On September 24, 1918, a small number of influenza cases among soldiers at Camp Meade–some 25 miles north of Baltimore and on the route to Washington, DC–were reported to military medical officers. The victims were believed to have contracted the disease while away from camp. Each sick soldier was isolated immediately, but no further actions were taken; for the time being, visitors were still allowed to enter the camp and soldiers were allowed to visit Baltimore
The disease moved with amazing rapidity, and within a few days there were 1,900 soldiers at the camp ill with influenza. Officers quickly implemented measures to slow or halt the spread of the disease. Large gatherings were banned, and the Hostess House, theater, and base YMCA were closed. Civilians were barred from visiting, except valid employees, and no soldier was permitted to leave the camp.2 Meanwhile, approximately 300 cases of influenza were reported at Fort McHenry, the famous Army installation from the War of 1812 and now home to a large military hospital complex, and nearly 1,150 cases at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Edgewood, some 25 miles up the Chesapeake Bay from Baltimore.3 As the disease ravaged the nearby military installations, Baltimore’s thousands of civilian contract laborers who worked at Camp Meade, Fort McHenry, the Proving Grounds, and area shipyards brought more than their dinner pails home at the end of the day, infecting themselves, their families, and associates with influenza. The city health department would later report that the first ten cases of influenza to strike Baltimore’s civilian population occurred in late-September among these laborers.4 From this small batch of cases would follow Baltimore’s influenza epidemic.
Initially, while Baltimore newspapers focused on the thousands of military cases being treated, city Health Commissioner Dr. John D. Blake maintained that he was not worried about a similar outbreak among civilians. On September 26, he announced that the influenza circulating in the area was the “same old influenza the physicians have recognized and treated for a good many years.”5 Likewise, the chief of the communicable diseases bureau of the Maryland Board of Health, Dr. C. Hampson Jones, said that the situation around Baltimore was not alarming. Unfortunately, it soon would be.
Several days later, on September 29, the health department admitted that influenza cases were increasing in the city, but officials were unable to estimate the actual numbers since influenza was not yet a reportable disease in Baltimore. Blake still did not believe the situation was serious enough to warrant “drastic measures,” a position he would continue to hold.6 On October 1, Blake did ask the United Railways Company and the city’s theaters to keep their streetcars and spaces well ventilated and to post signs reminding patrons to use their handkerchiefs when coughing and sneezing.7 It was a start. Baltimore’s Mayor James Preston felt that Blake “should have a free hand to deal with existing conditions and to use every means within his power to check any further spread of the disease.”8 Yet Blake, meeting with a group of ten prominent city and state physicians, decided that no public good would come from implementing more active interventions at this time. When a group of physicians from the Hospital Conference Associate criticized Blake for his inaction and asked Mayor Preston to make provisions to relieve hospital overcrowding and to ban public gatherings, Blake angrily asked what the point of such a move would be. “[E]very day and night there are tremendous gatherings in the interest of the [Liberty] loan,” he told them. “Then imagine if you can what it would mean if we put a sudden stop to all such meetings. We no not consider such drastic steps necessary in view of the extreme low civilian death rate in the city.”9 For Blake, the supposed fear that a closure order would cause was worse than the epidemic itself.
