The first intimation that influenza might be on its way to Indianapolis came on Thursday, September 19, 1918. Keen to assess the impact of influenza on war production, Surgeon-General Rupert Blue of the United States Public Health Service telegraphed each state’s health officer that morning, asking for reports on influenza’s prevalence. To carry out the Surgeon-General’s directive, Dr. John Newell Hurty, Secretary of the Indiana Board of Health, called each local health officer in his state by telephone with instructions to produce an influenza report by the end of the day. He also dispatched four inspectors to survey Indianapolis manufacturers engaged in war production work.1
For the time being, the influenza in Indianapolis seemed to be contained to military men. There were 125 cases reported in an Army training detachment quartered at the State School for the Deaf, located across from the fairgrounds on East 42nd Street. Another sixty cases were reported at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Lawrence, just northeast of Indianapolis. There, camp medical officers had placed infected soldiers in isolation in an attempt to prevent the spread of the malady.2 Indianapolis Mayor Charles C. Jewett and Board of Health Secretary Dr. Herman G. Morgan were confident that Indianapolis had no civilian cases of influenza, but both men understood perfectly well that the situation could change rapidly. They also knew that the city might be required to issue a closure order if necessary: state health officer Hurty had already recommended to all local health officers that they consider closing schools, movie houses, theaters, and all public gatherings should influenza become epidemic in their community, which he defined as five- to ten cases per thousand.3
Jewett and Morgan busily prepared their city for a possible incursion of influenza. Morgan informed the public about how to avoid influenza and what to do if afflicted, recommending that those with colds rest and recover lest it turn into influenza.4 At the Mayor’s request, he also instructed school officials to send home all children exhibiting symptoms of cold or influenza. Jewett ordered all gathering places to be fumigated, including hotel lobbies, theaters, railway stations, and streetcars. He implored the public to keep the city’s gathering places clean, instructed theater and motion picture house managers to eject anyone with symptoms of cold or influenza, and directed the police to enforce the anti-spitting ordinance. To carry out the latter directive, health inspectors began riding Indianapolis streetcars to check sanitation and to discourage spitting.5 Morgan and the Board of Health voted to make both compliance with the Mayor’s plan and the reporting of influenza cases mandatory.6 For the time being, Morgan assured the public that the closure of schools and public places was not necessary, but he did not preclude such action if the situation later warranted it.7
On October 5, with 78 new cases of influenza reported among Indianapolis residents, Morgan ordered the Indianapolis Traction and Terminal Company to operate city streetcars with the windows open. Likewise, he instructed teachers to do the same in their classrooms. Some questioned whether or not Morgan would close gathering places. He assured the public that he would issue a mandatory facemask order before resorting to such drastic measures.8 Twenty-four hours later, when the number of new cases jumped to nearly 200, Morgan quickly changed his stance. Quickly, he issued an order prohibiting all gatherings of five or more people, effectively closing all schools (including colleges and business schools), theaters, movie houses, and churches. He also reassigned school nurses to the local Red Cross for deployment as needed. County schools and nearby Butler College followed the city’s lead and shutdown as well. The order did not affect the important Fourth Liberty Loan drive meetings.9
On October 8, the day after the closure order was announced and with over 2,000 known civilian and military cases of influenza now in the city, Morgan extended the closure order to include poolrooms, bowling alleys, skating rinks, and “dry” beer saloons. In addition, he advised the courts to adjourn, especially in jury cases. Factories – many of them involved in production for the war effort – remained open. In large plants, sick employees were found quickly and sent home for bed rest. At Eli Lilly & Company, President J. K. Lilly announced he was maintaining a force of about 100 workers in Indianapolis and Greenfield, Indiana, to work day and night on producing large quantities of influenza vaccine.1 Three days later, to prevent rush hour crowds on streetcars, Morgan ordered staggered hours for retail stores in the city center, excluding drug and grocery stores.11
On Thursday, October 10, Morgan noted the city’s lower number of influenza and pneumonia cases – approximately 750 – but announced it was too early to contemplate lifting the ban on public gatherings.12 Secretary of the Indiana Board of Public Health Dr. Hurty was of the same mind and said the state’s public gathering bans would remain in force until at least October 20.13 Hurty also issued an order requiring influenza quarantine placards on all residences, not for absolute quarantine, but as a precaution.14 Two days later, Morgan advised Indianapolis postal workers to begin wearing masks.15 Postal workers all over the country were adopting the masks, whether mandated or not, because of the numbers of people they came into contact with on a daily basis.
