Saturday, October 01, 2005

87 years ago today - Oct 1, 1918

What did newspapers' coverage of the 1918 inflenza pandemic look like?
John Barry's book covers this, making the point that a cowed and propagandist press (during WW I) was not an informative press. Here's how The Union covered and editorialized on the events in October 1918.*

1. This is from notes, so complete accuracy is even less likely than usual.
(Any chance The Union will be one of the papers in the National Digital Newspaper Program?)

2. Other standards for this series are also lax. If the post isn't ready until after midnight, I'll turn the "post time" clock back an hour or so, so it appears to be published on the correct day; I'll go back and fix spelling and expand/append notes without explicitly saying so; or perhaps laziness will reign and spelling etc will go unfixed.


October 1, 1918

Edward White added to roll call of dead

Edward John White, age 25, Nevada City Elks member, at Edgewood Arsenal, MD, of pneumonia. ...the remains will be shipped to this city for interment...


Influenza Epidemic Is Not Alarming Nation disastrous general epidemic of the disease is probable.

Essentially a crowd disease
While only a few sporadic cases have developed on the Pacific coast, there is the possibility, of course, that it might become prevalent in some measure, in this section, for a time. Precautions are not amiss...


Put the Propagandists out of Business Here

Pro-Germanism employs many diverse schemes to fortify its ends. Smite mercilessly enemy propaganda whenever and wherever found, and whoever may be responsible for it. Disloyal, seditious remarks overheard should be reported promptly to the proper federal authorities or to local patriotic organizations. Your name will not be used...

Deny any alarmist rumors that may be retailed in your hearing...
Puncture such lies as that American transport ships are being sunk and soldiers drowned, but that the Washington authorities are keeping the truth hidden. This is a monstrous untruth and should be excoriated whenever heard.

[ed. note:
U. S. Navy troop transports sunk or damaged by enemy torpedo, bombs, or gunfire (from
  • May 31, 1918:
    U. S. S. President Lincoln (troop transport), gross 18,167 tons; torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-90, 600 miles off the French coast; 26 killed, 1 taken prisoner.

  • July 1, 1918:
    U. S. S. Covington (troop transport), gross 16,339 tons; torpedoed by German submarine U-86 off Brest, France; sank July 2; 6 killed.

  • September 5, 1918:
    U. S. S. Mount Vernon (troop transport), gross 18,372 tons; torpedoed by German submarine U-57 about 200 miles off Ushant, France; made port; 36 killed, 12 wounded.

  • September 30, 1918:
    U. S. S. Ticonderoga (N. O. T. S.* cargo(?) vessel), gross 5,130 tons; torpedoed, shelled and sunk after two hours battle by German submarine U-152, in North Atlantic.; 213 killed: 112 Navy, 101 Army, 2 taken prisoners.

Other headlines:

Cholera has made appearance in Berlin
Germans too dazed to counter attack
Wounded men well cared for


October 1, 2005

In the SF Chronicle:
Every day, headlines squawk about avian flu and mosquito-borne West Nile virus... But are birds really a threat?

"We're a country of fear," said avian expert Dr. Greg Harrison of Lake Worth, Fla. ... Harrison pointed out avian flu has been around for at least five years, "and worldwide, fewer than 100 people have died from it." "...panic is not the answer" ...the risk of an avian flu pandemic remains low at this time due to the current genetic makeup of H5N1, although this could change...
and in NY Times ( World Health Agency Tones Down Alarm on Possible Flu Pandemic (AP story)):
The World Health Organization moved Friday to drastically revise downward what it considered alarming predictions that a possible pandemic from the avian influenza virus ravaging parts of Asia could kill as many as 150 million people.
..."We're not going to know how lethal the next pandemic is going to be until the pandemic begins," [WHO influenza spokesman] Dick Thompson, said Friday. "You could pick almost any number" until then, he said, adding that the organization "can't be dragged into further scare-mongering."

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