The death rate may have been low thus far, but the number of new cases was quickly overwhelming Baltimore’s hospitals, nurses, and physicians. By October 6, there were already so many residents sick with influenza that the city’s hospitals were unable to accept new patients. The Volunteers of America offered their headquarters building as a temporary hospital, and residents were called upon to donate sheets, blankets, and pillows to help prepare it for patients. The small emergency hospital was ready three days later, but its twenty beds were hardly enough.10 City businesses struggled to maintain their operations in the face of high worker absenteeism. The Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company reported 250 of its operators and some 25% of its total workforce out sick with influenza.11 United Railways, which operated Baltimore’s streetcars, reported 300 motormen and conductors sick.12 Blake came under increased attack by physicians and public health officials crying for action. One physician called it “absolute suicide for our people” for Blake not to issue a closure order. Another said that schools, churches, and theaters should be closed at least for a short while, as the city was experiencing the height of its epidemic and “conditions at the present time are exceedingly alarming.”13
On October 8, the school board decided to take unilateral action and to close all public schools until further notice, over Blake’s strenuous objection. A staggering 30,000 students and 208 teachers were absent on October 7 alone, Superintendent C. J. Koch explained, and there was simply no way to keep schools open and functional. A number of private schools, facing similar absenteeism problems, followed suit.14 Blake finally relented. In step-wise fashion, he implemented a series of public health measures intended to halt or slow the spread of the epidemic. On October 9, he issued an order prohibiting public gatherings and closing theaters and other places of public assembly.15 The next day, Blake restricted the business hours of department, retail, and specialty stores. Saloons were spared from either closure or business hour curtailment because of the purported medicinal value of liquor. The health commissioner also ordered United Railway to keep its streetcars ventilated and to prevent overcrowding.16 On October 11, he ordered all churches and poolrooms closed, and hinted that saloons might have to close as well. The next day, Blake ordered dentists to wear gauze masks while with patients, and limited the operating hours of saloons and bars to 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.17
Within a week, the number of new influenza cases being reported daily began to decline, although, given Baltimore’s slow response to the crisis, this was most likely due to the epidemic running its natural course than to the recent social distancing measures enacted. The death toll, however, continued to mount. Caskets, as well as the labor to prepare graves, were in short supply. Families, many of them living paycheck-to-paycheck, could simply not afford the expense of one or more funerals in the family. Mayor Preston and city council appropriated $25,000 to help defray funeral costs for poorer families. To lower funeral costs, the health department temporarily allowed burials without embalming. The department also secured fifty workers from the highways and water departments to dig graves, and helped obtain a supply of coffins.18 East Baltimore, the city’s immigrant neighborhood, was especially ravaged by the epidemic. Crowded housing and unsanitary conditions caused by a lack of resources placed many of Baltimore’s recent arrivals at higher risk of contracting influenza. To help alleviate conditions there, Blake asked the Y.M.C.A., Knights of Columbus, and the Jewish Welfare Board to direct their attention and activities to the poorer sections of the city, and in particular to help immigrant families.19
Baltimore’s immigrants were not the only group facing added hardship. With the exception of the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Bay View (for the city’s poor and the insane), the city’s African Americans were admitted to Black-only hospitals.20 This color line affected not only the sick, but the deceased as well. By October, the city’s African American cemetery, Mt. Auburn, was overwhelmed with caskets and not early enough graves. Few city employees were willing to dig graves for Blacks. When a call for volunteer gravediggers went unanswered, Mayor Preston appealed to the War Department for assistance. In response, 342 African American soldiers, along with a minister, were assigned the task, which they completed in a single day.21
