Like most East Coast cities, the influenza epidemic came early to Newark. In the first days of September 1918, the city saw a sudden increase in the number of pneumonia cases. Initially, city health officials seemed unconcerned. Influenzat appeared to be confined primarily to military camps, most notably Camp Dix.1 Closer to home, several dozen cases of influenza broke out in late-September at the Caldwell Rifle Range, a naval training facility a mere dozen or so miles from Newark. Within two days the number of cases there jumped from approximately 60 to about 150. At the same time, 75 cases developed among soldiers stationed at the three shipyards in the Newark area, and newspapers reported at least 11 civilian cases within the city itself.2 The real number was closer to 400, although neither city health officials nor newspaper reporters could know that at the time, since influenza was not added to the list of communicable and reportable diseases in New Jersey until October 1.3
With influenza at the city’s doorstep if not inside already, Newark Health Officer Dr. Charles V. Craster decided that information was his best ally. First, Craster requested that physicians report all cases of influenza to his office. Next, the health department launched a public education campaign, utilizing the city’s schools to disseminate important information on influenza prevention and treatment to homes. Some 70,000 circulars warning of the danger of influenza were printed and distributed to schoolchildren to take home with them. Several hundred large posters and a few thousand copies of a short speech on influenza were also printed, the latter being sent to public and parochial schools to be read by teachers to their classes.4
By October 5, just a week after Health Officer Craster requested that physicians notify his office of cases of the disease, some 2,882 influenza cases had been reported. Daily reports saw increases of five- to seven hundred new cases per day.5 Yet Newark authorities attempted little to stem the rising tide of disease and death other than issue public health announcements. Ultimately, it was the New Jersey state Board of Health that took the lead in enacting measures to try and control the spread of the epidemic.
On October 5, the state board of health, under the leadership of Director Dr. Jacob Price, issued a mandatory statewide order closing all churches, theaters, movie houses, dance halls, saloons, soda fountains, and other places of public amusement and congregation, and prohibiting all public gatherings, including public funerals for those who had died of influenza or pneumonia. The order also mandated that local boards of health advise their populations against travel in public transportation or from gathering socially with friends and family, and urged local officials to consider closing their schools.6 For reasons that are unclear, the state did not immediately notify New Jersey communities of the order, and it was through unofficial reports from local newspapers on October 6 that word of the state’s action reached Newark. The next day, October 7, both Health Officer Craster and Newark Mayor Charles P. Gillen voiced their begrudging acceptance of the state order, immediately setting the tone for what would become a long, protracted battle between the city and the state, and more specifically between Mayor Gillen and Director Price.
As unofficial reports of the statewide closure order reached their way to Newark through the newspapers, Mayor Gillen, Health Officer Craster, and the city commission met to discuss the situation. Gillen, believing that he had the authority to execute the state order at his discretion and at the city’s convenience, tentatively decided that the closure order would not go into effect until the morning of Thursday, October 10.7 In reality, neither Gillen nor Craster saw any reason for the closure order, believing instead that the course of the epidemic was in the hands of the people and would remain controllable so long as citizens followed the precautions listed in the various pamphlets, posters, speeches, and other public health communications the city health department had circulated.
The next day, October 8, Gillen and Craster met once again to discuss the implementation of the state’s closure order, and the two decided that Newark would begin to comply starting at midnight the evening of October 9.8 Later that afternoon, however, Gillen decided to alter the state board of health’s order to allow Newark saloons to remain open under certain conditions. Under the pretext that whiskey was a reliable treatment for influenza, Gillen wrote to Newark’s Director of Public Safety, William J. Brennan, notifying him that while saloons were to be closed to regular bar trade, sales of bottled liquor under a doctor’s prescription would be allowed so long as patrons were not allowed on the premises – what would soon be known as the “side-door” provision. Unfortunately for Gillen as well as for Newark’s tipplers, the state board of health had already declared that such a provision was a violation of the order.9 Undeterred, Gillen proceeded with his modified order.
Mayor Gillen’s move set off a fierce political battle, one that ultimately involved not only Gillen and Director Price, but Craster, the police commissioner, Director of Public Safety Brennan, the city commission, and even New Jersey Governor Walter Evans Edge. Initially, Gillen’s side-door provision was ignored by Director Brennan as well as Police Commissioner McEnroe, who, after consulting the city commission to determine the extent of their powers in the matter, announced that the police would enforce the state closure order strictly and exactly as written.1
Brennan and McEnroe quickly realized that they needed to issue clear orders to the city’s police force, especially in light of Gillen’s contradictory instructions both to enforce the order strictly and to allow saloons to continue with their bottle trade. McEnroe clarified the department’s position on Gillen’s saloon amendment: “[T]he Mayor’s proclamation was explicit that saloons must be closed, and it is the proclamation… that will be enforced by the police.” As Brennan explained, allowing saloons to keep their side-doors open would require police to check for prescriptions at every saloon, an undertaking for which the police force simply did not have the resources. He also pointed out the obvious, namely that prescription liquor could be obtained elsewhere without violating the order, casting suspicion on Gillen’s true motives.11
Mayor Gillen did not let the matter rest. Whatever his reasons for issuing the order in the first place, Gillen now had an additional motive to press forward: he was locked in a power struggle with his own police force over the matter. To assert his authority, Gillen once again directed police to allow saloons to remain open for the sale of prescription liquor. This time, however, the order was issued as a full-fledged mayoral proclamation, permitting Newark saloons “to sell and dispense, for medicinal purposes, wine, whiskey, brandy and liquor through their side doors, until further notice from me to the contrary hereof….”12 Noticeably absent from the mayor’s proclamation, however, was any mention of the need for a prescription in order to purchase liquor from a saloon, although Gillen later added that it was his intention that such prescriptions be presented to bartenders and saloon owners. Nevertheless, police were now legally required to uphold Gillen’s order, as the City Commission informed the Department of Public Safety.
