Spanish Flu - Cartoon

Spanish Flu - Cartoon (Illustration) American History Law and Politics World War I Social Studies Visual Arts

In the midst of all the Spanish-Flu-caused chaos, people needed to find humor somewhere.  This image, of a cartoon published in the New York World, provides an example.

People in various health departments were often as clueless as the public about the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919.  Official information, given in press releases, sometimes looked like tongue-in-cheek advice. This list of things-not-to-do, for example, appeared in Chicago on October 24, 1918:

Influenza Don’ts

Don't live in the dark
Don't shut the sunshine out of your home
Don't exclude the fresh air
Don't fail to keep clean
Don't go into crowed places
Don't associate with people who sneeze and cough in your presence
Don't use common towels
Don't fail to practice what you preach
Don't overtax your physical powers.  Cut out evening entertainments.  Be in bed by ten o'clock.
Don't fail to sleep with every window in your bedroom open.
Don't fail to call your doctor for yourself or any other member of your family at the first sign of illness.   Better be safe than sorry.
Don't allow your home to become damp, chilly, or uncomfortable.
Don't fail, if possible, to walk to your work in the morning and to your home at night.  The open air exercise will be of decided benefit. (See DePaul University website for more information on this article.)

Where was information like this posted?

Posters were hung at the entrances of theaters, on elevated train platforms (and in the cars themselves), and other various places around the city.  

The Department of Health produced lantern slides to be shown in every moving picture theater in Chicago.  These slides warned the public about the danger of sneezing and asked those with colds to leave the theater.  

Life in the city was not altered significantly by the extensive warnings because the citizens didn't consider the announcements to be threatening in any way.

Perhaps that's because the advice didn't seem particularly helpful.

To learn more information about the article in which the political-cartoon image appears, published in the May-June 1986 issue of Navy Medicine, see: Morrisey, Carla R. "The Influenza Epidemic of 1918." Navy Medicine 77, no. 3 (May-June 1986): 11-17.


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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Dec 05, 2014

Updated Last Revision: Nov 05, 2016

Media Credits

New York World cartoon, included in the May-June 1986 issue of Navy Medicine.  Online, courtesy iBiblio (The Public's Library and Digital Archive) at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.


In-text image of a Chicago poster endorsed by Chicago's Commissioner of Health, online via Wikimedia Commons.


To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"Spanish Flu - Cartoon" AwesomeStories.com. Dec 05, 2014. Feb 17, 2020.
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