Inevitably, conflict arose concerning the emergency regulations. By and large, retail and business interests cooperated with all the bans. Theater owners and employees were especially affected. By one estimate, some 300 actors and theater employees were now out of work.16 Owners of the “dry” beer saloons did not take the closure order so well, however. As one newspaper noted, saloon owners pestered Morgan day and night to be allowed to remain open.17 Though Morgan remained steadfast, six owners defied him and kept their establishments open, at least one luring in prospective patrons with music. On October 15, all six were arrested. Their attorneys claimed discrimination, since establishments like candy stores, drugstores and soda fountains were still allowed to remain open. Morgan pointed out that people tended to loiter in “dry” beer saloons, unlike these other public establishments. Nonetheless, some saloon owners continued to defy orders. Having heard that groups as large as twenty were congregating to play cards in saloons, Morgan dispatched a health inspector to break up the gatherings.18
Others found new – but legal – ways to carry out their normal business. People who formerly gathered to knit or sew for soldiers continued projects at home, aided by a copy of the October 13 edition of the Indianapolis Star, which published the knitting pattern for producing regulation Army sweaters. People campaigning for office canceled public appearances and relied instead on advertising and visits to individual voters. 19 Some clergy published their sermons in newspapers as a way to reach their congregations. In fact, with so many people cooperating and staying home on Sundays, Mayor Jewett took the opportunity to have the fire department scrub the empty downtown streets and sidewalks.20
Morgan was also mindful of the care sick people needed. He asked residents to care for those with influenza in their homes whenever possible to prevent overcrowding in the hospitals, but noted that public and private hospitals were providing isolation for all who were under their care. City Hospital, which cared for the indigent, had as many as 70 influenza cases at one point, all in isolation. Methodist Hospital reported two cases in its care, and Sister Superior at St. Vincent’s Hospital said about 25 cases were being cared for there.21 Unlike in many cities, where hospitals were quickly overrun with patients and where emergency facilities often had to be opened to care for the overflow, Indianapolis’s epidemic was yet mild enough that its healthcare infrastructure was not overly taxed. In fact, the various Red Cross appeals for volunteer nurses that appeared in the city’s newspapers almost always stated that nurses would be sent to other Indiana communities.22 When E. V. Bulleit was appointed Red Cross executive in Indiana on October 21 and set up headquarters in Indianapolis’s Old Library Building, his committee of federal, state, city and Red Cross representatives focused their greatest efforts on easing nursing gaps elsewhere in Indiana.23
In late-October, a delegation of theater owners met with Morgan to ascertain when the health officer might allow them to reopen their businesses. Morgan asked that they be patient for at least a few more days, and assured them that he would provide ample notice so that they could prepare for normal operations.24 Several days later, representatives of the West Washington Street Merchants’ Association and the Indiana Avenue businesses asked Morgan if he could remove the restrictions on business hours to allow them to keep their shops open on Saturday night. Morgan responded that the situation did not yet look favorable enough for such a move, but added that he hoped an additional week would see conditions much improved. On October 25, Hurty and the state Board of Health announced that the state-wide closure order and gathering ban would remain in place until at least November 2 unless, upon investigation by national and state health representatives, local conditions warranted an earlier date. In Indianapolis, Morgan toyed with the idea of requiring residents to wear a gauze mask when in public.25 For the time being, it looked as if Indianapolis’s closure order and other restrictions were to remain in place.