The New Jersey Board of Health was none too pleased. Mayor Gillen may have had the ability to order the city’s police force to obey his proclamation, but the Board of Health did not believe he had the authority to circumvent the power of the state. When pressed on this issue, Gillen responded that he had been in contact with a physician in the New Jersey Department of Health – a man whose name the Mayor rather conveniently could not recall – who had given him approval. Covering the story, the Newark Evening News contacted Dr. R. B. FitzHugh, assistant director of the Board of Health, who expressed amazement over Gillen’s actions and told reporters that, as far as he knew, the state department of health had never been consulted on the matter. FitzHugh notified Director Price, who quickly dashed off a telegram to Gillen’s office insisting on “strict compliance.”13
Mayor Gillen’s actions created a mini-scandal in Newark. Had he simply chosen to comply with Director Price’s order at that point, the matter most likely would have died right then and there. The feisty mayor was not one to back down from a challenge, however. In fact, he pressed even harder, taking on anyone who dared question his authority or his motives. When the Evening News, Newark’s largest circulation newspaper and its paper of record, published an editorial in its October 10 evening edition condemning the mayor’s side-door proclamation, Gillen threatened to close the newspaper’s offices. “If the Newark Evening News attempts to interfere with any orders which I have issued or may issue for the preservation of the health of the people of Newark,” he scolded, “I will close the paper immediately under the laws of the state, as a menace to the public health, just as I would close any place of assembly.”14 The irony of the Mayor of the nation’s unhealthiest industrial city, and a man who had flagrantly disregarded state authority during an epidemic, claiming to be the champion of the public’s health and upholder of the law could not have been lost on many.
Meanwhile, the number of new influenza cases in Newark climbed quickly to a peak. By Saturday, October 12, some 9,201 cases had been reported and nearly 250 people had died from either influenza or pneumonia. Monday, October 14, the peak day of the epidemic, added another 1,626 cases to the list, with an additional 1,361 the following day.15 Director Price was incensed by Mayor Gillen’s actions. He estimated that the state had over 200,000 active cases of influenza, and stated that the epidemic was not just a local or even a state issue, but a national one. “For an individual citizen, or even an individual community, to assume to place his or its judgment in opposition to the state authorities at such a time passes my understanding,” he told the Newark Evening News, adding that Gillen must take full responsibility for the consequences of his side-door provision. The state Board of Health would meet again in two day’s time to discuss the epidemic as well as its response to Gillen’s intransigence.16
The Evening News would not let the matter rest. The paper conducted a very quick survey of the busy downtown intersection of Broad and Market Streets found several saloons allowing patrons to order liquor without a doctor’s prescription.17 The paper continued to investigate the issue over the next few days, printing several pieces on the flagrant abuse of the side-door provision by city saloons. In the week since the closure order had gone into effect, police found evidence of at least 52 saloons in violation of the side-door provision.
On October 17, to better control the flow of information on the influenza epidemic, Mayor Gillen informed newspaper reporters that his office, and not the health department, would handle all the communication of all influenza information. Gillen’s order instructed Craster to withhold from the newspapers all information on the epidemic and instead to report daily case and death figures directly to his office. The reason for the sudden shift in policy, Gillen explained, was to avoid the inaccuracies and misrepresentations that had recently appeared in some of the city’s newspapers. Yet in changing the way in which influenza figures were reported, Gillen also changed the reporting period from the 24-hour period ending at noon to the 24-hour period ending at 9:00 am. As a result, for at least the first day of the new policy, newspaper reporters covering the epidemic were uncertain of the exact number of new cases.18
Mayor Gillen’s continued scuffles with Director Price and the state Board of Health suddenly became even more serious when, on October 21, the Mayor unilaterally lifted the state closure order, stating that the epidemic was over. The announcement came as a surprise to all, including the Newark police force, which, having not yet received Gillen’s order, spent the morning busily closing all of the places that had re-opened. It was not until the city attorney informed Police Commissioner McEnroe that, under Newark’s new home rule, publication of a mayoral proclamation in a city newspaper constituted sufficient notice that the police desisted. Some theater and movie house owners were upset that Mayor Gillen did not give them more notice, which would have allowed them to prepare for re-opening.19
Not one to adhere closely to the letter of the law, Gillen argued that, as he had interpreted it, the order was only meant to apply so long as there was an epidemic in any given community. While the dramatic peak of the epidemic had been reached a week earlier, the city was hardly in the clear. Whether or not the Mayor truly believed the danger to be past will never be known. Given his behavior and his general attitude towards the closing order in the first place, however, it seems very likely that he simply wished to re-open the city for business as usual and saw a declaration of the end of the epidemic as an easy, if fabricated, loophole to exploit.
