The first cases of influenza in Kansas City, Missouri developed among the city’s two army motor corps schools, and from there spread to the civilian population. On September 27, local newspapers reported that the commandant of the motor corps had placed the two schools under a strict quarantine after it became apparent that the few cases that had developed among trainees several days earlier had now become a serious outbreak. Nearly 1,000 student soldiers in the two corps now had the disease. Simultaneously, three young civilian women living at the Girls’ Club showed symptoms of the disease after having visited one of the motor corps several days prior. Reports of additional civilian cases circulated, but the official stance of the Kansas City Department of Health was that these civilian cases were only severe colds.1 If only it were true. Kansas City was about to experience a deadly influenza epidemic.
Within a few days the number of new cases both at the motor corps schools and within the city’s civilian population started to climb. By October 1, twenty percent of the city’s army training schools had contracted influenza. Forty-three civilian cases had appeared, with 33 of them under isolation. Kansas City Health Director Dr. E. H. Bullock now acknowledged that his city was on the cusp of an epidemic, but noted that it was not yet dangerous.2 A week later, as more cases developed, Kansas City Mayor James Cowgill declared influenza a public emergency under the city charter, granting the Board of Health the authority to open hospitals, enforce health regulations, and make necessary expenditures. The Board reacted immediately. On October 7, it ordered all schools, theaters, and churches closed and prohibited gatherings of more than twenty people. Liberty Loan mass meetings were included in the ban, but planning luncheons were permitted as a military necessity. Saloons and cabarets were not ordered closed, but would be watched closely by health inspectors to ensure that they did not allow more than twenty patrons to congregate at a time nor become a public health menace.3 Kansas City shuttered itself as best it could against the impending storm.
The orders were not implemented as smoothly as they could have been. The problem was leadership. In most cities, decisions about how best to run the anti-epidemic campaign were left to the health officer, some of whom were guided by an influenza advisory board or by a health board. In Kansas City, however, in addition to Health Officer Bullock, the Director of the Contagious Diseases Department, Dr. A. J. Gannon, also took a leading role. The two men clashed almost immediately. On October 8, Gannon ordered the Metropolitan Company, operator of Kansas City’s streetcar service, to limit the number of standing passengers on its cars to twenty people. The company’s president refused to comply, arguing that conductors did not have the legal authority to implement such a rule. Gannon then asked the police to enforce the order. Health Director Bullock and several members of the Board of Health–including its president, Dr. W. P. Motley–refused to support Gannon, however, and countermanded his order. Bullock told Gannon that the passenger limits were unnecessary and that the president of the Metropolitan Company had complained that his company was being persecuted. Gannon responded that he was going to have his inspectors examine every streetcar anyway. Board of Health president Motley then chimed in, stating that he would not support Gannon’s inspection or his passenger limit order, adding that the police were only needed when there were riots or civil disorder. “Until such conditions exist,” Motley stated, “we will go ahead ourselves enforcing the city ordinances without the police department’s help. We’re not going to cause the street car company any trouble in this matter.” Later that day, Gannon’s inspectors reported streetcars “not fit for beasts, let alone human beings,” and ordered some fourteen cars sidelined until they were properly cleaned.
Dr. Gannon did not stop there, though. That same day, he sent inspectors to survey each and every saloon in the city; they found all of them to be insanitary. Gannon ordered police to close saloons unless they were sufficiently cleaned that night.4 The next day, Gannon ordered closed all second-hand stores and pawnshops dealing in clothing, as well as all cleaning and dyeing shops found to be insanitary. He claimed that many stores had received clothing from Camp Funston (where the epidemic had started particularly early and had been especially severe), and, although he had not been able to trace the epidemic to second-hand clothing, he believed it had contributed to the spread of the disease.5
Within a few days, Mayor Cowgill, Health Director Bullock, Dr. Gannon, and other members of the Kansas City public health administration began to discuss the possibility of lifting the closure order. New cases were being reported each day, but these men believed that the epidemic had reached a plateau. Captain A. A. Hobbs, chief medical officer of the city’s two army motor corps training schools, strongly disagreed, arguing that influenza was still prevalent in all sections of Kansas City and citing the army’s requirement that epidemic measures be kept in place for a minimum of three weeks to be effective. The head of the local chapter of the Red Cross as well as one member of the Board of Health agreed with Captain Hobbs that it was too early to lift the closure order. Nevertheless, Mayor Cowgill and Dr. Gannon believed that the danger had passed. Effective at noon on Monday, October 14, the closure order and gathering ban was lifted. The Board of Education met shortly thereafter and ordered Kansas City schools to reopen the following day.6 Had Mayor Cowgill or Dr. Gannon listened to Captain Hobbs, or taken the time to read news of other cities’ experiences, they would have realized that the epidemic had not ended so quickly in any community in the United States. Kansas City was in for a much longer and much bumpier ride.
