• A letter discussing the flu epidemic, November 1918. Courtesy of the University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library via the Mountain West Digital Library.

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    Letter dated 30 November 1918
    • Date
    • 1918-11-30
    • Creator
    • Linford, James Henry, 1836-.
    • Description
    • Letter dated 30 November 1918 from James H. Linford Sr. at Kaysville, Utah, to his son James Jr. at Logan, Utah, discussing the flu epidemic
    • Rights
    • This material may be protected by copyright. Permission required for use in any form. For further information please contact the Manuscripts Division, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.
    • Partner
    • Mountain West Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • University of Utah - J. Willard Marriott Library

  • A chart detailing the “Excess Mortality in U.S. Cities During Influenza Epidemic, 1918-19.” Courtesy of the National Museum of Health Otis Historical Archives via the Center for Disease Control.

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    Excess Mortality in U.S. Cities During Influenza Epidemic, 1918-19
    • Creator
    • National Museum of Health Otis Historical Archives
    • Is Part Of
    • Center for Disease Control

  • Convalescents playing cards during the influenza epidemic, October 1918. Courtesy of the University of Kentucky via the Kentucky Digital Library.

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    Convalescents playing cards in Gymnasium Hospital / Buell Armory during influenza epidemic, October 17, 1918

  • An article, “Death Claims Two Members of S.A.T.C.,” reports the death of two members due to “Spanish Influenza” in 1918. Courtesy of the University of Kentucky via the Kentucky Digital Library.

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    Death Claims Two Victims
    • Date
    • 1918
    • Creator
    • The Kentucky Kernel
    • Rights
    • This digital resource may be freely searched and displayed. Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. Physical rights are retained by the owning repository. Copyright is retained in accordance with U. S. copy... more
      This digital resource may be freely searched and displayed. Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. Physical rights are retained by the owning repository. Copyright is retained in accordance with U. S. copyright laws. Please go to http://kdl.kyvl.org for more information. less
    • Partner
    • Kentucky Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • University of Kentucky

The 1918-1919 influenza pandemic was unique because it came in three waves, whereas previous outbreaks were characterized by a single wave with limited geographic dispersion. This pandemic spread quickly and globally, claiming an estimated 50 million lives, among them some 500,000 Americans. In the US, the first wave appeared in the spring of 1918, the second in the fall of 1918, and the third in the early winter of 1919. Of the three waves, the second was most fatal, which led to a theory that survivors of the second wave had developed protective immunity.

Like the mystery surrounding its biological origins, there are many theories about where the influenza started and how it spread. The dominant theory at the time claimed it began in Spain in April 1918, as evidenced by the large number of afflicted people documented there early on. This led to the misnomer "Spanish Flu." Another theory hypothesized that the flu originated at Fort Riley, Kansas, and spread via soldiers wherever they were deployed. Yet another theory suggested that soldiers brought it home from China where it quickly spread to US civilians. Despite numerous speculations, scientists have yet to determine the precise geographic origin of the disease.