By late-October, only two weeks after taking action, Blake decided that the epidemic situation in Baltimore was looking good enough to remove some of the restrictions on public gatherings. Beginning on October 26, retail stores would be allowed to operate from 9:00 am until 5:30 pm, while movie houses, theaters, poolrooms, and lodges could open from 7:30 pm until 11:30 pm. Churches could hold services from 5:00 am to 3:00 pm. Movie house and theater owners protested the restricted hours–which prohibited them from showing matinees–but to no avail. “While we ought to be grateful that the situation is better,” Blake told Baltimoreans, “the public should still look upon it as being serious and should take all precautions that can be taken.”22 Interestingly, schools remained shut. When a delegation of private school officials inquired about reopening their schools, Blake –now seemingly a convert to the idea that social distancing measures could have an effect on an epidemic–replied that they should remain shut for the time being. “It is to safeguard the lives of the little ones that I refrain from opening the schools just now,” he told them.23
As October turned to November, the number of new influenza cases in Baltimore continued to decline. Blake felt optimistic that the city was in the clear, and that the worst of the epidemic had passed. At noon on Saturday, November 2, the closure order was removed. Public schools were scheduled to reopen on Monday morning. When they did, attendance was lower than expected, attributed not to sick students but rather to cautious parents who kept their children home out of fear of illness.24
Over the course of November, Baltimore continued to experience new cases of influenza, but in drastically lower numbers than during the height of the epidemic. Instead of hundreds of new cases reported each day, there were only handfuls. December, however, saw a slight rise in new cases, which alarmed the press and the public but not Blake. “Influenza,” he told the public, “has practically disappeared, returning only here and there in a usually mild form. There is nothing to indicate a recurrence of the epidemic of recent date.”25 He recommended that people avoid crowds, adding that so long as this advice was followed, there would be no need to “again resort to restrictive measures.”26
Over the course of the winter, life in Baltimore slowly returned to normal, as much as it could in a city that, by the end of 1918, had a total of nearly 24,000 reported cases of influenza (Blake estimated the actual count at closer to three times that number) and had lost 4,125 Baltimoreans to the epidemic.27 Despite Blake’s hesitancy to implement a closure order, Baltimore’s excess death rate for the epidemic period was only 559 per 100,000, better than that of many of its East Coast counterparts. Washington, DC, for example, only 40 miles to the southwest, experienced a death rate of 608 deaths per 100,000 people, despite a similar lag in response to its epidemic. Boston and Philadelphia, two cities devastated by influenza in the fall of 1918, experienced excess death rates of 710 and 748 deaths per 100,000 people, respectively.
1 “’Flu’ Appears at Meade,” Baltimore Sun, 24 Sept. 1918, 7.
2 “Camp Meade Put Under Quarantined,” Baltimore American, 26 Sept. 1918, 7, and “Meade Quarantine Tightened Today,” Baltimore American, 27 Sept. 1918, 7.
3 “’Flu’ Situation in Hand,” Baltimore Sun, 28 Sept. 1918, 16.
4 Baltimore (Md.), Annual Report Sub-Department of Health. To the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore for the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 1918 (Baltimore: King Bros. City Printers, 1920), 21-22.
5 “Meade is quarantined,” Baltimore Sun, 26 Sept. 1918, 16.
6 “23 Victims of ‘Flu’ Epidemic,” Baltimore American, 30 Sept. 1918, 12.
7 “’Flu’ Claims 31 More Victims,” Baltimore American, 2 Oct. 1918, 14.
8 “’Flu’ Spreading, 22 More Victims,” Baltimore American, 4 Oct. 1918, 16.
9 “21 More Deaths Due to Epidemic,” Baltimore American, 5 Oct. 1918, 14.
10 “Influenza’s Toll Continues Heavy,” Baltimore American, 6 Oct. 1918, 12, and “Temporary Flu Hospital,” Baltimore American, 8 Oct. 1918, 3.
11 “Flu Toll Big; 78 Die at Meade,” Baltimore Sun, 8 Oct. 1918, 16.
12 “Schools Are Closed,” Baltimore Sun, 8 Oct. 1918, 16.
13 “Blake Will Not Close Theaters,” Baltimore American, 7 Oct. 1918, 12, and “Influenza’s Toll Continues Heavy,” Baltimore American, 6 Oct. 1918, 12.
14 “Fly Toll Big; 78 Die at Meade, Baltimore Sun, 8 Oct. 1918, 16.
15 “Theaters Ordered Closed as Epidemic Tightens Its Grip on City and State,” Baltimore American, 9 Oct. 1918, 14.
16 “Epidemic Grows Worse; As Death Rate Mounts Higher Store Hours are Lessened,” Baltimore American, 10 Oct. 1918, 16.
17 “Flu Situation Shows Marked Improvement; Saloons Curtailed,” Baltimore American, 12 Oct. 1918, 14.
