Celebrities Who Faced the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu

During 2020, the whole world is directly affected by the present Coronavirus-19 and some people may feel that is unique and the first time in history such an event occurred. Actually just a little better than 100 years ago, the same type pandemic occurred and affected people across the globe. It was known as the ‘Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918’ or ‘Spanish Flu’.

If you have not located yet, you may come across ancestors who either died from this disease, did have and recovered or those whose work and lifestyle was changed during that pandemic. The United States over the two outbreaks, had 668,364 Americans died and 25 million did have the disease but recovered.

What may not have occurred to you was that some celebrities of those times and some who would be famous in the years to come had the Spanish Flu and did recover.

Here are a few:

The author, Katherine Anne Porter suffered bronchitis and then the Spanish Flu but did survive. Due to that experience, she wrote a short novel “Palm Horse, Pale Rider” and later the novel ‘Ship of Fools’.

The U.S. President, Woodrum Wilson, got influenza while attended the Versailles Peace Conference in France between March and April 1919. He did recover but suffered a massive stroke on October 2, 1919.

Beside thousands of American soldiers who were ill or died from the disease, also the famous general, ‘Black Jack’ Pershing had the virus. He became very ill and delirious but he did make it to the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918.

Future president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and traveled to France to meet with American front-line troops for two months. Returning on a ship with many other sick from the flu, he was stricken with the disease and had to be carried off the ship when it docked in America.

The famous artist, Georgia O’Keeffe, came down with the flu in the spring of 1919. She recovered in her friend’s home in NYC and after she improved the couple married in a few years She lived until 1986, reaching the age of 98.

Mary Pickford was America’s silent movie sweetheart. She got the disease in January 1919. News about her illness and recovery was daily in local newspapers. Movie theaters were closed as well as schools. She retired from movies in 1932.

Walt Disney was only 16 years old and signed up to serve with the Red Cross Ambulance Corps. Then he caught the Spanish Flu and by the time he recovered the Great War was over.

An individual who did die from the Spanish Flu was Frederick Trump, who would be an ancestor to the future president Donald Trump. Frederick made his fortune acquiring real estate in Queen, NY. Frederick died from the disease on May 30, 1918, one of the early cases in the United States.

Photos: Photos at about the time they had the Spanish Flu: Woodrum Wilson; Black Jack Pershing, Georgia O’Keeffe and Walt Disney.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Influenza and Your Ancestors

1918 in Philadelphia, PA

Ancestors Affected by Historical Events

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