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The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 and How It Affected the City of Schenectady, New York

by Alan A. Morris

Senior Project Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for Graduation, Department of History, Union College, March, 1986

[This information is from The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 and How It Affected the City of Schenectady, New York by Alan Morris (Schenectady: Union College, 1986) and is reproduced here with the permission of the author. It is in the Schenectady Collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at Schdy R 974.744 Mor. Title inside cover is America and Influenza: The Pandemic of 1918-19 and How It Affected the City of Schenectady, New York.]

Abstract

During 1918 and 1919, the world was struck by a terrible killer, the Spanish Influenza. In less than one year, the Pandemic was responsible for more deaths than World War I had caused in four. Influenza killed over 20 million people world wide, including 500,000 in the United States, making it the worst pestilence to hit man since the Black Death of the 14th century.

The 1918 Pandemic was composed of three waves; the spring wave of 1918, a prelude to the killer wave of the fall, and the mild follow-up wave of the winter of 1919.

Like all major cities of the United States, Schenectady was affected by the Pandemic. There were 404 recorded deaths and approximately 15,000 cases. The first reported cases of Influenza were recorded at the construction site of the South Schenectady (now Rotterdam) Military Warehouses among the Negro troops stationed there at the end of September. By mid October, Influenza had a firm grip on the entire city. Schools were closed and public gatherings were prohibited. At one point, General Electric reported that 30% of its work force was out with the flu.

This six chapter paper begins with a short history of previous influenza epidemics, and a description of the characteristics of the disease. The origins of the pandemic will be discussed as well as how the conditions of World War I helped to turn the pandemic into the killer that it was. Finally, this paper will explore in depth how the pandemic effected both the country as a whole and the City of Schenectady. A comparision will be made between how Schenectady and the rest of the country dealt with the problems caused by the Pandemic.

Table of Contents

 Chapter(Page)
 Preface(i)
 List of Tables and Figures(ii)
 Introduction(1)
I.Influenza the Disease(6)
II.The Origins of the Pandemic(13)
III.The Pandemic Sweeps Across America(21)
IV.The Country's Response(28)
V.Schenectady in 1918(34)
VI.The Pandemic Strikes Schenectady(39)
 Conclusion(58)
 Bibliography(62)

Preface

This senior thesis could have never been completed without the help of many people. I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who went out of their way to help: Ms. Ellen Fladger, Archivist of the Special Collections at Schaffer Library, for the material on the City of Schenectady; Dr. Thomas Oram, Director of the Ellis Hospital Pathology Department, for meeting with me on such short notice; George Cuttita for keeping me company late at night, and everyone else at Lamont who turned their head the other way; the Brothers of Phi Sigma Kappa who kept saying "I thought you finished already?;" and most importantly, Professor Marc Dawson, who was not only a good advisor but a good friend as well. This paper is the reason why I couldn't play basketball every Friday!

List of Maps and Figures (Page)

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