18 “Flu Germ is Losing Power,” Baltimore American, 20 Oct. 1918, 12, and “Flu Toll Highest Yet,” Baltimore Sun, 17 Oct. 1918, 16.
19 “Help Wanted to Stop Flu,” Baltimore American, 18 Oct. 1918, 16, “Flu Eases up a Bit,” Baltimore Sun, 18 Oct. 1918, 16, and “Poor Hard Hit by Flu,” Baltimore Sun, 18 Oct. 1918, 16.
20 Sherry H. Olson, Baltimore: The Building of an American City (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), 270.
21 “Flu’ Ban Modified,” The Baltimore Sun, 25 Oct. 1918, 14; “Colored Soldiers as Gravediggers” Baltimore American, 27 Oct., 1918,12.
22 “Blake Modifies Closing Orders,” Baltimore American, 25 Oct. 1918, 12.
23 “Schools Will Not Reopen this Week,” Baltimore American, 30 Oct. 1918, 12.
24 “Schools are Reopened as the Flu Passes,” Baltimore American, 5 Nov. 1918, 12.
25 “No Fear of the Return of Flu,” Baltimore American, 5 Dec. 1918, 12.
26 “Warns Public about the Flu,” Baltimore American, 18 Dec. 1918, 14.
27 Baltimore Health Department, Annual Report of the Sub-Department of Health To the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore for the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 1918 (Baltimore: King Bros. Printers, 1920), 22-24.
|200||Excess Death Rate (per 100,000)|
September 24, 1918
First cases of Spanish influenza are reported at Camp Meade. Victims are being isolated as soon as symptoms appear, however a general quarantine of the camp has not been enacted. The disease is believed to have been brought back by soldiers on leave to their homes in New England, or by visitors.
September 25, 1918
Major General Carter, commander of the Lafayette Division, orders the Liberty Theater to be closed, and bans large gatherings in the YMCA auditorium.
Several cases of influenza are reported at Fort McHenry Hospital, though authorities believe the disease to be the ordinary grip.
Gatherings in welfare buildings, at the Knights of Columbus, and in the Jewish Welfare Board are allowed to continue, as are visitors to Camp Meade. Authorities prepare to convert barracks to hospital space if base hospital facilities are further taxed. An education campaign on how to avoid contracting disease is underway.
September 26, 1918
Six or seven cases of influenza are reported at the Marine Hospital, prompting Major General Carter to order a quarantine of Camp Meade. Physicians examine all arriving seamen, with new cases promptly isolated. Large gathering areas are closed throughout the city, including welfare buildings. A graduation ceremony is held for 100 noncommissioned officers in spite of the “flu.”
September 27, 1918
Two deaths from pneumonia are reported at Camp Meade, both men from Company E, 71st Infantry. Quarantine against visitors is enacted at 1:00 am, with the exception of necessary civilian employees and relatives of critically ill soldiers. Soldiers are barred from leaving the camp.
The Knights of Columbus donates their bungalow for use as a hospital, with secretaries volunteering as nurses. The campaign for fourth Liberty Loan drive in camps is cancelled due to seriousness of spreading disease.
September 29, 1918
160 new cases of pneumonia are reported with three deaths at Camp Meade, while Fort McHenry reports seven deaths thus far.
Military Police are enforcing the quarantine of Camp Meade. Officers are exempt as they “are not quartered together like the average enlisted man, and they are better able to care for themselves and thus avoid contamination.” Camp Meade reported 1,098 new cases today (up from 484 yesterday).
The City Health Department issues a statement admitting influenza has appeared in the city, though they are unable to approximate total number of cases.
September 30, 1918
Health Commissioner Blake issues a statement saying the situation does not warrant any “drastic measures.” However, welfare houses are being prepared for conversion to overflow hospitals.
October 1, 1918
Barracks are appropriated for hospital use at Camp Meade. Training “battle” to take place despite quarantine.
