of the Morning Call in September and October 1918 were advised to cover your mouth when you cough, keep clean, watch the temperature, get fresh air, chew your food, wash your hands, pee and poop a lot, use clean utensils, wear comfortable clothes.

Especially, said the state health commissioner, “this is a time to let sunshine into the houses. Avoid crowded places, entertainments, churches where there are crowds. Keep in the open air as much as possible. Sunshine is what is need to keep in good trim.”

Ok, but what do you do if you catch the Flu?

There were, interestingly, a number of what we might call “over-the-counter” drugs pitched to Call readers: CHASCO-VIN, Father John’s Medicine, Vick’s VapoRub, the Hyomei Inhaler, Grejovan, and Smo-ko.

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Of little value ultimately, of course: an estimated 675,000 Americans died of the Spanish Flu.

The smell of Vick’s VapoRub still wafts in Gadfly’s memory.

The 1918 apex arrives in the Lehigh Valley

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For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

Gadfly hasn’t heard the word “apex” so much since sophomore geometry.

For the first half of the month of October 1918 readers of the Morning Call were greeted each day with a steady stream of influenza death notices, sometimes 6-8 individual ones per page. A death on S. 4th St., one on N. 6th St., one in Catasauqua, one in Whitehall, etc. And often with descriptive information about job, family, funeral arrangements.

Then, on the morning of Wednesday October 16, under the matter-of-fact headline of “Deaths at Easton due to Influenza Epidemic,” readers were greeted with a list of 50 names arranged as simply and as clinically as if they were ingredients in a recipe: Frank Clayton, forty five, 627 Milton Ave.; Joseph Sparta, three months, 185 E. Canal St.; Pedro Fransciare, Phillipsburg; Walter Koch, nineteen, Nazareth. And so forth. 50 of them. One after the other. Without pause. Without a word of commentary. As if the number were too great to give each victim some individuality. As if there were only time now for bookkeeping.

Easton was reaching its apex of Spanish Influenza cases.

In this graph of the 13-month period between January 1, 2018, and February 27, 1919, done by a Gadfly faithful follower, we can see that there were an astonishing 93 Flu deaths in Easton October 14 — Easton’s apex.

Obituaries

The second weekend in October 1918 was, in fact, a good weekend to be out of the Lehigh Valley completely, for Bethlehem, too, we know, also reached its apex then.

Look at the research about burials at St. Michael’s cemetery, Bethlehem, done by Rosemary C. Buffington and published in the April 1 Bethlehem Press.

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It  took literally just one month from its “arrival” in the United States as reported in the Call September 13 for the Spanish Flu to reach and to wreak its greatest havoc in the Lehigh Valley.

We have all learned in the past days that for the coronavirus what we are seeing now is the result of something that happened two weeks ago.

One is tempted to say that Spanish Flu acted the same way. Social distancing was implemented October 3-4 at the direction of state authorities. And the curve of deaths started to drop approximately 10-11 days later.

One is tempted to say that social distancing worked.

Eerie similarities to our situation abound

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For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

Allentown and Bethlehem shut down during the weekend of October 4-6, 1918, at the direction of the state health authorities.

As cases of Spanish Flu rose, readers of the Morning Call would learn of school closings on October 9 and churches — the last hold-out — closing on October 12.

Social distancing was slow but eventually took hold.

The reluctance to give up on these sites is familiar to us. The arguments the same.

But the eerie similarities to our current situation doesn’t end there.

In paging through the October 1918 issues of the Call, we could be reading our own newspapers, listening to our own television news.

For we find a call for volunteer medical staff, enlistment of medical students, a re-enlistment of retired medical personnel, visitors banned from hospitals, and — of course, of course — an inability to fill the “urgent demand” for masks.

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And ghoulishly analogous to our image of the refrigerator trucks clustering at hospital backdoors to handle the backup of corpses, in Easton “it was necessary for the prison inspectors to call for volunteers among the prisoners in the county jail to dig graves in the cemeteries.”

