Dakota Datebook

Spanish Flu

Friday, October 18, 2013


As the Spanish Flu swept across the country in 1918, no one was left unaffected. It wasn’t just the infection and possible death of a family member or a friend – each community felt the risk, and the consequences.


One report from Fargo noted that the flu was responsible for nine deaths in Moorhead, Dilworth and Fargo within a 24-hour span of time. Dr. Paul Sorkness, Fargo health officer said,”While fewer new cases of Spanish influenza are reported, there are more really sick persons in Fargo today than at any time since the commencement of the epidemic.”


Funeral services were often held up because the demand for hearses, hacks and funeral gear was too high – along with the “almost utter impossibility” of finding men to dig the graves.


Many cities banded together to prepare supplies. In Grand Forks, newspapers reported that an “open house” would be held at the Masonic Hall to make masks. The report read, “Both men and women are wanted. There is no theater to attend; it will not pay one to stay at home when the work of saving lives is essential and the only alternative will be to get out the surgical dressing apron and cap which have been lying idle for the past month and help in the good cause.”


The epidemic brought about a number of disruptions, like one at the Walsh County Record in Grafton, which published an issue in October with the following note of explanation and apology:


“The Record this week is issued under adverse circumstances and its general appearance and scarcity of news is due to a chain of circumstances over which the publisher has no control. To start with, the foreman of the shop has been ill with influenza and pneumonia the past ten days. Then the heating elements of our Intertype machine gave out…. The parts could not be secured in Chicago and have not been sent us from New York. These facts have crippled us and we therefore make this explanation. We are not in the habit of apologizing for the Record but the present issue is a long way from standard. We trust the coming week will put us somewhere nearer normal conditions so that future issues may be satisfactory to the publisher and the public.”


Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker




Oct. 14, 1918, Evening edition, Grand Forks Herald-p12

Jamestown Daily Alert, Thursday, Oct. 17, 1918

Walsh County Record, Oct. 23, 1918, p1


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Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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