The situation suddenly changed over the last remaining days of October, however. Quickly, the epidemic appeared to improve. On October 30, the Board of Health voted to lift the closure order and ban on public gatherings. The only stipulation was that people with symptoms of colds or influenza were to be barred from theaters, and streetcars were required to keep their windows open for full ventilation. Schools were scheduled to open on Monday, November 4, giving principals and teachers time to prepare their buildings and classrooms for the return of students. Morgan asked that residents stay clear of downtown during their Halloween revelry.26
Indianapolis and its residents quickly returned to their pre-epidemic routines. The Indianapolis Star stopped publishing charts and graphs showing the number of new influenza cases. Children returned to school. City, county, and state health boards tallied their influenza and pneumonia statistics. In Indianapolis, a total of 6,256 cases among the civilian population had been reported since October 7.27
Although some officials believed the epidemic was over, when a second but smaller resurgence appeared, Morgan let residents know that he favored masks as the first prevention step, not bans on public gatherings.28 He was a man of his word. On November 18, when 656 new cases of influenza were reported – including nine deaths – Morgan made the wearing of masks mandatory, both in public and while at work. Calling on the people of Indianapolis to cooperate, he nevertheless dispatched health inspectors to patrol the downtown area for those not wearing masks. Morgan discouraged public meetings but did not ban them outright. He did, however, order schools closed indefinitely.29 Marion County officials did not follow suit and kept their schools open, leading to protests from the Indianapolis School Board that Morgan simply ignored.30
Although the public generally complied with the mask edict, many grumbled about having to wear the uncomfortable apparatus. Witty newspaper cartoons and photos poked fun at the practice.31 One enterprising newspaper reporter even called Morgan at his home one evening to pester him with humorous questions relating to smokers and how they were supposed to manage their masks.32 The Indianapolis Board of Health received so much criticism for the masks that Morgan was forced to issue a statement on November 22 defending his order. In it, he stated that wearing gauze masks was not a pet whim, and that it was adopted to let people follow their normal activities as much as possible. The only alternative, he said, would be a rigid ban on gatherings.33
In the end, the unpopular mask order was short lived, not because of public outcry, but because the number of new flu cases dropped dramatically. To everyone’s relief, Morgan and the Board of Health rescinded the mask order on the evening of November 25. Schools remained closed for another week, opening on Monday, December 2.34 Morgan cautioned the public to expect sporadic influenza cases throughout the winter, but believed that the worst was now over.35 Finally, if slowly, life in Indianapolis returned to normal.
Indianapolis’s epidemic was not quite over, however. By mid-December, enough new cases were reported among schoolchildren to cause the Board of Health to consider closing affected schools. Hurty and the state Board of Health, however, felt that closing urban schools was of limited efficacy since it simply gave children an opportunity to congregate elsewhere.36 In the end, the schools remained open. Throughout the early months of 1919, the city continued to experience small numbers of influenza and pneumonia cases and deaths.
In the end, Indianapolis had an epidemic death rate of 290 per 100,000 people, one of the lowest in the nation. Perhaps this enviable figure was a testament to how well Indianapolis as well as state officials worked together to implement community mitigation measures against influenza. Between Mayor Jewett, Hurty, Morgan, and the rest of the city’s Board of Health presenting a seamless face of energy and resolve throughout the epidemic. Unlike some other municipalities, where squabbling among officials and occasionally business interests hampered effective decision-making about controlling the spread of influenza, Indianapolis officials and residents by and large responded to the epidemic in unified and cooperative fashion.
1 “Influenza Survey is Ordered by Dr. Hurty,” Indianapolis News, 19 Sept. 1918, 1.
2 “Training Detachment is Under Quarantine,” Indianapolis News, 26 Sept. 1918, 1.
3 “Protective Steps Taken By Mayor,” Indianapolis News, 27 Sept. 1918, 1.
4 “Cold May Turn into Influenza,” Indianapolis Star, 21Sept. 1918, 9.
5 “Protective Steps Taken By Mayor,” Indianapolis News, 27 Sept. 1918, 1; “Precautions Urged To Stay Influenza,” Indianapolis Star, 28 Sept. 1918, 1.
6 “Action Taken To Prevent Epidemic,” Indianapolis News, 28 Sept. 1918, 1.
7 “Precautions Urged To Stay Influenza,” Indianapolis Star, 28 Sept. 1918, 1.
8 “Street Car Windows Are to Be Kept Open,” Indianapolis News, 5 Oct. 1918, 1.
9 “Epidemic Closes Public Places in City and State,” Indianapolis News, 7 Oct. 1918, 1, 10.
