Spanish Flu – 1918 – Philadelphia, PA

Some events happen that you might not be aware affected your ancestors. Better than one hundred years ago there was a world-wide disease of the Spanish Flu. This influenza pandemic of 1918-19 killed between 50 and 100 million people around the globe (men-women-children). Especially affected were young adults, people between the ages of 18 and 30 years. This was surprising to families, figuring those young people would have been the healthiest of all in a family but strange the Spanish flu affected them in the greatest numbers.

In the city of Philadelphia, PA, the head of Philadelphia’s Naval Hospital told the Public Ledger in the days before a late September 1918 special celebration parade for the near end of the Great War; “There is no cause for further alarm. We believe we have it (Spanish flu) well in hand.” So, the parade went forward. “In the streets of downtown Philadelphia, 200,000 people gathered to celebrate an impending allied victory in World War I. Within a week of the rally an estimated 45,000 Philadelphia residents were afflicted with influenza.” That is about ¼ of those attending the parade.

To demonstrate, just 72 hours after the parade all the beds in the 31 hospitals in Philadelphia were filled. Then the morgues, funeral homes and cemeteries were filling up. The evening of October 3, the closure of schools, churches, and places of public amusement was adopted by the Philadelphia city council. So many deaths that most names and information for an obituary were never done, none appeared in the newspapers. Many of those buried were interred without headstones in long trenches. The deaths must have felt like they would never end. People didn’t go to work and nearly all government and private businesses hauled.

Conditions began to improve slowly by November and into early 1919. But it created a very bad situation for the city.

If you had ancestors in Philadelphia in 1918, they may have been one of those who died and no grave marked or obituary done. Or they may have survived or even moved out of Philadelphia. It is worth checking out such ancestors.

Photos: Sept 1918 Philadelphia parade, the closing of the city of Philadelphia and its mass graves,

Related Blogs:

Flu and Other Illnesses

One Hundred Years-the Spanish Flu

Epidemics and Your Ancestors

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