Dr. Gannon was too busy condemning stores, apartment buildings, and even whole neighborhoods as unfit for humans to notice the influenza danger.7 When the Chamber of Commerce called for a meeting with local physicians and members of the Board of Health to discuss the raging epidemic, Gannon replied that it was “no longer necessary to hamper business by a continuance of the ban. The responsibility of preventing its spread should be assumed by the individual.” Public fear, he added, would keep people from gathering.8 Fear, however, was not an effective public health measure. Apparently, garlic and onions were, as Gannon claimed were responsible for the lower numbers of influenza cases in Little Italy.9
On October 17, after an emergency meeting with the Board of Health, Mayor Cowgill announced a second closure order and gathering ban. The order went into effect immediately, once again closing all theaters, churches, and schools. Unlike the first order, the gathering ban now applied to dances, parties, weddings, and funerals as well. Hotels, cabarets, and restaurants were barred from having music or other amusements. Stores employing twenty-five or more employees could not open before 9 am nor close after 4 pm, and crowding in city stores and shops was forbidden. Lastly, all cases were to be isolated with their homes placed under quarantine.10 Kansas City had finally gotten serious about its epidemic.
Business and residents lived under these restrictions for the next month as new case tallies spiked and then dropped. By the first week of November it appeared as if the danger had truly passed. Merchants and other business interests, along with at least one City Council member, began to pressure Mayor Cowgill to remove the closure order and gathering ban. Cowgill himself supported removing the ban, believing that the latest rules imposed by health authorities were ineffective and unfair to Kansas City’s businesses. “Business has borne the burden of the epidemic too long,” he told the public. 11
The Board of Education was eager to reopen classrooms, but opted for a cautious approach. The closure was causing students to fall behind their curriculum schedule, and empty school buildings were costing the city approximately $10,000 per day. Still, the Board of Education believed that the comparatively low numbers of influenza cases among the city’s children was the result of the school closure, and therefore opted to keep classrooms shut until all signs of danger had passed.12 Within a week, however, as new cases dwindled to a trickle, the Board decided to reopen schools on Monday, November 18.13
On November 26, local newspapers reported the latest influenza bombshell: the Board of Health had removed Dr. Gannon from his position as Director of the Contagious Disease Division of the Health Department. Board members were quoted as saying that the action was taken “for the good of the service.” In addition to his brash demeanor and his proneness to making unilateral decisions, Gannon had been submitting inaccurate case tally reports since at least mid-October, often reporting only half the number of actual cases. The president of the Board of Health Motley commented that he was glad to see Gannon go, and that he had been in favor of his removal for well over a month.14
In the meantime, Kansas City’s epidemic had begun to spike again, particularly in children. On November 30, Health Director Bullock announced that schools, still on break for the Thanksgiving holiday, would remain closed until further notice. The next day, he announced that the closure might last through the upcoming Christmas holiday. Having lost so many days to the previous school closures, prospects for a carefree summer of outdoor play now seemed bleak.15 So did their current situation, given that parents were asked to keep children under 16 years of age at home, and movie houses and retailers agreed to bar youngsters from their premises until the epidemic had fully abated.16
By the time the last remaining days of the year arrived, Kansas City’s influenza epidemic situation had improved drastically. New cases and deaths continued above the normal seasonal rate throughout January and February of 1919, but nowhere near the numbers reported during the height of the epidemic. Schools reopened on Monday, December 30, the last of the epidemic control measures to be dropped.17 The New Year came and residents celebrated as best they could. For some, the worst had passed, and they could look forward to a better year. For those who had lost loved ones, however, the difficulties of coping with the losses had only just begun.
In the end, Kansas City had experienced a long and hard influenza epidemic. From its start in late-September 1918 through early-spring 1919, over 11,000 cases and over 2,300 deaths occurred as a result of the epidemic.18 As a result, Kansas City experienced an excess death rate of 580 per 100,000 people, placing it among one of the harder-hit cities in the United States.
1 “Influenza Heats Army Here,” Kansas City Star, 27 Sept. 1918, 2; “Spread to Residence District,” Kansas City Star, 27 Sept. 1918, 2; “Civilians Free from Influenza,” Kansas City Star, 28 Sept. 1918, 3. According to the annual report of the board of health, Kansas City’s civilian epidemic did indeed begin officially on September 27, 1918. See Annual Report of the Hospital and Health Board of Kansas City, Missouri for the Year Ending April 21st, 1919 (Kansas City, 1919), 21.
2 “880 Soldiers in K. C. Have Influenza,” Kansas City Post,” 1 Oct. 1918; “11 Deaths Reported in Influenza Spread Here,” Kansas City Post, 3 Oct. 1918, 1.
3 “Stop Gatherings,” Kansas City Star, 7 Oct. 1918, 1; “Close Schools, Theaters, and Churches, New Order,” Kansas City Post, 7 Oct. 1918, 1.