Having re-opened Newark, Mayor Gillen next set his sights on the Evening News. Two days prior, the newspaper had printed a scathing attack – both in substance and in tone – on the Mayor’s side-door order. “Why hire a doctor when the saloon side doors are open ‘for medicinal purposes,’ in the Mayor’s own words, and anything from beer to rock and rye can be had for the usual price?” the article began. The rest of the editorial-exposé was written in a similar tone. The Evening News reported that undertakers throughout the city were complaining that graves could not be dug fast enough at cemeteries to bury the bodies of the dead, but Mayor Gillen still felt the need to order the side-door provision. “The State Department of Health ordered saloons in Newark closed to keep down the number of graves that might have to be dug in [the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery] and other cemeteries. But the Mayor tacked the side door onto that order, ‘for medicinal purposes.’” To investigate the situation, the Evening News sent a reporter into the field. At one establishment he found “fifteen energetic efforts to stave off influenza with a more or less latitudinarian application of the Mayor’s specific.” When the reporter sidled up to the bar to purchase a drink, the bartender asked him to step a few feet to the side so that he would be out of view of the large glass-door entrance. He was then served his drink, in a glass at the bar and without a prescription, as if it were business as usual. The situation was the same at every saloon the reporter visited.20 Despite the extremely lax enforcement of the state’s closure order – or even of Gillen’s own side-door proclamation – the Mayor assured Director Price over the telephone that Newark saloons were not engaged in the general sales of liquor.21
The news story angered the Mayor, who issued a statement of protest over the piece. “The editorial criticism of me in today’s News is a vile lie from beginning to end,” Gillen said, “a continuation of the malicious attacks this paper makes on me from time to time.” He had not given his permission for saloons to violate his order, he added. Having earlier made the empty threat to close the newspaper, Gillen now exacted his revenge by taking a different tack. “The Newark Evening News persistently lies about and misrepresents the affairs of the Mayor’s office of this city,” Gillen wrote. Until the newspaper “learns to print the truth about these affairs,” as the Mayor put it, representatives of the Evening News would be prohibited from entering his office.22
The Evening News struck back, releasing the details of a run-in Gillen had with high-ranking members of his own police force in a saloon some ten days prior. According to the newspaper, on the evening of Thursday, October 10 (the day the Mayor directed police to begin enforcing the state closure order) Gillen entered a café and ordered a round of drinks for a group of acquaintances. The drinks were never served, however, as at that very moment a police officer – sent by Police Commissioner McEnroe and Chief Inspector Corbally – arrived and ordered the bartender to stop serving liquor. The poor bartender, caught in a delicate position, went outside to the car where the Commissioner and the Inspector were waiting and explained to them that Mayor Gillen himself had ordered the drinks. It mattered none, and the bartender was forced to return to Gillen and explain to the Mayor that he could not serve him or his guests. Visibly angry, Gillen exclaimed, “We’ll see about that,” and stormed outside to speak directly to the Commissioner and the Inspector. His protests resulted in police closing down the café entirely for violating the Mayor’s own order.23
The New Jersey Board of Health had been generally unwilling to engage in a fight with Mayor Gillen over the saloon side-door provision. Rescinding the entire closure order, however, had crossed the line. On October 22, the Board unanimously agreed to call upon Newark’s city commission and Director of Public Safety Brennan to enforce the state order. The board could not decide on an exact legal course to take with respect to the recalcitrant Mayor, but it did agree that he should be made aware of his official duties and be punished for his defiance if possible. Two of the Board’s members were in favor of summoning Gillen before the body to account for his actions. Unfortunately, the Board was hamstrung. The State Assistant Attorney General stated that it was unlikely that a way could be found to punish Gillen under the law. The best the Board could hope for was that Newark’s commissioners would take matters into their own hands. In the meantime, the Board adopted a resolution stating that the closure order had been lifted by the City of Newark (and also by nearby Jersey City, which had followed suit) without authority, and that the order was therefore still legally in force throughout the state.24
Newark’s City Commission was in no better position than the state board of health to enforce the closure order. Director Price sent telegrams to each commissioner, asking that they go over Mayor Gillen’s head and place Newark under the statewide closure order once again. Director of Public Safety Brennan, never a fan of the Mayor, stated that he would enforce the state’s order over Gillen’s proclamation if the City Commission so voted. The other commissioners did not agree. The problem was Newark’s governance. As the City Council told the commission, all powers of local health administration rested with Mayor Gillen, as he was the Director of the Department of Public Affairs. The only action the Commission could take was either to remove Gillen as mayor or to vote to reassign authority over the local board of health and the city hospital to another department. The Commission balked, concluding that no action would be taken for the time being. Instead, it kicked the matter back to Trenton, calling on the state Board of Health to first exhaust its powers in the matter.25
Mayor Gillen did not let the matter rest, and once again pressed the attack. The Mayor argued that he had not lifted the ban until he was satisfied that Newark’s epidemic had passed its peak. Once that had occurred, Gillen argued, he saw it as his duty to end the closure order. “We would have acted in a criminal manner not to do so,” he added. “It’s confiscation without proper warrant, reason or authority.”26 For all of his boldness in allowing saloons to essentially operate fully during the closure order, Gillen was at least consistent. He did not agree with the closure order in the first place, and he did everything he could to ensure that it continued only so long as absolutely necessary. Gillen did not stop there, however. In a letter to Governor Edge, he called for Price’s resignation, arguing that the Director acted unilaterally and without authority when he issued the closure order without the vote of the full New Jersey Board of Health. Gillen asked Edge to investigate the matter and, if he discovered that Price had acted extra-legally, to dismiss the Director.27