10 “Morgan Extends Closing Order,” Indianapolis News, 8 Oct. 1918, 1; “Public Meetings Are Forbidden,” Indianapolis News, 7 Oct. 1918, 1. Indiana was one of several states that had enacted prohibition laws before the Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act. Starting on April 2, 1917, Indiana establishments could only sell beverages that were one-half of one percent alcohol or less.
11 “Board Changes Hours in Stores, Indianapolis Star, 13 Oct. 1918, 12.
12 “No Letup In Fight On Flu In This City,” Indianapolis Star, 10 Oct. 1918, 1, 2.
13 “Ban Placed On State To Check ‘Flu’ Spread,” Indianapolis Star, 10 Oct. 1918, 1.
14 “Orders Enlarged By Health Board,” Indianapolis News, 11 Oct. 1918, 1, 27.
15 “Health Board Band Extended,” Indianapolis Star, 12 Oct. 1918, 9.
16 “Actors Hit by Closing Order,” Indianapolis News, 8 Oct. 1918, 6.
17 “Hours Changed For Retail Stores, Indianapolis News, 12 Oct. 1918, 1.
18 “Attack closing Order In “Dry” Beer Cases,” Indianapolis News, 16 Oct. 1918, 7.
19 “Knitters Urged To Stay at Work in Spite of Ban,” Indianapolis Star, 13 Oct. 1918, 40.
20 “Abatement Seen In Influenza Cases,” Indianapolis News, 14 Oct. 1918, 2.
21 “Epidemic shows Slight Decrease,” Indianapolis News, 23 Oct. 1918, 1; “Asks home Care Of Flu Victims,” Indianapolis Star, 24 Oct. 1918, 8.
22 See, for example, “SOS Sent Out to All Nurses,” Indianapolis Star, 24 Oct. 1918, 7.
23 “Plan To Lift School Ban Where Possible,” Indianapolis Star, 24 Oct. 1918, 1.
24 “Influenza May Go Still Higher,” Indianapolis Star, 22 Oct. 1918, 14.
25 “Ban to Continue until November 2,” Indianapolis News, 25 Oct. 1918, 1.
26 “City Flu Order Off Tomorrow,” Indianapolis Star, 30 Oct. 1918, 1, 5.
27 “Ten Counties have Full Ban,” Indianapolis Star, 6 Nov. 1918, 8.
28 “Revival of Flu May Renew Ban,” Indianapolis Star, 17 Nov. 1918, 13.
29 “Flu Masks Must Be Worn in All Public Places Beginning Today; Schools Are Closed,” Indianapolis Star, 19 Nov. 1918, 1, 8.
30 “Epidemic Fight Is Up to the People,” Indianapolis News, 19 Nov. 1918, 1, 20.
31 “Convention Officers In Masks,” Indianapolis News, 20 Nov. 1918, 7; “Mr. Flu (or Is It Missus?),” Indianapolis Star, 21 Nov. 1918, 4; “Masking Out the Flu,” Indianapolis Star, 24 Nov. 1918, 1.
32 “Smoke Hole in Flu Mask Punched at Wearer’s Risk,” Indianapolis Star, 20 Nov. 1918, 8.
33 “249 New Cases Show Increase in Flu Epidemic,” Indianapolis Star, 23 Nov. 1918, 1.
34 “Masks Ordered Off; Care Urged,” Indianapolis Star, 26 Nov. 1918, 11.
35 “Flu Cases Drop to 119 in Day,” Indianapolis Star, 28 Nov. 18.
36 “Some Schools are Hit Hard by Influenza,” Indianapolis News, 12 Dec. 1918, 1.
|200||Excess Death Rate (per 100,000)|
September 21, 1918
Dr. Herman G. Morgan, Secretary of the Indianapolis Board of Health prints a public service article in city newspapers providing information about influenza prevention and treatment. He recommends that people avoid crowds and poorly ventilated quarters, and asks everyone to use a handkerchief when coughing or sneezing. He recommends that people with influenza stay indoors, rest, isolate themselves, and call a physician.