4 “Limit Street Car Crowds,” Kansas City Star, 8 Oct. 1918, 1; “Drive against Influenza in K. C. is Now On,” Kansas City Post, 1; “Found Street Cars Dirty,” Kansas City Star, 8 Oct. 1918, 2.
5 “No Car Crowding Today,” Kansas City Star, 9 Oct. 1918, 1.
6 “Influenza Ban Lifted by City; Epidemic Wanes,” Kansas City Post, 14 Oct. 1918, 1; “Lift Ban under Protest,” Kansas City Star, 14 Oct. 1918, 1.
7 When a health inspector found two ill children in a Union Ave. shack crying from hunger and neglect after their mother had passed away from influenza, Gannon ordered the entire neighborhood placarded with “unfit for human habitation” signs. The next day, he condemned a tenement where a number of influenza victims had been living. See “”Shun a Whole Neighborhood,” Kansas City Star, 14 Oct. 1918, 1, and “Dead from Influenza,” Kansas City Star, 15 Oct. 1918, 7.
8 “C. of C. into Disease Again,” Kansas City Star, 16 Oct. 1918, 1.
9 “K.C. Starts Fight in Earnest against Influenza Epidemic,” Kansas City Post, 18 Oct. 1918, 1.
10 “A Drastic Ban is On,” Kansas City Star, 17 Oct. 1918, 1. Oddly, Gannon also cited Little Italy as an uncooperative neighborhood where residents had refused to clean up their dwellings. A number of homes and flats were placarded as “unfit for human habitation.” Apparently, these insanitary conditions had no negative bearing on the influenza epidemic.
11 “Mayor for Lifting of Flu Ruling,” Kansas City Post, 8 Nov. 1918, 1.
12 “Committee is Named to Urge Lifting of Ban,” Kansas City Post, 7 Nov. 1918, 1; “Schools Not to Open Monday, It Is Announced,” Kansas City Post, 9 Nov. 1918, 1.
13 “K.C. Schools to Resume Sessions Tomorrow,” Kansas City Post, 17 Nov. 1918, 1.
14 “Health Board Drops Gannon,” Kansas City Star, 27 Nov. 1918, 1, and “Dr. A. J. Gannon is Removed by Health Board,” Kansas City Post, 27 Nov. 1918, 1. As early as October 16, Board of Health president Motley had noticed that large discrepancies in Gannon’s reports. See “Call Meeting to Discuss Ways to Fight Epidemic,” Kansas City Post, 16 Oct. 1918, 10.
15 “Schools to Stay Closed,” Kansas City Star, 30 Nov. 1918, 1; “Flu Keeps Ban on School Sessions,” Kansas City Post, 1 Dec. 1918, 1. In the end, the school board decided to extend the academic year by three weeks to make up for the lost classroom time. See “Lengthen School Term Three Weeks,” Kansas City Post, 1 Jan. 1919.
16 “Rigid Quarantine Banishing Peril of Flu in Shop Crowds,” Kansas City Post, 17 Dec. 1918
17 “Hard School Grind Starts Tomorrow,” Kansas City Post, 29 Dec. 1918.
18 Annual Report of the Hospital and Health Board of Kansas City, Missouri for the Year Ending April 21st, 1919 (Kansas City, 1919), 22.
|200||Excess Death Rate (per 100,000)|
September 27, 1918
Three young women living at the Girls’ Club, who had visited the motor school several days ago, are now showing symptoms of influenza. Quarantine is placed on the two army motor schools by order of Major F. H. McGregor, commandant. Civilians are barred from entering the buildings or barracks and soldiers are forbidden to mingle with civilians.
September 28, 1918
The Board of Health declares that there are no cases of influenza in Kansas City except those at the army schools. Dr. A.J. Gannon, Director of the City Contagious Disease Department, investigates several reported cases but discovers only severe colds.
September 29, 1918
Fifteen men are isolated at the Fort Leavenworth Hospital and are being observed for possible influenza. All passes to Kansas City are revoked and the 15th Service Band, scheduled to take part in the Liberty Loan Parade in Kansas City, is denied permission to leave.
Dr. Maclay Lyon, appointed by the Board of Health to be in charge of school inspection, says 35 volunteer physicians are needed to inspect the city’s schoolchildren and that only 15 have agreed to help so far. The School Board and Board of Health have no funds to pay physicians to inspect schools and are dependent on philanthropy. Dr. Lyon says that an effort has been started to introduce a bill in the legislature to provide means for the issuance of bonds for school inspection.
September 30, 1918
A 22 year-old man dies of influenza, the first death from influenza in the city.
October 1, 1918
880 cases of flu are present at the two army training schools in Kansas City. Director of Contagious Disease Dr. A. J. Gannon reports that six cases of Spanish influenza have been reported in Kansas City’s civilian population.
October 2, 1918
Twenty people with influenza are taken to the General Hospital, and twelve cases are quarantined in their homes.
Dr. Gannon, director of contagious disease, bans public funerals.