Meanwhile, the Board was busy deciding what to do. Should Mayor Gillen be punished for his actions? Did the Board have the actual authority to punish him? Or should the matter simply be dropped, since it was now clear that the peak of the epidemic had been passed in nearly all communities across the state? Even the Assistant Attorney General was uncertain. He believed that statutory power conferred by the New Jersey legislature upon the Board of Health gave it authority to issue orders to local health boards. He also believed, however, that the state board did not have legal authority to issue a statewide closure of public places. The Board itself was split over the matter. The five members of the Board present agreed that the closure order was unnecessary and ineffective, and went so far as to praise Gillen at a meeting held on October 29. These members argued that the closure order was discriminatory and ineffective, since it only closed some places while allowing other means of disease transmission (namely streetcars, trains, and shops) to remain open. One member actually proposed a resolution commending Gillen and stating that Director Price had acted with questionable legal authority when he issued the statewide closure order. After some discussion, the resolution passed!28 Gillen had not only dodged the issue of his authority to lift a state Board of Health closure order, but he had managed to call Price’s actions into question while earning himself praise in the process.
The entire incident exposed critical holes in New Jersey’s public health laws. The state Board of Health could indeed order local boards of health to take certain actions, but the actual implementation of those orders on the ground had to come from municipal boards. Quickly, the Board of Health adopted a resolution calling on the Attorney General to draft the necessary amendments to grant additional authority to the Board in the event of future public health crises, and to place the amendments before the state legislature before the next session.
Having passed a resolution praising Mayor Gillen, the Board of Health, the Mayor, Director Price, and Governor Edge let the incident pass without further action. The issue had become moot anyway, as the epidemic was waning in communities across the state. Newark schools re-opened on October 30 after having been closed for just over two weeks. The city’s daily influenza case tallies were back to early-October levels, and the number of new pneumonia cases was near normal. On November 13, Health Officer Craster declared the epidemic officially over, ending the daily reporting of influenza and pneumonia cases. The city slowly turned its attention away from the drama Gillen had caused and to the task of caring for those whose lives had been tragically affected by the epidemic. City officials met with representatives of local charities and welfare organizations to discuss a coordinated relief effort. In December, representatives of the city’s various charitable organizations formed the Council of Philanthropy with the aim of addressing these issues. The city council voted a $10,000 appropriation to the Council of Philanthropy so that children orphaned by the epidemic could be placed in homes, those weakened by their bouts with the influenza could receive necessary care, and those made destitute by inability to work during their illness could be given aid. The Council of Philanthropy did its best to meet the needs of desperate Newark residents, but it was unfortunately saddled by a severe lack of funds. The average cost of the relief effort amounted to $75 per family, and by the end of March the Council – still busy helping those in need – had a paltry $1,000 in its coffers.29
Like most East Coast cities, Newark was hit hard and fast by an epidemic that was well entrenched by the time health officials began to realize just how deadly a killer it was. In the end, over 29,000 Newark residents suffered with influenza during the fall of 1918, nearly 2,200 of them dying of the disease or its complications.30
As spring approached, state legislators took up the issue of Newark and Jersey City’s refusal to obey state directives during the epidemic. Specifically, they sought to revise New Jersey public health law to prevent another legal donnybrook in the future. On March 2, 1919, state senator James Hammond of Mercer County (of which the capital, Trenton, was also the county seat) introduced supplements to a 1915 law that had abolished the old state Board of Health and had replaced it with a more efficient and consolidated state Department of Health. The new supplements would have granted the state Department of Health the authority to compel communities to obey directives in times of epidemics and other public health crises. After being successfully reported out of the Committee on Public Health, the two supplements easily passed on the floor of the Senate with only a few minor changes in wording and were sent to the State Assembly for consideration.31
The State Assembly took up the matter on March 19. The supplements were read and referred to the Committee on Public Health, where they were likewise reported out favorably and placed before the full Assembly for consideration and a vote. There, however, they ran into a wall of opposition when the Essex and Hudson County (home of Newark and Jersey City, respectively) delegations voted against them. Of the 22 assemblymen from the two counties, 21 voted against the supplements; the other, Edric C. Greaves from Essex County, was not present.32
By all indications, Mayor Gillen remained steadfast in his opinion that he had done the right thing in standing up to an onerous state directive. Penning the introduction to the city’s Annual Reports of the Board of Commissioners, the Mayor once again took the opportunity to present his case. Giving permission to re-open Newark, he said, had “precipitated a conflict with the State Board of Health, but I was sustained in my attitude by subsequent developments that proved my view of the epidemic situation was correct.” Gillen then went on to state that the closing of churches during the epidemic did not relieve the situation in any way, nor did the closing of theaters. All it did was to strip people of their usual form of entertainment and to cause a panicky feeling throughout the city.33
He never mentioned saloons.