September 26, 1918
Dr. John Newell Hurty, Secretary of the State Board of Health and Captain W. F. King, United States Public Health Service representative, issue a joint circular to all Indiana county and city health officers directing them to take steps against influenza. The circular suggests that communities issue a closure order and gathering ban if influenza becomes epidemic in the area.
September 27, 1918
115 cases are reported to exist in the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce training detachment No. 2, a vocational detachment stationed at the State School for the Deaf. Sixty cases are reported at Fort Harrison, but only a few are considered severe. The ill are isolated, but no quarantine is established there.
Dr. Morgan, upon instructions from Mayor Charles W. Jewett, issues an order directing theater managers to refuse admission to patrons suffering from colds, coughs, sore throats, or other respiratory problems; ticket sellers are obligated to question all persons seeking admission. Morgan also requests that school doctors, nurses, principals, and teachers observe students for influenza symptoms and to send them home upon the first signs of illness.
September 29, 1918
The Indianapolis Board of Health votes to require doctors to report all cases of influenza.
October 3, 1918
The local chapter of the Red Cross calls for nurses to volunteer for influenza service at Fort Harrison. Every woman with experience or training is asked to register immediately at the War Camp Community Service booths in Indianapolis.
October 4, 1918
The Indiana State Board of Health receives several thousand copies of “Epidemic Influenza,” an informational circular prepared by the United States Public Health Service. It provides a description of the disease, its history, and treatment.
More than thirty nurses answer the call for Red Cross volunteers for Fort Harrison.
October 5, 1918
Dr. Morgan orders the Indianapolis Traction and Terminal Company to operate its streetcars with open windows.
October 6, 1918
Over 1,100 cases of influenza are reported at Fort Harrison, and the base hospital is overwhelmed with sick soldiers.
In Indianapolis, the Board of Health orders all schools, churches, theaters, and movie houses closed, and bans all public meetings. Small committee meetings are still allowed, although the Board states that it might expand the order to include these meetings as well.
October 8, 1918
Health authorities clarify the gathering ban: any gathering of twelve or more is prohibited by the order.
October 9, 1918
The Board of Health adds poolrooms, bowling alleys, and lodges to the list of closed businesses. In response to inquiries about the duration of the closure order and gathering ban, Dr. Morgan says that it will take a week to ten days to see how the situation develops.
The Indiana State Board of Health issues a statewide closure order and gathering ban, set to last until midnight on October 20. The date is an arbitrary one, chosen in hopes that the peak of the epidemic will have passed by then. If conditions warrant, it will be extended past October 20 or lifted earlier.
October 10, 1918
By order of the State Board of Health, all local officers throughout the state are now required to place an influenza quarantine placard on all residences with a proven case of influenza. The sign is to read “Quarantine-Influenza” and will not establish an absolute quarantine on the people of the house, but will be a precaution to protect others who may not be aware of the presence of the disease in the residence.
October 11, 1918
Dr. Morgan calls for vigilance in adhering to preventive measures, given the high number influenza cases appearing in the city. After making an inspection of several “dry beer” saloons, he finds that people are congregating in large numbers. He orders all such establishments closed, and directs the police to enforce the order.
October 13, 1918
Dr. Morgan enacts a new business hour policy for businesses in the downtown district. Beginning tomorrow, all retail stores (with the exception of grocery and drugstores) within the square mile bounded by East, West, North, and South streets will limited to the hours of 9:45 am to 6:15 pm to help eliminate crowding in streetcars during busy times of the day. The closing hours will not prevent stores from closing earlier than 5:00 pm and will not be in effect on Saturdays.
October 14, 1918
Representatives of the State Board of Health, the Indiana Red Cross, the State Council of Defense, the National Council of Defense, and the Army Volunteer Medical Service Corps meet to form a state influenza advisory committee. The committee adopts a resolution calling on physicians to volunteer their services and to remain in the state, as Indiana cannot afford to lose doctors who volunteer for service in other parts of the country. Volunteer physicians will be paid $200 per month and $4 a day for traveling expenses.
October 16, 1918
Dr. Morgan clarifies the method physicians should use to report influenza and pneumonia deaths. Doctors are to report the cause of pneumonia deaths that develop from influenza as “pneumonia with influenza contributing.”