October 3, 1918
Dr. E. H. Bullock, Health Director, says that influenza has now reached almost every part of the city.
October 5, 1918
Health Director Bullock warns that influenza is spread by spitting, coughing, and sneezing in public places. He recommends that handkerchiefs be used with care, particularly in motion picture theaters, streetcars, and other public places. He further recommends that people avoid public places.
Dr. Gannon, Director of the Contagious Disease Department, requests that the streetcar company do its best to reduce congestion in its vehicles. He also commences a campaign for cleanliness, notifying local businesses that they must sweep, scrub, and disinfect their buildings. Signs reading “Unfit for Human Habitation, by Order of Hospital and Health Board” have been ordered to be placed on buildings that fail to comply.
The isolation ward at the General Hospital is filled to capacity with the admission of thirteen new cases today, bringing the total number of cases there to forty-nine. New cases will have to be treated with home quarantine according to Bullock.
Dr. Maclay Lyon, Supervisor of school medical inspections, believes that schools should be closed, despite there being no cases among elementary students and only one case among high school students. Dr. Lyon says he has no authority to close the schools and that it would have to be done by the health board working with the school board.
October 6, 1918
Dr. Gannon calls the city counselor to learn what he can do to limit crowding in streetcars. After being informed that the mayor could declare an emergency, thus giving authority to act to the Board of Health, Gannon calls the mayor requesting him to do so. Also discussed is the possibility of closing schools per Dr. Lyon’s request.
October 7, 1918
Schools, theaters, and churches will be closed at midnight tonight by order of Mayor James Cowgill, who also bans all gatherings of more than twenty people. Further, Mayor Cowgill empowers the Board of Health “to take all steps and use all measures necessary to avoid, suppress and mitigate [influenza], and to employ such officers, agents, servants and assistants, establish such hospitals, provide necessary furniture, medical attendants, nurses, food, clothing, shelter and relief as in the opinion of the said board may be necessary and advisable.”
Dr. Gannon places inspectors at the end of every streetcar line to ensure that they are properly cleaned. Numerous cars are sent back to their barns to be cleaned before they are allowed to run. The street cleaning department announces it will begin cleaning downtown streets daily at 2:30pm after the noon crowds have passed through.
October 8, 1918
Inspectors are sent to rooming houses, second hand stores, and businesses on the North Side to determine their sanitary condition. Those deemed unsanitary will be placarded with signs reading “Unfit for human habitation.” On Dr. Gannon’s request, P.J. Kealy, President of the Metropolitan Streetcar Company, issues an order requiring that conductors limit the number of standing passengers on streetcars to 20-25.
Twenty-three beds are added to General Hospital’s isolation ward today, and eighty additional beds are to be placed on the 4th floor, which formerly housed tuberculosis patients, all of whom have been moved to another hospital.
Major F. H. McGregor announces that influenza seems to be in check at the army motor schools, which have reported no new cases in last few days.
Hospitals throughout the city are reporting nursing shortages and are requesting additional help from the Red Cross. A general call goes out to the city from the Red Cross asking that women volunteer to work as nursing assistants.
Dr. C.W. McLaughlin, City Health Commissioner of the Kansas side of Kansas City, closes schools, theaters, and churches, and also bans public gatherings.
October 9, 1918
Mayor Cowgill, on the recommendation of Dr. Gannon, orders the fire department and street-cleaning department to wash all downtown streets tonight and to flush the sewers. Dr. Gannon orders closed all second-hand stores and pawnshops handling clothing, as well as all cleaning and dyeing establishments found to be insanitary. He also commends the railway company for acquiescing to his order limiting the number of passengers on cars.
Governor Frederick Gardner issues a proclamation urging strict regulations, including the ban of all public gatherings, the closing of schools, and the limiting of travel at the first appearance of Spanish influenza in any locality in the state.
Formaldehyde candles are distributed to barbers colleges, factories, and businesses for fumigation.
Major Dutton of the Red Cross is equipping the Knights of Columbus clubhouse as emergency hospital.
October 10, 1918
Dr. Gannon says that it appears influenza is on the decrease. Even so, church funerals are prohibited and only relatives can attend funerals at home for influenza victims.
Reading rooms at public libraries are closed, though circulation will continue. The three divisions of the Wyandotte County Court are also closed.
Complaints continue to be received by the Health Department regarding profiteering druggists who sell throat washes and other preventives. Dr. Gannon warns that unless the practice stops, the Health Department will open a dispensary where medicine will be sold at cost.
Health Director Bullock announces that if epidemic does not increase unexpectedly, General Hospital should be able to accommodate all influenza sufferers.
October 11, 1918
For the first time since the epidemic began, no deaths are reported at the army motor schools today.
C.W. McLaughlin, City Health Commissioner of Kansas City, Kansas, implements a $25 fine for anyone caught spitting in public.
October 12, 1918
Dr. Gannon has fifteen inspectors fumigating the vacant houses of influenza patients while they are in the hospital. Auto races at Independence Fairgrounds are called off.