Highland Park identified

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Roy W. Schreffler owns a cemetery.

Gadfly:

I am pretty certain the Highland Park area at that time [of the Spanish Flu], is in West Allentown. You get there today by going on RT22 West, get off at 15th St., head south, you will pass through the Highland Cemetery on your way, corner of 15th & Roth.

Go here to download this map of Allentown from 1901, it’s a large file, so wait for it to download,
https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3824a.pm007290/?r=-0.271,-0.133,1.553,0.93,0

You can see in the upper left corner, where 15th st. starts, they show a Trolley track. I show it below, and the red arrows show the route.

Not shown on this map would be this Highland area, likely a development area slated for future growth, far away from the Flu.

Now imagine getting on a trolley at 15th, follow it for 8mins to 8th & Hamilton, then head 14 more mins East to South Bethlehem.

The trolley crosses the Lehigh River on the little bridge in the map image, then along what is now Hanover Ave, past Central Park in Rittersville, then on to South Bethlehem.

This to me makes the most sense about the location of Highland Park.

Roy Allentown

Roy

Another perspective on the Spanish Flu: “Never let a good crisis go to waste”

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For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

“Never let a good crisis go to waste,” famously said Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s chief of staff during the 2008 economic crisis.

A lesson never lost on real estate salesmen.

October 1918 — The Spanish Flu was ramping up to feast on Allentown and Bethlehem.

The perfect time to pitch escape from the “crowded city” festering with disease — escape to the “sunshine and open space” at “beautiful Highland Park”!

Safe country livin’ on easy terms.

Look at this deliciously sly pitch. An ad masked as a public service announcement.

Readers are lured in by a short litany of advice about how to avoid the dreaded disease only to find themselves tempted to change their addresses.

You gotta love the enterprise of the Lehigh Real Estate Company!

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Now Bethlehem historians need to weigh in. Could this be the present Bethlehem Township “Highland Park” in the area of the Community Center on Farmersville Rd.? Doesn’t seem to be if it’s only an 8 minute trolley ride to 8th and Hamilton. Any ideas?

“Bethlehem is closed up tight”

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For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

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The directive from the state to shut down certain businesses because of the Spanish Flu came on a Thursday night.

As you can sense from the Mayor’s reaction to the idea of a quarantine in our last post, Allentown did not go gentle into that good night.

The above article in the Monday October 7 Morning Call reported that A-town “was the only municipality in this part of the state that did not immediately comply with the order.”

But it also reported that the order would be “rigidly enforced” beginning that Monday morning after saloons remained open Saturday night and a few movie houses that didn’t close did a “tremendous business.”

The paper reported that Bethlehem, however, was “closed up tight,” though the order to close was “taken with poor grace in many quarters.”

Remarks “from the pulpit,” for instance, indicated “the feeling there is against the ruling.”

Certain businesses in Bethlehem were closed immediately Friday morning, but the ice cream and liquor dealers invented the practice of take-out to temporarily skirt the order.

To avoid the loss of thousands of gallons of ice cream, the dealers were permitted to sell to the “family trade only” on a take-out basis.  And the liquor dealers did a “big business” selling “their goods by the quarts thru the windows” on Saturday, “the biggest day they have had in many moons.”

The Bethlehem police had orders to enforce the shut-down, “raiding” Southside Coffee Houses at 429 and 523 E. Third St. on Sunday, arresting a total of 37 men. The paper (oddly?) specifically reported that both Coffee Houses were run by Greeks, one of whom “got away.”

Raiding “Coffee Houses”? Is that code for something else?

And singling out Greeks? What’s up with that?

And who do we find among the raiding officers but an “E. Gallagher”!

Gadfly meets his doppelganger.

Wasn’t ready for that.

