Coping with Quarantine in a Pre-Digital Era

The Times [Seymour, IN], October 8, 1918, accessed

Staying at home because of the CoronaVirus’ self-isolation policies is certainly unpleasant for many people. However, we are not the first to be quarantined. An article by Nicole Poletika in the Indiana State Library web site shows similarities (and differences) between what we are experiencing today versus what our ancestors endured.

The article focuses on the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 and 1919. It had many similarities to today’s CoronaVirus but with one major exception: the Spanish flu epidemic was more deadly than today’s CoronaVirus.

Quoting from the article:

The [Spanish] flu struck Fort Benjamin Harrison in September of 1918 and by October 6, U.S. public health service officials mandated a statewide quarantine for Indiana and most other states. Making us grateful for the immediacy of Apple News and Google Alerts, state board officials at the time spread the news by dispatching telegrams to board secretaries in every county, ordering them to “immediately close all schools, churches, theaters, amusements of all kinds, and to put a ban on all public meetings and gatherings.” The order initially exempted factories, “business houses,” and restaurants, and limited confectionaries’ services.

Much like now, some Hoosiers pushed back against the ban, deeming it unnecessary as influenza patients, in their estimation, suffered from nothing more than “heavy colds.” A Terre Haute high schooler placed an ad in the paper the day after the public health announcement, stating “can work all day during quarantine.” Perhaps in response to this disregard, health officials across the state placed “influenza placards” at the residences of those infected as a measure to keep the community safe.

You can read a lot more in the article at:

One Comment

Ellen Vogel Elliott April 4, 2020 at 12:19 pm

An excellent book on 1918 Influenza Pandemic, read John M Barry’s “The Great Influenza – The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History” – First published in 2004 by Viking Penquin. I originally purchased it as my great aunt, Catherine Theis Gartner died of “it “October 23, 1918 in Dubuque, IA, shortly after giving birth to her 8th child, a son Clifford who died on the 25th of October. Pregnant women were at particular risk.


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