First Lieutenant William J. Ferguson, medical detachment, army training detachment, dies at Sweeney Hospital, the first officer to succumb to influenza in Kansas City.
General Hospital’s 4th floor emergency ward is put to use for the first time.
Following a conference between Bishop Thomas F. Lillis, Mayor Cowgill, and Dr. Gannon, the ban on church services is modified to allow outdoor services of less than 30 minutes.
October 14, 1918
The ban forbidding gatherings of more than 20 people is lifted along with the order closing schools, churches, and theaters. Public schools will remain closed on the Kansas side. Captain A.A. Hobbs, along with other members of the Board of Health, argues that the ban has not been in place long enough to be effective, citing army requirements mandating a three-week quarantine, and the fact that the disease remains in every section of Kansas City.
October 15, 1918
Twenty-three new cases are admitted to General Hospital, making the total number of influenza patients at the hospital 120, the highest to date. Four nurses at Bethany Hospital report being ill with influenza. A call for nurses and women who can help is issued. At St. Margaret’s Hospital, two floors are turned into wards for influenza victims.
A number of larger stores promise not to hold sales to reduce crowding. The police are told to prohibit from crowds gathering for any reason.
October 16, 1918
The Chamber of Commerce calls for a meeting this afternoon with members of the Board of Health and physicians to discuss reimplementation of the ban. One of the reasons for reviewing the order to lift the ban is President of Hospital and Health Board W. P. Motley’s discovery of inconsistencies in the number of flu cases reported by Dr. Gannon and the number reported by Miss Ada Irmas of the vital statistics department. Dr. Gannon’s numbers are markedly lower than Ms. Irmas’, which prompts Motley to say “If I had seen these reports yesterday, I would not have voted to lift the ban.”
Dr. Gannon says he does not believe replacing the ban is necessary, and claims the discrepancy is due to physicians reporting cases late.
Due to a water shortage, streets will no longer be flushed daily as previously ordered as an influenza measure.
The Kansas side of Kansas City sends out an urgent appeal for volunteer nurses. Heads of the big industrial plants on the Kansas side meet at the Grund Hotel. Out of the meeting comes the adoption of uniform preventive measures: personal inspection is to made daily of all employees and those suspected of illness are to be sent home; posters are to be put up with instructions on how to fight influenza; and City Health Commissioner McLaughlin will give talks twice daily to workers.
October 17, 1918
A second, more restrictive ban is put into effect following a meeting of the Board of Health. The new order again prohibits all public gatherings of more than 20 people and closes all theaters, schools, and churches. The order applies to all dances, parties, wedding, and funerals, unlike the last ban. Further prohibitions are placed on music and amusements in hotels, restaurants, and cabarets. No more than 20 people will be allowed to stand in streetcars, and all public conveyances must be cleaned and sterilized daily and their windows left open. Elevators must also be sterilized daily and elevator crowding is forbidden. Public telephone booths must be left open and transmitters sterilized twice daily. Physicians are to immediately report cases, and more quarantine officers, including teachers, are to be employed. Stores employing 25 or more employees may not open until 9am and must close by 4pm. Crowding in stores is also forbidden, and inspectors will close store doors until crowds subside based on their individual judgment. A scientific committee is created to cooperate with and advise the Board of Health regularly.
There will be no juries in circuit court next week due to the ban, and the 300 hundred jurors called Monday were excused by Judge E.E. Porterfield
The Chamber of Commerce has canceled all meetings.
October 18, 1918
122 previously unreported cases in the district on Independence Road are discovered. And an ill woman refusing to stay away from her business is blamed for the spread of the disease there.
Another five nurses at Bethany Hospital become ill, which now has twenty-one out of a total of fifty nurses incapacitated by influenza. Further, doctors are also in short supply. Health Director Bullock states that several preventive serums are available for free to the poor at the hospital, though their efficacy remains in doubt. On the Kansas side, a committee is appointed at a meeting of the mayor, commissioners, physicians, and board of education to make plans for converting the junior high school into an emergency hospital. The committee identifies the paucity of nurses as one of the main impediments to opening such a facility.
Officials of the Kansas City Railways Company promise to extend car service during rush hour. Extra car service, which had stopped previously at 8am and started again at 5pm, will be extended until 9am and begin again at 4pm to account for the changed opening and closing times of stores under the new ban.
Dr. Gannon expresses the opinion that onions and garlic help prevent flu, citing lower case numbers in Little Italy.
October 19, 1918
The junior high school on the Kansas side is fitted with 75 beds. Once the two private hospitals reach capacity patients will be sent to the school.
Rain over the past day is blamed for an increase in number of pneumonia cases.
Two business colleges are reported to be holding classes, technically allowed because they are limiting classes to twenty persons per room.