Allentown mayor blames Bethlehem Steel for quarantine over “so-called influenza”

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For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

So we are going almost day-by-day from the arrival of the Spanish Flu in the U.S. on September 13, 1918, marking local awareness of and local events related to the Flu as seen by a reader of the Morning Call.***

On October 5 the Call reported that, pursuant to an order by state health authorities, the Allentown City Council — acting as a Board of Health — voted to close “all public places of amusement and saloons” in tandem with Bethlehem and Easton.

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A vote much to the chagrin of the Allentown Mayor, who was “strong in his denunciation of the order, calling it the work of the Bethlehem Steel Company officials” — apparently referring to the Steel’s desire to insure a proper and steady work force for its war effort responsibilities.

In his denunciation of the action, the Mayor stated “that Bethlehem was filthy and dirty, and that a wagon load of refuse could be secured from three blocks of the highways and that the streets were covered with thick layers of dust, the worst breeder of disease.”

One wishes we had access to the Bethlehem papers for rebuttals to that one!

It’s also curious that the A-town mayor focuses on city dirt as the breeder of the disease (and apparently implying that Allentown streets are not in such condition). He is closer here in his denunciation of the quality of public transportation to the common wisdom about conditions favoring the disease:

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Basically, however, it appears that the A-town mayor was a kind of pandemic denier, attributing this “so-called influenza” to nothing more than a widespread bout of the common cold caused by people not heating their homes properly.

What!? Just the day before the Call had reported 14,000 new (!) cases in army camps!

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The shut-down order, concluded the Mayor in the classic style of exaggerated political oratory, is “Prussianism, and just what we are fighting for ‘over there’ now and was the work of autocrats and not in reason.”

O, my.

But Bethlehem was not without its craziness as the shut-down tightened.

Next.

*** The Call newspaper article indicated that there were five daily newspapers in Allentown at the time. What riches! Who knew?

In an emergency, close all places where people congregate

logo Latest in a series of posts on the coronavirus/Spanish Flu logo

For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

October 5, 1918.

Twenty-two days since the Morning Call announced the arrival of the Spanish Flu in America.

Now it starts to get really interesting.

The State Board of Health sent a detailed letter to all of the Boards of Health in the state.

Oct 5 1918 Health Instructions

The opening thrust of the letter was to rehearse all of the commonsense things you could (should) do on your own (such as covering your coughs, getting fresh air, and so forth) to combat the dreaded disease.

But the main operational thrust of the letter was to suggest all of the things that the state could do to you to combat the dreaded disease.

The main operational thrust of the letter was the invocation of the police power of the local government if necessary to control your behavior for the common good.

For instance, a decidedly get-tough policy on spitting through dramatic enforcement of the “anti-spitting act” was explicitly recommended.

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One is tempted to make a joke out of perp walks by spitters or spitters in stocks at Broad and Main until you remember the bus driver who just died from the coronavirus after making a video complaining of passengers who coughed on him.

Not so funny. And it would serve the knuckleheads right.

But here’s the key nugget in the Board of Health directive:

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Who gets to decide when the disease is “unduly prevalent” or, in fact, whether the disease is a “disease” at all?

Sound familiar? Sound like something from the nightly news?

Let’s see the tension between Allentown and Bethlehem and, apparently, within Bethlehem, on these questions.

The hammer drops on a “badly infected” Bethlehem

logo Latest in a series of posts on the coronavirus logo

For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

On October 2, 1918, as we reported last post, in tall, all-bold letters in a commanding top-right position of the page, the readers of the Morning Call learned that Allentown “MAY TAKE DRASTIC ACTION TO COMBAT SPANISH INFLUENZA.”

Two days later the “MAY” disappeared, and the story moved to top-left, the most commanding position on the page. Not conditional now. No potentiality now. Drastic action was taken.

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Every place of public amusement and every saloon was ordered closed by the Pennsylvania state Commissioner of Health (churches and schools were left to local discretion), who said, “Bethlehem, a big industrial center . . . is badly infected.”

