A Tale of Two Cities: The 1918 Influenza

Posted in Publication on August 2010

Published in Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 103, no. 2 (Summer 2010): 165-179.

“It killed more people in twenty-four weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty-four years, more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century.” What could have been responsible for this wave of fatalities? A horrifying pandemic has been erased from America’s memory and master narrative for almost a century. Only recently has this topic gained attention due to the swine and avian influenzas and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). The 1918 influenza pandemic lasted roughly from March 1918 to June 1920 and reached almost every part of the world, including the remote areas of the Pacific Islands and the Arctic. Like all cities in the United States, Mattoon and Charleston, Illinois, experienced the wrath of the influenza. Approximately ten miles apart, one would think Mattoon and Charleston’s respective newspapers, Mattoon Journal-Gazette and Charleston Courier, would parallel one another in their coverage of the pandemic. However, this is far from the truth.

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