Short, outdoor church services will be permitted in Kansas City, but are discouraged because of the weather. Judges of the circuit court agree not to call any juries in Jackson County until November 11th due to influenza. The courts will be open for non-jury cases and the general transactions of affairs.
October 20, 1918
Health inspectors are sent to a 10-cent store to investigate rumors about crowding. They find a large crowd and ordered the store closed, but upon pleas from the owner that it was almost closing time, the inspectors allowed the store to remain open as long as the crowd was kept moving.
Dr. Gannon closes the two business colleges holding classes today.
Dr. S.J. Crumbine, Secretary of the Kansas State Board of Health, meets with City Health Commissioner Dr. McLaughlin, Mayor Mendenhall, members of the board of education, and city and county commissioners of the Kansas side. Dr. Crumbine promises to obtain at least six physicians from the surgeon general to help care for those who cannot pay, and also says that supplies could be provided by the Red Cross. However, he doubts that nurses can be found.
Educational clinics on influenza will be given in the thirty-four committee headquarters and workrooms of the Red Cross beginning tomorrow, announces Health Director Bullock following a meeting with Major Dell D. Dutton, head of the local Red Cross.
October 21, 1918
Mrs. Harry Mather, head of the Red Cross committee on influenza, which is cooperation with the civics committee of the Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Health, notes the desperate need for nurses and nurses’ aides. The Red Cross is focusing their recruiting efforts on unemployed women who can be trained as nurses’ aides quickly.
The Board of Health recommends that all persons “serving the public” should wear masks – this includes barbers, hotel and restaurant servers, grocery clerks, store employees, bankers, office workers, streetcar conductors, railway station employees, factory employees, and elevator operators. Health Director Bullock orders that all apartment houses must be heated after he hears of landlords refusing to heat apartments at the request of tenants. Failure to provide adequate heat will lead to notice being served, while a second offense will lead to prosecution. Reports make their way to the Health Department of physicians removing quarantine placards without any authority.
Six government physicians arrive today to help the Kansas side.
October 22, 1918
Montgomery Ward & Company is the first large industrial concern to begin using masks for its employees. The Red Cross produced 1,000 masks yesterday for workers from material supplied by the company. The Kansas City Railways Company asks for 3,500 masks, and various other large plants are also clamoring for masks.
A free dispensary to supply those who cannot afford medicine is established today by the government physicians on the Kansas side. The city is also divided into districts, with one government physician per district. The physicians plan to canvass the districts to discover any unreported cases.
October 23, 1918
Mrs. Mather reports enough nurses and nurses’ aides have volunteered to make caring for influenza patients possible “at least fairly adequately.”
The Vital Statistics Bureau reports that deaths this month are the highest for any month in the history of the department.
On the Kansas side, Lieutenant C. D. Shelton, U.S. Army, who has been detailed to the State Board of Health to take control of all contagious diseases, arrives today. At the request of Mayor Mendenhall and the City Commission, Shelton has been given complete power to curb influenza’s spread, and his recommendations will be construed as orders. Shelton orders that every physician report to him every day, even those not treating influenza cases; individuals living in houses with the disease must also be reported to physicians. Individuals or physician who fail to report will be prosecuted with a potential penalty being a fine between $25 and $100 and/or a jail sentence of up to 90 days.
The emergency hospital begins providing gauze masks for free to the public.
October 24, 1918
Lieutenant Shelton explains that the increased number of reported cases on the Kansas side is due to the fact that physicians have been ordered to report every case.
Eight graduate nurses volunteer to help alleviate the nursing shortage. Miss H.A. Dunham, in charge of the Red Cross visiting nurses, reports that ten women trained in first-aid also volunteered for daytime service. Shelton believes there are now enough nurses to run the hospitals and provide home care. Only eleven more cots are available on the 4th floor of the General Hospital, but if the hospital overfills, the Knights of Columbus Hall will be used as an emergency hospital and equipped by the Red Cross.
Poolrooms are closed today on the Kansas side.
October 25, 1918
The selection of a site for a new temporary hospital is narrowed down to two churches: Independence Boulevard Christian Church and Linwood Boulevard Christian Church. The Red Cross declares that it is ready to equip either church in an hour’s notice when the final decision is made. Major Dutton makes arrangements for patients to be cared for at the Sweeney army hospital at the old Mercy Hospital in the meantime to relieve the strain on the General Hospital.
Lieutenant Shelton opines that the greatest menaces now are the state line saloons advertising “quinine and whiskey” as cure and the streetcar company failing to enforce anti-crowding regulations. Shelton says he will appeal to Missouri side authorities to help with the saloon problem.
Miss Laura Neiswander, Red Cross nurse of St. Louis, arrives to help the Visiting Nurses’ Association in its recruiting efforts.
October 26, 1918
Linwood Boulevard Christian Church has been selected as emergency hospital. However, Dr. Gannon and Health Director Bullock say there is no longer a need for a new temporary hospital as there is space for 40 additional patients at the General Hospital, not including the numerous cases to be discharged soon.