1 Located some 65 miles south of Newark, Camp Dix experienced a terrible epidemic that resulted in army medical officials placing the entire camp under quarantine on September 23. No visitors except those on official business were allowed into the camp, and soldiers were prohibited from leaving. See “Spread of Spanish Grip Is Checked at Camp Dix,” Newark Evening News, 19 Sept. 1918, 15, and “Camp Dix Quarantined Until Grip Epidemic Ends,” Newark Evening News, 23 Sept. 1918, 22.
2 “Sixty Influenza Victims at Rifle Range; All Mild Cases,” Denver Evening News, 24 Sept. 1918, 19, and “Report Influenza Under Control at Rifle Range,” 26 Sept. 1918, 4.
3 Annual Report of the Department of Health, City of Newark, New Jersey, for the Year Ending December 31, 1918 (Newark, 1918), 41. Retrospectively analyzing the influenza epidemic, the Newark Department of Health later reported 435 cases of influenza and 86 cases of pneumonia for September. During its October 1, 1919 meeting, the state Board of Health resolved to add influenza to the list of communicable and reportable diseases. See “Minutes of a Meeting of the Department of Health of the State of New Jersey, convened in the State House, Trenton, October 1, 1918,” vol. 14, 256-57, State Board of Health Minutes, New Jersey State Archives, Trenton, New Jersey. Hereafter cited as NJSA.
4 “Soldiers at Ship Yards Suffer from Influenza,” Newark Evening News, 27 Sept. 1918, 1, and “Talks Explaining Influenza Prepared for the Schools,” Newark Evening News, 27 Sept. 1918, 16.
5 “New Cases of Influenza Decreasing in Number,” Newark Evening News, 5 Oct. 1918, 5. The headline was unfortunately incorrect. Only a few days later, on October 8, physicians reported a whopping 1,296 new cases for the last 24 hour period, bringing the epidemic total to over 5,200 cases. See, “Gillen Now Orders Quarantine Here,” Newark Evening News, 8 Oct. 1918, 1.
6 “State-wide Closing to Curb Influenza,” Newark Evening News, 7 Oct. 1918, 1, and “State Authority Invoked to Curb Present Infection,” Newark Evening News, 7 Oct. 1918, 6.
7 “State-wide Closing to Curb Influenza,” Newark Evening News, 7 Oct. 1918, 1.
8 “Gillen Now Orders Quarantine Here,” Newark Evening News, 8 Oct. 1918, 1.
9 “May Sell Bottled Goods to Aid in Influenza Cure,” Newark Evening News, 9 Oct. 1918, 1. When a group of liquor dealers from nearby Bergen County had already inquired whether they might be allowed to remain open, arguing that liquor was necessary in the treatment of influenza, Price replied that no exceptions whatsoever would be made.
10 “Rigid Quarantine in Newark Is Ordered,” Newark Evening News, 10 Oct. 1918, 1.
11 “Rigid Quarantine in Newark Is Ordered,” Newark Evening News, 10 Oct. 1918, 1.
12 “Order Sent Gillen to Close Saloons,” Newark Evening News, 11 Oct. 1918, 1.
13 “Order Sent Gillen to Close Saloons,” Newark Evening News, 11 Oct. 1918, 1.
14 “Order Sent Gillen to Close Saloons,” Newark Evening News, 11 Oct. 1918, 1.
15 “Grip Claims 847, City Total is 9,201,” Newark Evening News, 12 Oct. 1918, 1, and “Pneumonia Gains In Grip Outbreak,” Newark Evening News, 15 Oct. 1918, 1.
16 “City’s Grip Total Near 11,000 Cases,” Newark Evening News, 14 Oct. 1918, 1.
17 “Pneumonia Gains in Grip Outbreak,” Newark Evening News, 15 Oct. 1918, 1.
18 “Grip Figures Not Comparable Today,” Newark Evening News, 17 Oct. 1918, 1.
19 “Grip Quarantine Order Is Revoked,” Newark Evening News, 21 Oct. 1918, 1.