October 2, 1918
177 new cases of influenza are reported in Baltimore. The YWCA Hostess House is taken over for hospital use, with YMCA and more Knights of Columbus buildings prepared to accept cots as well. Cardinal James Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore, offers the nursing services of Sisters of Mercy.
A ban on public dances is enacted. Health Commissioner Dr. John D. Blake asks operators of large gathering places, such as theaters and rail-cars, to ensure their spaces are well ventilated, and to post signs reminding people to use their handkerchiefs when sneezing.
October 3, 1918
Three medical officers and additional enlisted men are transferred to the medical department.
October 4, 1918
Camp Meade Surgeon Lieutenant Colonel H. C. Pillsbury requests 75 Sisters of Mercy to assist in nursing ill soldiers.
October 5, 1918
Due to encouraging conditions, Brigadier General Joseph Gaston allows the Knights of Columbus and the YMCA to reopen to soldiers. Contravening this is Dr. John A. Nydegger, United States Public Health Service representative, who calls for public buildings to be closed for a short period due to the “exceeding alarming” spread of the disease.
Upon the request of Camp Meade authorities 40 Sisters of Mercy and 60 fourth-year medical students from Johns Hopkins University arrive at the Camp to assist in nursing the ill.
Health Commissioner Blake holds a conference with 10 prominent physicians of the city and state, during which it is unanimously decided that, “practically no good would result from any drastic action at this time.” A separate conference is held at Mercy Hospital, with physician members of the Hospital Conference Association criticizing the City Health Department for not taking sufficient action against the disease.
October 6, 1918
City hospitals are unable to accept more patients. Captain John Logan of the Volunteers of America in Baltimore offers the Volunteers’ headquarters as a temporary hospital. Donations of sheets, blankets, and pillows are requested. Nurses are now required to wear cotton masks while on duty.
80 cases of influenza are reported among prisoners at the Baltimore City Jail, both male and female.
October 7, 1918
Frank J. Goodnow, President of Johns Hopkins University, considers closing the school after 25 students from the medical school fall ill.
Dr. J. H. Moss of the Hebrew Hospital and Hospital Conference of Maryland publishes a letter criticizing Health Commissioner Blake for not closing public gathering places, such as schools and theaters.
October 8, 1918
Public places, including schools, are ordered closed by Health Commissioner Blake. Johns Hopkins Student Army Training Corps will close for a week.
Due to lack of space in hospitals, the Health Department accepts Captain John Logan’s offer of the Volunteers of America headquarters for housing the sick, and other sites are prepared for use. Graduate and undergraduate nurses are asked to volunteer to replace those ill.
October 9, 1918
A small amount of antiflu serum from New York is received at Camp Meade and administered to several officers and enlisted men. Out of 10,000 total cases of influenza at the camp, 6,000 have recovered.
Health Commissioner Blake bans “all meetings of a public nature.” Streetcars are exempt and continue to run, though under the provision that they be well ventilated. Churches are also still allowed to hold services.
October 10, 1918
Authorities at Camp Meade feel the disease has run its course. In Baltimore, however, Health Commissioner Blake restricts business hours of department, retail, and specialty stores to 9:30 am–4:30 pm. Saloons are not subject to this restriction, as “the sale of liquor is now essential for medicinal purposes.”
Public service organization such as telephone, gas, and rail companies continue to suffer employee shortages. Thirty percent of the city fire department is reported to be ill.
October 12, 1918
Health Commissioner Blake issues a mandate for all dentists to wear masks when operating. Saloon and bar hours are curtailed to 9:30 am–4:30 pm.
October 13, 1918
For the first time in Baltimore’s history, churches are closed for Sunday services. Liberty Day celebrations are also closed to the public.
A sufficient amount of pneumonia vaccine is made available to begin inoculating soldiers, with hundreds signing up for a dose.
October 14, 1918
Cardinal James Gibbons expresses his displeasure that churches were closed while saloons and markets were not.