At the request of Lieutenant Shelton, four inspectors are sent to the state line to prevent crowding at bars and to clean them up. Dr. Gannon issues orders forbidding insurance agents and solicitors from visiting quarantined houses, and laundries from collecting clothing from quarantined houses unless they were first soaked in a 40% formaldehyde solution.
October 27, 1918
Dr. Gannon is investigating a report of profiteering. Allegedly, a girl who was told she had influenza and consequently paid a $9 fee to a physician, was later rejected by the hospital who informed her she was recovering from a hang-over from drinking the night before.
Dr. L.F. Barney, a surgeon at St. Margaret’s Hospital on the Kansas side, is commissioned as a captain and ordered to report to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. He later receives word that he is to stay in Kansas for 15 additional days in response to messages from the Chamber of Commerce and other physicians urging that no doctors be taken from the Kansas side during the current epidemic.
October 28, 1918
Dr. Gannon recommends that orders be issued requiring saloons, soda fountains, restaurants, etc. to close for half an hour twice daily at 9:30 to 10am and 2:30 to 3pm in order to boil their dishes in soda and water.
October 30, 1918
The Kansas State Board of Health announces that the statewide ban, which had been in effect for three weeks, is to be lifted Saturday, though communities still suffering are advised to keep the ban in place.
Health Director Bullock announces that he is “unalterably opposed” to the lifting of the ban at this time and will not approve any modification, and in fact favors additional regulations. The staff of the General Hospital uniformly opposes any lifting of the ban, as does Dr. Gannon.
Bullock’s daughter, Mrs. Leo J. Sheehy is ill with influenza and pneumonia.
October 31, 1918
Authorities are ordered to keep strict watch over Halloween parties to ensure that they do not exceed 20 people.
Lieutenant Shelton says that he will try to reach an agreement with Kansas City, Missouri health officials so that the bans over Greater Kansas City would be lifted simultaneously.
Health Director Bullock, following a meeting of the Hospital and Health Board called by Mayor Cowgill, announces that owners and agents failing to properly heat living quarters will be prosecuted upon the complaint of tenants. Later in the day, Bullock is taken to the hospital after showing signs of influenza.
November 2, 1918
Seven nurses at general hospital fall ill with influenza, all of whom have been working with influenza cases. Health Director Bullock’s condition is reportedly improving.
November 4, 1918
A meeting of the Hospital and Health Board is called to consider lifting the ban, possibly in conjunction with the Kansas-side’s proposed date of Wednesday, November 6. After reports come in of an increase in number of cases and deaths, lifting the ban is ruled out for the foreseeable future.
Health Director Bullock’s daughter dies of influenza this morning.
November 5, 1918
The Kansas-side lifts the ban on movie theaters, but retains the one on public meetings and schools until the epidemic is more fully under control.
November 7, 1918
At the urging of W. P. Motley, president of Hospital and Health Board, a committee of businessmen is appointed to urge Drs. Sloan, McCallum, and Frick to amend the decision not to lift the ban. The Merchants’ Association requests a shift in business hours from 9-4 to 10-5 in meeting with Drs. Sloan, McCallum, and Frick, but their request is rebuffed.
October 8, 1918
Mayor Cowgill comes out in support of lifting the ban tomorrow night at midnight.
Dr. Crumbine, president of Kansas State Board of Health refuses to lift the ban on movie theaters on the Kansas-side despite the city’s ruling and approval of United States Public Health Service physicians.
October 9, 1918
On the Kansas-side, the ban is lifted at noon.
School board members consult with their physicians “and [are] unanimously advised that it would not be wise to reopen the schools next Monday.” After a Hospital and Health Board meeting it is decided that churches, theaters, and movie houses will open tomorrow, and businesses may resume normal hours today. Churches and theaters are to seat people in every other row, and streetcars remain limited to a maximum of 20 passengers standing. At the same time, quarantine measures are increased on homes with influenza cases, - now any member of a stricken household is forbidden to leave it before the patient is pronounced well by physician and house is fumigated.
November 11, 1918
Dr. Gannon declares his belief that the disease is “on the wane. It’s about gone. The fire has burned itself out.”
November 13, 1918
The Board of Education and Superintendent of Schools I.I. Cammack agree to open public schools and libraries on Monday, November 18. All remaining flu restrictions on public assemblages are also to be lifted on the 18th.
November 14, 1918
Streetcars are no longer limited to 20 passengers standing, though Mayor Cowgill asks that railway companies not carry too many passengers.
November 17, 1918
On the eve of schools reopening, it is reported that, “less than a dozen cases of the influenza were reported among school children with a consequent minimum of deaths.”
Board of Health inspectors are no longer performing night work, and extra help is released.
November 18, 1918
All schools and public libraries are reopened today.
November 26, 1918
Superintendent of Schools Cammack meets with all public school principals tonight to discuss number of flu cases in schools.