The above article includes Associated Press news releases from several other locations. Philadelphia, for instance, was being hit bad (the grandfather Gadfly wrote about earlier died there in this early Flu surge).

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We’re familiar now with medical students being pressed into service and medical staff on the front lines falling “victims to the disease,” but strikingly new is the shortage of doctors because of the war. One thing. at least, that we can be thankful for.

Dreadful disease, dreadful dilemma: quarantine the city or risk losing Bethlehem Steel to the war effort

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Spanish Flu logo

For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

Our president has called himself, metaphorically, a war-president in the fight against the coronavirus.

In 1918, there was a real war going on when the Spanish Flu arrived.

A war in which Bethlehem Steel, Bethlehem Steel workers, and Bethlehem in general played an essential role.

Gadfly bets you hadn’t considered how fighting a foe in Europe complicates fighting a flu in the ether.

But doesn’t the following situation sound familiar?

Recognition that “social distancing” combats the disease (plus recognition that we’re a crucial link in the military supply chain) but reluctance to “go the distance” because of entertainment and business interests.

Another disease sometimes seems to come in tandem with the pandemics: political paralysis.

The government official recommends the Lehigh Valley tri-cities enter in to an “absolute quarantine . . . in order to guard against the danger of a Spanish influenza epidemic which the government fears would cripple the industrial centres hereabouts that are turning out war products.”

The government official recommends “the prohibition of all public gatherings in the city, the closing of all schools, theatres, saloons, pool rooms, soda fountains and churches for an indefinite period.”

Shut-down. Shelter-in-place.

The Allentown mayor drags feet. Such “drastic and radical” action will interfere with fund raising for the war (red herring), there’s already the constructive effort of an anti-flu placard, sign, and card campaign (we’re doing enough to fight the disease now), and he opts to wait to see what others will do (punts).

The government official sees the real reason: “When General Pershing cables for guns and ammunition we cannot tell him that we cannot send the supplies because we didn’t quarantine a city for fear it would be an inconvenience to the merchants and saloonmen.”

The government official turns the screws, or tries to: “If production at the Bethlehem Steel plant is impeded because of the epidemic, we will be culpable. . . . This is a radical act but these are radical times.”

Decision, decisions — that’s why our local officials make the big money! (Just kidding, of course.)

God grant our elected officials the courage to act with wisdom and speed in radical times.

(Wouldn’t you love to see “man-in-the-street” interviews?)

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Morning Call, October 2, 1918

The Spanish Flu comes to Bethlehem

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Spanish Flu logo

For perspective on our current coroniavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

In the period a few days before and after October 1, 1918, Bethlehem readers of the Morning Call could see the disease coming closer and closer to their homes.

On September 27 Allentonian James Kingston returned from Tennessee and the funeral of his nephew, “a specimen of good health, 27 years of age,” whose “sudden and unexpected death” while serving in the army at Camp Devens was a “severe shock” to the family.

But that was nobody’s immediate family and Camp Devens and Tennessee were far away.

On October 1 in Easton, “suspicion was aroused” that two people with no connection with the military died of the “dreaded Spanish Influenza,” 20-year-old Ulmont White and 55-year-old Seth Johnson.

But that was Easton and the cause of death unsure.

October 2 was the day uncertainty itself died in Allentown. On October 2 the Spanish Flu claimed John Levi Keiser, age 68, 118 Walnut St.; Harvey Diehl, age 29, 19 S. 12th St.; and Lewis Uhl, 320 N. 6th.

On September 13, the Spanish Flu arrived in the U.S.; on October 2 it arrived in Allentown.

The Flu was no longer a number; it had a name, an address, and a story.

It was real.

Keiser was the Lehigh Valley Railroad gatetender at the 3rd St. crossing, someone many people might have passed over the years. Diehl had the hard luck of catching the Flu literally waiting in line for his discharge from the very army on which the Flu was feasting like a bear at a honey pot.