October 17, 1918
As a result of the influenza epidemic, the head of the Indiana draft board cancels the draft summons after receiving permission from Provost Marshal General Enoch Crowder.
State health officials announce that the statewide ban on public gatherings will likely be extended for another week to ten days, until October 27.
In Indianapolis, health inspectors break up groups of men congregating in cigar shops and poolrooms, where as many as 15 to 20 men have been gathering. Dr. Morgan threatens to close saloons, cigar shops, and pool halls.
October 18, 1918
The State Board of Health extends the closure order and gathering ban until midnight, Saturday, October 27. The Board warns, however, that this date is subject to change, and that the order may be extended again. In Indianapolis, Dr. Morgan extends the business hour restrictions to include Saturdays.
October 19, 1918
Proprietors of beer parlors complain that if their businesses are closed, then department stores and other downtown shops should also be closed. Dr. Morgan responds that there is more danger of influenza transmission among people loitering in saloons than among shoppers moving through a well-ventilated store.
October 20, 1918
Ten members of the Apostolic Faith are arrested for failing to obey the closure order. They were said to be singing, shouting, and dancing when the police arrived.
October 22, 1918
At the request of the Council of National Defense, the Indiana State Board of Health insists that nurses on private cases be released for public service.
October 23, 1918
A delegation of theater managers visits Dr. Morgan to ascertain if a probable date for the reopening of the theaters could be set. Morgan asks that they wait a few days longer and assures them that they will be notified as far in advance as so that they can make proper arrangements for reopening their theaters.
October 24, 1918
Secretary of the State Board of Health Dr. Hurty announces that the board will consider modifying the school closure order to allow schools in areas where influenza is not prevalent to reopen under proper medical supervision.
Dr. Morgan asks those who fall ill with influenza to recover at home if possible so as to prevent crowding in city hospitals.
Federal, state, city, and Red Cross officials complete plans to centralize recruitment and assignment of nurses in Indiana, using offices in the Old Library Building as their headquarters. The bureau will operate under the direction of the Red Cross and be supervised by an advisory committee consisting of state, local, and Red Cross officials.
October 25, 1918
Dr. Hurty announces that the statewide ban on public meetings is to be extended beyond its original termination date of October 26. The new date will be determined tomorrow at a meeting of the health board, though likely it will be November 2.
October 26, 1918
As expected, the State Board of Health extends the ban on public gatherings until midnight on Saturday, November 2. The new order allows counties that have been free from influenza for five days to appeal to have the ban lifted upon investigation by the State Board of Health.
In Indianapolis, Dr. Morgan tells the public that the epidemic should begin to decline within a few days. He thanks the businesses affected by the closure order for their help in bringing about a quicker end to the epidemic.
October 29, 1918
The Indianapolis school board votes to reopen city schools on Monday, November 4, assuming that the gathering ban and closure order will be lifted on November 2.
October 30, 1918
Dr. Morgan holds a meeting with theater owners and managers to instruct them on how to keep their establishments in hygienic condition after reopening.
October 31, 1918
Downtown stores prepare to return to normal business hours. Churches plan prayer meetings for this evening after the gathering ban is lifted. Regular church service will resume on Sunday, November 3. Dr. Morgan tells the public that there is no danger of infection if the proper precautions are taken. Halloween parties are allowed, but large crowds are not permitted to gather on the streets downtown.
November 1, 1918
Secretary of the State Board of Health Dr. Hurty announces that there will be no further extension of the statewide gathering ban when it expires Saturday at midnight. Local health officials are allowed to continue enforcing the order if necessary. Dr. Morgan does not believe it will be necessary in Indianapolis, as the death rate has returned to near normal.
November 4, 1918
The quarantine at Fort Harrison, in place for the past three weeks, is lifted. Soldiers are now permitted to leave the fort, and visitors are allowed to enter.
November 6, 1918
Dr. Hurty notifies all physicians in Indiana that they are required to make daily reports of new influenza cases. In Indianapolis, a total of 6,256 cases have been reported since the epidemic began.
November 17, 1918
The number of new cases of influenza is on the rise once again. Dr. Morgan announces that another gathering ban might be necessary, but that gauze face masks will be used first. He believes that the mingling of crowds during the November 11 Armistice Day celebrations is causing the new spike in cases. City Hospital is nearly full with influenza patients, and an emergency ward may need to be opened.