November 27, 1918
Dr. Gannon is removed as head of the Contagious Disease Division of the Health Department and as Superintendent of Leeds Hospital. According to one paper, “The board members stated the action was taken ‘for the good of the service.’”
Public schools will be closed until Monday, December 2.
November 28, 1918
Health Director Bullock reinstitutes the home quarantine of influenza victims and their families. Dr. Maclay Lyon is appointed temporary chief of the Contagious Disease Division of Health Department.
November 29, 1918
Parochial schools suspend classes this morning at the suggestion of Dr. Bullock.
M. E. Pearson, Superintendent of the Kansas-side school district, states that school will remain in session unless situation deteriorates.
November 30, 1918
The number of flu cases at General Hospital has doubled in the past week – currently 62 cases are being treated. The hospital’s advisory staff of physicians appeals for practical nurses or women “with good judgment and common sense” to help with nursing. Health Director Bullock requests that healthy people donate blood for infusions for pneumonia patients.
Superintendent of Schools Cammack announces that public schools will not open Monday as originally planned. Episcopal churches will remain closed until the epidemic abates by order of Bishop Partridge.
December 1, 1918
Classes may not resume until after Christmas holidays, leading to speculation that this will “virtually mean an entire summer session this year.”
December 2, 1918
Chief of Police Scott A. Goodley is notified that vice wards at General Hospital will no longer be accepting female patients until the epidemic is over to prevent infection from entering hospital.
December 4, 1918
It is estimated that 63 percent of cases reported at this time are among school children.
December 5, 1918
Health Director Bullock sends telegrams to Surgeon General Blue and Lieutenant Colonel MacGruder of the United States Public Health Service appealing for help in combating the flu.
December 6, 1918
Mayor Cowgill refuses to call a meeting to discuss closing places of public gathering.
The Red Cross ward in General Hospital is reopened this morning.
December 7, 1918
A small row erupts between the Board of Health and the Red Cross. The latter presents a bill for $3,339 to the former, which includes nurses’ salaries and expenses, and supplies such as cotton, blankets, and paper goods. Major Dutton of the Red Cross claims Health Director Bullock agreed to reimburse his organization, however, Dr. Bullock claims he was unaware of any agreement to reimburse the Red Cross.
Dr. Bahrenburg of Marine Hospital, St. Louis, is dispatched to Kansas City to help ward off the spread of influenza.
December 9, 1918
Dr. Bahrenburg suggests subjecting movie theaters to regulations such as age limits on attendees and maintenance of sanitary conditions. Dr. Bahrenburg states that the death rate of 3% is too high, and suggests that only 50% of cases are being reported. To address the latter problem, he calls for physicians to be punished for not reporting cases.
December 10, 1918
Dr. B. A. Wilkes of Marine Hospital, St. Louis is assigned to take charge of the fight against flu in Kansas City.
At a Hospital and Health Board meeting, Dr. A. W. Thompson is named Superintendent of General Hospital, while Dr. Bullock is confirmed as the health director.
December 11, 1918
Dr. B.A. Wilkes arrives in Kansas City this morning. He states that there must be around 25 percent more cases of flu in the city than are being reported based on the death rate, which is much higher than in other cities. He approves the continued closure of schools, but states that further bans will not be effective due to the level of infection already present in the city.
December 12, 1918
Dr. Wilkes suggests the city invest in a prophylactic flu vaccine that has been used in Washington and Chicago, which he himself has received twice.
Children are to be barred from all public meetings following a report that 53 percent of all mortality due to the disease is among children.
December 13, 1918
Dr. Bullock, just returned from the meeting of the American Public Health Association, states that physicians at the meeting testified that the flu vaccine does not prevent the disease, and thus advises that the city not buy the serum.
December 14, 1918
A mass meeting of physicians takes place at 8 o’clock tonight in order to plan against the epidemic. Sunday schools for children are canceled.
December 17, 1918
Parents are asked to keep children under 16 at home and away from crowds.
Public schools are slated to open December 30.
December 22, 1918
Health Director Bullock plans to remove the order for children under 16 to remain at home tomorrow if conditions continue to improve.
December 23, 1918
Flu bans are raised at noon today in both Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas.
December 28, 1918
Bishop Lillis announces that parochial schools will not open until January 2, 1919.
Public schools will have only one day off for the remainder of academic year, which is to be extended until June 20 or 27, 1919.
December 29, 1918
School curricula have been condensed by a committee of teachers to the “essentials”. Parochial schools will also condense their course work, and in addition will hold morning classes on Saturdays.
December 30, 1918
Public schools reopen today.
January 2, 1919
Parochial schools reopen today.
January 3, 1919
The School Board decides to lengthen the academic year by three weeks until June 27. Several inter-school extracurricular activities, such as track meets and debate contests, are canceled for the year.
January 21, 1919
Health Director Bullock requests that quarantine measures be taken in rural areas and small towns surrounding Kansas City in order to protect the city from those areas, which are seeing an increase in cases.