20 “Side Door Doctoring Is Done in Front of Bars,” Newark Evening News, 19 Oct. 1918, 1.
21 “Grip Quarantine Order Is Revoked,” Newark Evening News, 21 Oct. 1918, 1.
22 “Grip Quarantine Order Is Revoked,” Newark Evening News, 21 Oct. 1918, 1.
23 “Gillen’s Saloon Order Put in Force Against Himself,” Newark Evening News, 21 Oct. 1918, 1.
24 “Minutes of a Meeting of the Department of Health of the State of New Jersey, convened in the State House, Trenton, October 22, 1918,” vol. 14, 270-73, State Board of Health Minutes, NJSA; “State Board Goes Over Gillen’s Head,” Newark Evening News, 22 Oct. 1918, 1.
25 “Put Influenza Ban Up to State Board,” Newark Evening News, 24 Oct. 1918, 1.
26 “Put Influenza Ban Up to State Board,” Newark Evening News, 24 Oct. 1918, 1.
27 “Gillen Asks Governor to Remove Health Director,” Newark Evening News, 25 Oct. 1918, 1.
28 “Improvers For Increase in State Health Powers,” Newark Evening News, 29 Oct. 1918, 11; “Minutes of a Meeting of the Department of Health of the State of New Jersey, convened in the State House, Trenton, October 29, 1918,” vol. 14, 273-274, State Board of Health Minutes, New Jersey State Archives, Trenton, New Jersey
29 Annual Reports of the Board of Commissioners of the City of Newark, New Jersey, for the Year 1918 (Newark: The Essex Printers, 1918), 27.
30 Annual Report of the Department of Health, City of Newark, New Jersey, for the Year Ending December 31, 1918 (Newark, 1918), 13.
31 Journal of the Seventy-fifth Senate of the State of New Jersey, being the One Hundred and Forty-third Session of the Legislature (Trenton: MacCrellish and Quigley, 1919), 274-75, 342-43, 382-85, 392-93.
32 Minutes of Votes and Proceedings of the One Hundred and Forty-third General Assembly of the State of New Jersey (Trenton: MacCrellish and Quigley, 1919), 374-75, 709. New, stronger public health laws in New Jersey were desperately needed. A few months after the Assembly’s vote, the New Jersey Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision that found a Patterson, New Jersey saloonkeeper guilty of allowing people to congregate in his place of business during an epidemic. The higher court found that, by not clearly defining the maximum number of people allowed to congregate in a public place, the applicable public health ordinance was too vague to support the conviction. See Board of Health of the City of Patterson v. Clayton, 106 A., 813, 813 (New Jersey, 1919).
33 Annual Reports of the Board of Commissioners of the City of Newark, New Jersey, for the Year 1918 (Newark: The Essex Printers, 1918), 26.
|200||Excess Death Rate (per 100,000)|
September 7, 1918
Newspapers report a sharp increase in pneumonia deaths for the week. Although no connection is drawn, it is possible these deaths resulted from undiagnosed influenza cases.
September 19, 1918
Officers at Camp Dix express confidence that the outbreak of influenza there is in check, although reports of additional cases continue. So far, nearly 1,500 cases and four deaths have occurred at Camp Dix, but only 25 of them have appeared in the last 24 hours. In addition, these new cases are reported to be milder. The barracks have been placed under quarantine.
September 23, 1918
As a precautionary measure, Camp Dix is placed under quarantine today. No civilians allowed on the campgrounds except those on official business.
September 24, 1918
An outbreak of influenza is reported at the Caldwell rifle range, where 60-70 sailors are down with mild cases of influenza.
September 26, 1918
Newark Health Officer Charles V. Craster requests that city physicians report all cases of influenza to his office.
September 27, 1918
75 cases of influenza have developed among soldiers stationed at the three shipyards in the Newark area. These soldiers, along with 375 others, were sent to St. Mary’s Hospital in Hoboken.
Eleven civilian cases are reported to Health Officer Craster. The Health Department busies itself printing 70,000 circulars to be distributed schoolchildren to bring home with them. In addition, 200 large posters and 2,500 copies of a four-minute man speech on influenza will be printed. Nearly 2,000 of these will be sent to the public schools to be read by teachers to their classes, with the remainder to go to parochial schools.
September 28, 1918
The chief physician of the ship yard at Port Newark states that the epidemic in the city would not get much worse than it is now: “If you call this thing an epidemic, therefore, I would say that Newark is nearly through with it.” Health Officer Craster says he believes Newark would be touched more lightly by the epidemic than other cities have been. 238 new cases are reported today as of noon.
September 30, 1918
The foci of the epidemic seem to be in the extreme northern end of the city and the Valisburgh section. Mayor Charles Gillen urges citizens to prevent the spread of influenza by covering coughs and sneezes and asks those feeling ill to stay out of public places.
October 1, 1918
619 total cases reported so far. Eight nurses from Newark leave today for Camp Dix to help epidemic there, and 6 more will leave tomorrow. All thirty Health Department nurses volunteered for service at Camp Dix, but Health Officer Craster said that some would have to stay in Newark to help the city; 14 will remain in the city.