October 15, 1918
Football practice, which continued after the schools closed, is halted. Department stores are warned to not open boxes containing returned goods. Because of a shortage of coffins, pine boxes are now being used instead. A well-known surgeon and member of the Board of School Commissioners dies of pneumonia.
October 16, 1918
List of closed meeting places extends to include circulating libraries. The Maryland Council of Defense, Women’s Section begins accepting volunteers “for nursing or any similar work.” Ads have appeared offering up to $100 a week for a trained nurse. Eastern district coroners Henry L. Sinskey and J. Knox Insley are both ill, and Coroner-at-large Smith “refuses to go beyond his jurisdiction in viewing dead bodies, so they can be removed from houses to the Morgue.” Coroner Sinskey issues temporary death certificates from his sickbed in order that bodies may be moved, and requests experienced physicians to issue certificates when possible.
October 17, 1918
Quarantine relaxed at Camp Meade to allow the use of open-air theaters. At Camp Holabird the quarantine is completely lifted.
Health Commissioner Blake prepares a table comparing the epidemic statistics of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington with those of Baltimore. He also calls for plainclothes men to be stationed on streetcars to enforce rules against spitting and smoking.
Governor Everson Harrington turns over $5,000 in state emergency funds for combating the epidemic. Mayor James H. Preston offers financial help to alleviate the burden on undertakers.
October 18, 1918
Officials at Camp Meade declare the situation to no longer be an epidemic.
The Child Welfare Circle postpones their meeting as a result of the ban on gatherings. Judge Allan McLane indefinitely postpones Baltimore County Circuit Courts. City Hall is sprayed with chemical cleaner in an effort to kill flu germs.
A dearth of graves and coffins continues to cause great concern to officials. Health Commissioner Blake calls on organizations like the Y.M.C.A, Knights of Columbus and the Jewish Welfare Board to direct their activities to the parts of the city that “the foreign element predominates.”
October 19, 1918
Mayor Preston puts $25,000 at the disposal of the Health Department in order to help defray funeral costs for those families who cannot afford them. He also calls for the elimination of embalming, for shorter funerals, and simple obsequies, and brings in the police to help in the digging of graves and construction of coffins. The flushing of city streets with water to rid them of dirt and germs begins.
The cross-country race is rescheduled for October 22. Entrants must provide a medical certificate.
October 20, 1918
Camp Meade is opened to visitors, but passes granted to soldiers only for “exceptional circumstances.” The Y.W.C.A building remains closed and all gatherings cancelled. Churches also remain closed.
Health Commissioner Blake reports that cemetery congestion has been substantially relieved thanks to methods adopted in previous days.
Dr. C. Hampson Jones is made acting Assistant Surgeon of the United States Public Health Service for Baltimore.
October 21, 1918
Racing at Laurel Park and the Maryland State Fair remains suspended, despite the open-air nature of the track.
Several charitable organizations offer to pay board for children whose parents are unable to care for them due to illness or death.
October 22, 1918
Health Commissioner Blake requests police officers to enforce an order directing apartment houses to supply heat for tenants
General Francis E. Waters, chairman of Maryland Council of Defense, appeals to the army to temporarily assign pharmacists to civilian locations in the state.
New cases of flu seem to be on the decline.
October 23, 1918
Health Commissioner Blake asks all physicians in the city to supply patient numbers during this week, upon which he will make the decision whether or not to lift the ban. Representatives of both Baptist and Methodist denominations request that churches be reopened.
Assistant Health Commissioner Dr. W. T. Howard appeals to the Park Board and is granted more laborers to help dig graves.
October 24, 1918
Health Commissioner Blake announces end of ban on assemblages in coming days, but warns against “reckless” behavior. Large quantities of pneumonia serum are made available for the general public. The number of typhoid cases has increased, which physicians link to the condition of city water, advising the public to boil it.
