Richmond & the Spanish Flu

The Spanish Flu raged through the United States approximately one hundred years ago.  Like all small towns in the United States, daily life in the City of Richmond was deeply impacted by the epidemic.

We found these three articles in the museum archives from the Richmond Daily Independent dated October 21, 1918.

Just like COVID 19 today, essential workers were particularly hard hit by the Spanish Flu. The post office was no exception, the article above reporting the mail carrier and several employees had been out sick because they had contracted the disease.

The newspaper article below reported thirteen deaths in the previous 24 hours. The dead included eight males, three females and two of indeterminate gender with an age range from infant to thirty eight. Limited information about the victims are presented including occupation in some cases. The men were employed at Standard Oil Company (now Chevron), Hercules Powder Works and Wells Fargo Express. The last entry in the list is interesting because it indicates local physicians were in high demand and difficult to engage. Pinole resident Manuel Rodriguez, aged 33, died before he had the opportunity to be seen by a doctor.

The final article we have from October 21, 1918 is full of interesting facts demonstrating similarities between the Spanish Flu and COVID19. The State Board of Health issued formal guidance in local newspapers, equivalent to today’s media advisory. Restrictions to curb the spread of the Spanish Flu include social distancing, self quarantine, masks, hand washing and disinfectant. Thankfully, nurses no longer use bichloride of mercury or liquor cresol, because they’re both harmful substances. The scarcity of gauze is another interesting similarity between the modern and historical epidemics.