October 2, 1918
The New Jersey State Board of Health makes influenza and pneumonia reportable diseases, and begins notifying local health departments of the new requirement. The State Board also urges isolation of patients, as well as disinfection of the bodily discharges of patients.
October 3, 1918
Health Officer Craster states that a large proportion of the cases reported are not really epidemic influenza, but the only way to tell is by bacteriological examination, which takes too long to determine.
October 5, 1918
The Health Department sends barbers notices directing them to wear gauze masks while with customers.
October 7, 1918
The State Department of Health issues mandatory orders to close all churches, theaters, movie houses, dance halls, saloons, soda fountains, and other public places. Mayor Gillen and Health Officer Craster meet later and decide that the closing order will not go into effect until Thursday morning (10/10). Craster believes that as long as precautions are followed the situation will remain controllable and he sees no reason for the closure order. Nevertheless, he says the city will comply.
October 8, 1918
Mayor Gillen issues a closure order in compliance with the state order, to go into effect at midnight. Gillen waited 24 hours before complying with the State order because he believed he had authority to execute the order at his discretion and at the city’s convenience. Health Commissioner Craster and school officials decide that schools will not be closed, arguing that children are safer in schools than out of them, and that children will be better monitored in schools by teachers and nurses.
October 9, 1918
Mayor Gillen, believing that whiskey is necessary in the treatment of influenza, declares that while saloons must be closed, they will be permitted to sell bottled goods on doctors’ prescriptions so long as customers do not enter the premises. This provision in direct contradiction to a statement made by Dr. Jacob Price, Director of the State Department of Health.
October 10, 1918
Mayor Gillen orders Director of Public Safety William J. Brennan and Police Commissioner McEnroe to enforce the closure order, but to allow saloons to sell bottled liquor under doctor’s prescription. McEnroe, however, announces that the police would rigidly enforce the closure order as directed by the State Department of Health. Brennan states that it would be impossible to allow Gillen’s recommendation, as it would require police at every saloon to check for prescriptions, and that prescription liquor can be obtained elsewhere without violating the order.
The City Commission, at Mayor Gillen’s request, appropriates $100,000 to cover the costs of opening and equipping emergency hospitals for influenza patients.
Mayor Gillen orders all schools (public, private, and parochial) to close. However, the Board of Education is the only body with authority to do so.
October 11, 1918
Director Price of the State Department of Health telegraphs Mayor Gillen this afternoon to insist on “strict compliance” with closure orders after he had been told of Gillen’s order to allow saloons to keep their side doors open. Price’s telegraph reads, “Information has reached this office that saloons in Newark are not closed in full accordance with the order of this department, dated October 5. For the protection of the health of the citizens of Newark and the rest of the state, this department insists on strict compliance with this order.” City Counsel Congleton tells Director of Public Safety Brennan that if the mayor made his order a proclamation, then it will have to be enforced.
The Newark Evening News condemns the Mayor’s actions last night, and as a result the Mayor threatens to close the newspaper saying, “If the Newark Evening News attempts to interfere with any orders which I have issued or may issue for the preservation of the health of the people of Newark, I will close the paper immediately under the law of the state, as a menace to the public health, just as I would close any place of assembly.”
October 12, 1918
Side-doors of saloons remain open, despite the State closure order. Police are enforcing Mayor Gillen’s version of the order, but Police Commissioner McEnroe admits that it is impossible to police all the city’s 1,200 saloons. The Newark Evening News has found that some saloons are using the side-door provision to allow customers to drink at the bar.
Director Price of the State Department of Health expresses amazement that Gillen would continue to disregard the State’s order. “This is the greatest emergency that has ever confronted New Jersey,” he says. “For an individual citizen, or even an individual community, to assume to place his or its judgment in opposition to the state authorities at such a time passes my understanding. The state department order was a mandatory order, and meant exactly what it said, which includes the closing of the saloons. I know what this ‘side door’ business means, and I am surprised that the Mayor of Newark should take the course he has. I do not care to express my opinion of his action, but I feel very strongly regarding it…. We shall take up the exceptions to the general attitude of compliance on Monday, and further action will be based upon our findings at that time. The Mayor of Newark, since he has assumed the authority to modify the state order, must in the meanwhile assume the responsibility for the consequences.”
October 14, 1918
Total of 10,834 influenza cases are reported in Newark, and Health Officer Craster believes that many cases have not been reported. City Hospital is crowded with patients and can take few more because of a severe lack of bed space and the fact that so many physicians and nurses are ill with influenza themselves.
The Board of Education places school nurses at the disposal of the Health Department. The Board of Education authorizes school superintendent Dr. David B. Corson to call on teachers to volunteer their services in any capacity which may be needed, other than as nurses.
October 15, 1918
Newark Memorial Hospital opens a 25-bed ward for children suffering from influenza. The hospital can offer the ward and equipment, but is unable to provide nurses.