October 25, 1918
Health Commissioner Blake partially lifts the ban against assemblages, allowing gathering places to open during specified hours. Churches and synagogues may open from 5:00 am–3:00 pm; retail stores, 9:00 am–5:30 pm; theaters, moving-picture houses, pool rooms, and lodges, 7:30 pm–11:30 pm. Moving-picture house proprietors protest hour restrictions. Schools are to remain closed until further notice.
Assistant Commissioner of Health Howard states that help is badly needed at Mt. Auburn Cemetery where conditions are “very bad.”
October 26, 1918
Commissioner of Internal Revenue Daniel C. Roper issues a modification of “Article 11 of Regulations No. 35” allowing prescriptions of morphine, codeine or heroin to be refilled if physician notes “repeat if necessary.”
The emergency hospital run by Captain Logan closes after being open for more than two weeks.
October 27, 1918
Gaining wide attention are reports that African Americans have been in a degree immune, though the death rate is actually higher than in the Caucasian population. Overall, the death rate improved from 146.26 to 117.42 over two previous weeks.
Ban on church funerals remained in effect. Further, Dr. Harry F. Shipley, health warden of the second district of Baltimore County, extends bans against public gatherings and orders that schools and churches remain closed. He believes that the epidemic has not yet abated sufficiently in his or in the adjacent Freedom district.
October 28, 1918
Baltimore County schools re-open, though city schools remain closed. Health authorities continue to advise caution as there are still hundreds of cases in Baltimore, though the epidemic is seen to be abating. Saloons, cafes, retail liquor stores and all other non essential mercantile establishments open from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm as has been the case from the beginning of the ban. All other shops can resume regular hours.
October 29, 1918
Health Commissioner Blake modifies the ban on businesses selling liquor, allowing them to open between 7 AM and 10:30 PM. The ban on medical, dental, business, and law schools, circulating libraries, and poolrooms is lifted.
Incoming ships must now pass through quarantine and ill sailors and passengers are taken to hospitals before the ship docks.
October 30, 1918
Health Commissioner Blake meets with a delegation representing private schools seeking permission hold classes. Blake decides against lifting the school ban for the time being.
Banks are unable to deliver purchased bonds because of the epidemic.
October 31, 1918
Health Commissioner Blake states that large assemblies of people remained dangerous, and asks Police Marshal Carter to prevent street celebrations.
November 2, 1918
The quarantine on Camp Meade is lifted, though with the caveat that only 25% of each unit may be given leave at any one time, and that no sick or convalescent soldier will be granted leave.
The ban on theaters, moving-picture parlors, public assembly and dance halls, dancing academies and dancing schools, baseball, football, and all outdoor and indoor sports is lifted. Public schools are to remain closed.
November 3, 1918
Church services limited to one hour and Sunday school sessions to 45 minutes, while church funerals continue to be banned.
November 4, 1918
All parochial, private, and night schools reopen today.
The death rates from the past week totaled 613, compared with 1,358 in the week before.
Around 2,000 people visit St. Mary’s Industrial School after lifting of quarantine.
November 5, 1918
Lower-than-expected school attendance attributed to late notice of school reopening and continued fear of contagion. Health Commissioner Blake believes the influenza epidemic to be almost over.
November 10, 1918
A memorial mass for those soldiers who died of influenza is held at Liberty Field with Cardinal Gibbons in attendance.
November 14, 1918
Dr. C. Frost of the Public Health Service begins gathering data on the influenza epidemic from Baltimore and Maryland for a national study.
November 17, 1918
It is reported that heart disease surpassed all other diseases in number of deaths last week. New cases of flu still being reported, but numbers are markedly down, from previous weeks.
November 21, 1918
11 new cases and 4 deaths from flu and pneumonia are reported, prompting Health Commissioner Blake to caution that danger is not over.
November 30, 1918
The epidemic is declared to be over, though new cases continue to be reported.