November 19, 1918
The City Board of Health issues an order requiring everyone to wear protective masks everywhere except at home and on the streets. The order is effective this morning, but will not be enforced until tomorrow in order to allow the public time to acquire masks. People can construct their own masks if they desire, using four to six layers of surgeon’s gauze, cheesecloth, or other fabric. The Board considered reinstating the closure order but ultimately decided that it would be too onerous for business owners, especially entering the holiday season. Public meetings are discouraged by the Board of Health but are not banned. The public schools, however, are closed due to a Board of Health decision that it would be too difficult to ensure that children comply with the mask order. The Board is also worried that they are of an age that has shown to be particularly susceptible to influenza. Students were assigned home study material before class was dismissed yesterday.
November 20, 1918
Police and health inspectors begin enforcing the mandatory mask order today. Officials say several days are needed to judge the efficacy of the mask order. Dr. Morgan has his inspectors make a canvass of the downtown district to see if businesses and offices are following the order.
November 21, 1918
The Indianapolis Star reports on the first day under the mask order: “Every one put on their little lambrequin and sallied forth, with the feeling they were going to a masquerade ball. Old friends met and passed each other on the street, never knowing. Once in a while somebody would say, “Take ‘em off—I know you,” but he would get the fisheye from a total stranger.” In some cases, people complained about the masks. “Citizens complained they couldn’t breathe in ‘em—couldn’t eat in ‘em—couldn’t smoke in ‘em—they made ‘em nervous, they got caught in the machinery, they tickled, they scratched, they pulled the hair, they annoyed the ears, they stopped the circulation in the nose, that the flu germs loved ‘em better than anything in the world, that it was all a fool idea anyway, that they’d rather have the flu than wear the things another day—nay, another minute. But they wore them just the same.”
November 22, 1918
Three men are arrested in the lobby of the Brevort Hotel for refusing to wear masks. Inspectors report that downtown merchants and theaters are complying eagerly with the mask order. In response to numerous complaints about having to wear masks, Dr. Morgan says that he will lift the order at the end of the week if the number of new cases drops by 50 to 60 cases a day.
November 23, 1918
The Board of Health decides to continue the mask order. The Board also decides to permit store clerks and theater employees to remove their masks when there are no customers or patrons on the premises. Many churches decide not to hold weekend services, even though there is no ban on religious services. Others will hold regular services so long as congregants wear their masks.
November 24, 1918
Governor James P. Goodrich issues a proclamation urging compliance with all local health measures and promising the full support of the state government in fighting influenza. He orders that commissions or committees to oversee the influenza efforts be set up in every county and larger city and recommends that the commissions consist of health authorities, the mayor, the chapter chairman of the Red Cross, a representative businessman, the school superintendent, the sheriff, a representative of women’s clubs, and other citizens that are deemed advisable. The name of the executive of such commissions, when named, is to be reported to the state authorities, along with daily reports of the commissions’ activities.
November 25, 1918
The Board of Health decides to rescind the mask order in light of improved conditions. Schools will remain closed, but may reopen next week if the situation continues to improve.
November 27, 1918
The Board of Health and the Board of Education decide to reopen public schools on Monday, December 2. Dr. Morgan instructs teachers and principals to watch students for acute colds and respiratory ailments and exclude children who exhibit symptoms and send them to school doctors for examination. He also asks that schoolrooms should be well ventilated with a full airing of the room to be done at least once every morning and afternoon, that children be asked to perform light calisthenics, and that principal of every school submit a daily report to the Board of Health detailing the number of pupils enrolled and absent and the number of teachers employed and absent.
November 30, 1918
Dr. Morgan calls a meeting with school doctors and nurses and instructs them in precautionary measures to be used to keep the schools safe from influenza.
December 2, 1918
Indianapolis public schools reopen. Returning students are monitored for symptoms of colds or influenza.
December 7, 1918
Dr. Morgan warns the public that the influenza epidemic will likely continue throughout the winter, but he hopes that the numbers of new cases will be much lower than during the fall.