Director of the State Department of Health Price states that he had been informed by Mayor Gillen that Newark saloons were not violating the state closure order and that side-doors are not being kept open. Gillen did admit, however, that saloons are selling liquor by prescription. A quick survey by the Newark Evening News finds that many saloons are still using their side-doors for business as usual.
October 16, 1918
An emergency hospital in the old Hahne-Stagg department store building opens, accepting 12 cases with room for 500 total.
October 17, 1918
Mayor Gillen instructs Health Officer Craster to withhold information about the epidemic from the press, as he believes the saloon side-door issue has been misrepresented by the papers. Mayor Gillen will be responsible for providing information about the epidemic.
The local chapter of the American Red Cross opens a 750-bed emergency hospital only one week after the project was announced. The facility will be staffed by graduate nurses and assisted by aids trained at the Red Cross nursing Center.
October 18, 1918
A group of clergy from various denominations has asked that churches be allowed to open, and several have questioned the constitutionality of the order. Mayor Gillen has taken the matter to Director Price of the State Department of Health. Price responds that, while sympathetic to the churches, he could not lift the closure order before the Board of Health meets on Tuesday, October 22.
October 21, 1918
By proclamation, Mayor Gillen ends the closure order, claiming that there has been a material decrease in the number of deaths from the epidemic, and that he therefore considers the epidemic in Newark to have passed. He believes that the State order was only mean to apply so long as an epidemic existed in a community. The police, not having received the Mayor’s order, spent the morning closing all the places that had opened.
Mayor Gillen responds to a Newark Evening News story about the mayor allowing saloons to flagrantly disregard the state order: “Beginning Monday, I will be obliged again to exclude all representatives of the News from my office, as I have been obliged to do before. It is only a short time ago since a ‘church editor’ or ‘ecclesiastical’ editor of the News was arrested as a thief and a forger and sentenced to jail. Who are the present editors of the paper? Are they to be trusted? The Newark Evening News persistently lies about and misrepresents the affairs of the Mayor’s office of this city. Until such time as the Newark Evening News learns to print the truth about these affairs all representatives of the News are prohibited from entering this office.”
An incident involving Mayor Gillen drinking at a restaurant ten days ago are made public. On October 10, Gillen ordered a round of drinks for a group of acquaintances in the dining room of the Owl Café on Seventh Ave. in the Roseville section of the city. The drinks did not arrive, however, because at that precise moment a police officer entered and ordered the bartender not to serve the Mayor and his party. When bartender went outside to speak to Police Inspector Corbally he was told him that it did not matter who had ordered the drinks and that he still could not serve liquor. Mayor Gillen then went outside to speak to Corbally and Police Commissioner McEnroe himself, the result of which was McEnroe’s order to close the Owl Café. The next day, Gillen issued his proclamation allowing saloons to sell liquor for medicinal purposes via their side-doors, making it impossible for the police to enforce the saloon closure order at all.
October 22, 1918
The New Jersey State Board of Health, by unanimous resolution, declares that the epidemic still exists in Newark and calls upon the Newark City Commission and the Director of Public Safety to enforce the State closure order. The Board does not come to a conclusion as to the exact legal course to follow, but unanimously agrees that Mayor Gillen should be made aware of his responsibilities.
The Newark Theatrical Managers’ Association declares itself opposed to the State Board of Health’s action, and instead stands with Mayor Gillen. The Association’s declares that theaters will “open until notified by the Mayor to close.”
October 23, 1918
A majority of the members of the City Commission favor following the State Board of Health’s directions. Director of Public Safety Brennan says that if the Commission voted to adopt this view, he would enforce the State Board’s order over Mayor Gillen’s proclamation.
The State Board of Health attempts to summon Gillen to answer for his actions. State Attorney General finds no law giving the New Jersey Board of Health the authority to do this. The Board decides it will seek such authority from the state legislature.
October 24, 1918
The Newark City Commission decides that the authority to close Newark businesses rests with Mayor Gillen and not the State Board of Health, and therefore decides to take no action against Gillen. Gillen attacks the members of the State Board of Health, saying that they all live in rural communities and therefore do not understand urban public health, “and are actuated more by a desire to please the Newark Evening News than to protect the health of the people of New Jersey.”
October 25, 1918
Mayor Gillen writes to New Jersey Governor Walter Evans Edge demanding the resignation of Director Price for issuing the closure order unilaterally and without the authority of the full Board of Health.
October 26, 1918
With the epidemic abating throughout the state, the New Jersey Board of Health allows communities to lift the closure orders at their discretion.
October 29, 1918
The New Jersey State Board of Health adopts a resolution calling on the state Attorney General to draft amendments granting additional authority to the Board of Health to place before the legislature next session.
Public schools reopen with the help of 94 substitute teachers
November 12, 1918
City officials and representatives of public welfare organizations meet to discuss and coordinate relief efforts in the city in the wake of the epidemic.
November 13, 1918
Health Officer Craster declares the epidemic is over. Thus, no more daily case reports will be made by the Newark Health Department.