Dr. Nydegger of the U. S. Public Health Services suggests the formation of four committees to combat future epidemics: 1) hospitals and relief; 2) doctors and nurses; 3) sanitation; 4) personal hygiene.
December 1, 1918
Eighty-nine cases of a milder form of influenza develop over the past week.
December 4, 1918
To make up for lost time, schools will only close for one day over the traditional Christmas holiday.
December 5, 1918
City health authorities deny the return of an outbreak in spite of an increased number of influenza cases. Health Commissioner Blake claims the disease “has practically disappeared…” He approves of the idea to create a committee to help the health authorities in preventing and fighting against future epidemics, stating “ . . . during the recent epidemic I had an advisory committee, composed of professional and business men, and I am sure, if the necessity should arise, they would be glad to serve in the same capacity and render the same self-sacrificing service again.”
15 deaths from the flu and pneumonia occur, with 28 new cases reported throughout the city. Several of these new cases are amongst patients who already had the disease earlier in the year.
December 7, 1918
53 new cases of flu are reported for the past 24 hours, but Health Commissioner Blake says there is no cause for alarm. However, he warns people not to go to crowded places like streetcars and other public venues. He considers most of the new cases to be nothing more than heavy coughs and colds. 5 people die from pneumonia today.
December 8, 1918
It is discovered that many influenza victims also suffered from diseases such as typhoid, tuberculosis, as well as many chronic diseases. As such, the Health Department warns those with chronic disease to continue to take appropriate precautions and to avoid crowds.
December 12, 1918
Headline of Baltimore American reads “Increase in Flu,” with the subheadline “Yet Health Commissioner Does Not Seem Alarmed.” Dr. Blake does not believe drastic measures are called for, but does insist on stringent documentation of new cases.
December 18, 1918
Health Commissioner Blake calls for citizens to “avoid crowding… If that advice will be followed there will be no need for this department to again resort to restrictive measures.”
December 22, 1918
Pneumonia is declared to, once again, be “the most serious communicable disease in Baltimore, and the Health Department’s most difficult problem.”
January 3, 1919
Health Commissioner Blake, in response to weather conditions, reminds Baltimoreans to maintain proper ventilation and avoid crowding.
January 6, 1919
Reports first published showing Baltimore had the highest death rate in the nation at 26.8 per 1,000.
January 12, 1919
Many new cases of influenza are being reported, though the death rate remains normal (279 compared to 264 of same week in 1918).
January 14, 1919
The United States Public Health Service provides case number tallies for the State of Maryland: October-27,000, November-16,000, December-13,000, January-18,000. Health Commissioner Blake states that situation requires close monitoring, but there is not cause for alarm.
January 16, 1919
Health Commissioner Blake states, “There is no epidemic of influenza in Baltimore at the present time,” but again warns people to avoid crowds, and for streetcar operators to continue providing adequate ventilation.
January 17, 1919
Health officials claim this year’s influenza is not as deadly, but more easily transferred amongst people. Northwest Baltimore presently has the most cases.
January 22, 1919
A group of concerned citizens led by Dr. L. K. Hirshberg demand city authorities close schools as preventative measure against influenza recurrence.
January 24, 1919
Health Commissioner Blake meets with the advisory board to discuss the influenza situation; they decide that all steps the situation warrants have already been taken.
February 16, 1919
An increase in influenza reports is attributed to false diagnosis, with the true infectious agent being scarlet fever. Cases are frequently confused with influenza because early symptoms are very similar. The Health Department issues a bulletin stating, “When children present these symptoms parents should examine their bodies immediately, especially the chest and abdomen, for the appearance of a scarlet rash.” Even with the confusion, the Health Department reports, “Influenza is still the most prevalent disease in Baltimore with scarlet fever occupying the second place on the list.”
March 8, 1919
Lowest daily record of influenza since the outbreak of the epidemic.
March 16, 1919
For the first time since last September, a day elapsed without a single case of flu being reported to the local health department.