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By October 4 the disease was certainly in Bethlehem, killing “a popular young resident,” 32-year-old Frank Lowery of 620 W. Broad St. (the address of the hairdresser next to the former Mayflower lunch across from Sim’s Market), a husband leaving a wife and two sons, a son himself tragically dying before his parents — perhaps the first Bethlehem resident known to succumb to the Flu.

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The Spanish Flu had come to Bethlehem.

Local officials enter the fray against the Flu

logo Latest in a series of posts on the coronavirus logo

For perspective on our current coroniavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

Two or three days ago Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-diseases expert, and the face and fount of faithful factual information on our current pandemic crisis, reminded us that “The virus itself determines [the] timetable.”

Gadfly is reminded of that stark fact looking at the front page of the Morning Call September 28, 1918.

Running the full width of the page in just about the largest bold print possible we find:

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Not the best time for the Flu to hit.

The Spanish Flu made its move with utter disregard to the fact that we were four years in to a world war and that day — on which we were literally drafting 2,600,000 men between the ages of 19 and 37 — our President was outlining his historic plan for a League of Nations in a major speech.

Our current president doesn’t have anything anywhere so heavy to divert his attention from our current health crisis.

But, on September 28, 1918, President Wilson had other fish to fry than this incipient national crisis from Spanish Flu.

And so response was left to local officials.

And so Lehigh Valley officials, convened by Bethlehem’s first Mayor Archibald Johnson, met in Bethlehem to work together to make the Spanish Flu “reportable,” which enabled the municipalities to take legal action against it.

And Bethlehem increased its hospital space, no doubt at the Washington School we talked about earlier. (Gadfly was hoping someone would know where Washington school was located.)

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One result of the meeting, as the Morning Call reported two days later, was that Allentown gained “the distinction of being the first city in Pennsylvania” to be able to “placard and quarantine” cases if necessary to do so.

Bethlehem, only 9 months a city at this point, did not yet have a health bureau.

But within two weeks of the arrival of the Flu, local authorities were mobilizing to fight it.

“Your fate may be in your own hands”

logoLatest in a series of posts on the Spanish Flu logo

For perspective on our current coroniavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

September 28.

15 days after “arrival.”

When the Flu starts to hit the fan, the medical experts weigh in.

One can imagine this list cut out of the Morning Call and taped to the “ice box.”

Except for the advice to maintain what we now familiarly call “social distance” as a precaution, it’s remarkable how simplistic and commonplace the Surgeon General’s advice is: cover your mouth when you cough, keep clean, watch the temperature, get fresh air, chew your food, wash your hands, pee a lot, use clean utensils, wear comfortable clothes.

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The “declaration” that the Flu is not new and that sunshine is the best medicine ironically masks what we now too are experiencing as a crucial problem: shortage of medical staff to treat the multitude of cases — a medical system going in to overload.

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The Flu starts to hit the fan

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Spanish Flu logo

For perspective on our current coroniavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

On September 27, 1918, exactly two weeks after the news that the Spanish Flu had “arrived” in the U.S., the story lands solidly among major war stories on p. 1 of the Morning Call. Four Associated Press releases are now grouped in one article rather than oddly and randomly distributed individually as they had been. News about a major outbreak among students at Middlebury College — with one death and, for the very first time, a named victim — indicates to our local reading public that the disease has traveled outside the military camps and will be real for them. And Boston initiates the first attempt to thwart the spread by closing “all theatres, moving picture shows, dance halls, and ‘other unnecessary places of public assembly’.” The Flu moves quickly, with fully 50,000 cases in Boston in this two-week period (in contrast to about 40,000 in the past two weeks in the New York area).

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1918 Spanish Flu “probably introduced here by German submarines.”

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Spanish Flu logo

For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

Think what our current social media could do with this.

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Morning Call, September 20, 1918