Eudora residents reacted to the current COVID-19 Pandemic and the Influenza (Spanish Flu) Pandemic of 1918 in very similar ways in most instances. But in other instances, the community reacted much differently when comparing the two outbreaks! The first two photos are of downtown Eudora circa 1918-1920.
We have been able to compare and contrast the two outbreaks because we have in our collections all of the Eudora Newspapers that were published in the Fall of 1918, during the worst outbreak of the Spanish Flu Pandemic. The Eudora Community Museum has in its collections the vast majority of all Eudora newspapers that were published between 1886-2009 (the years Eudora had published Newspapers, minus a few years here and there).
The first obvious similarity between the 1918 and 2020 pandemics were that both pandemics were downplayed before they attacked the population. In February and March of 2020, many US federal officials, politicians and leaders downplayed the pandemic; some even claimed the COVID-19 would soon disappear entirely. Similarly, there’s a Eudora newspaper article from early October 1918 that claimed "No Epidemic Feared." The article said that "only 4 people were sick." Well, that was wishful thinking in 1918! Way more than 4 people in Eudora became sick with influenza. At least ten Eudora residents died from Influenza in the Fall of 1918 based on the obituaries found in the Eudora newspapers. It’s quite likely that many dozens were sick with the disease in 1918. Most of the Eudora victims of Spanish Flu were US soldiers stationed elsewhere at Camps, mostly Camp Funston. But there were a lot of other deaths reported in general in the fall of 1918, perhaps exacerbated by the Influenza outbreak.
We could not find any listings of any businesses in Eudora that closed because of Influenza in 1918. It’s of course entirely possible that some businesses did close, while others remained open. But we have no evidence one way or the other. The Eudora Schools did close briefly in 1918 because of Influenza, but, they did not remain closed for nearly as long as they have been closed in 2020. Church services were also suspended from some Eudora congregations in 1918, just as many church services were suspended in 2020. Kansas Governor Arthur Capper suspended Church services temporarily in 1918.
Social-distancing was certainly not a thing in 1918! It seems like parties, fairs, and travel went on like usual in the Fall of 1918. The evidence suggests people are more cautious today. One major difference between 1918 and 2020, is that in 2020, the City of Eudora government has been very active and effective in its response to the outbreak. There is no mention of how the City of Eudora government responded to the 1918 pandemic in the 1918 Eudora newspapers. Of course, Eudora was much smaller in 1918, it only had a population of around 600 people, so the City government was also much smaller.
We understand that COVID-19 is heavily politicized, but please understand that any/all political comments on this post will be deleted. The EAHS is a non-political non-profit organization; our posts are not the place for political debates! Thank you!
City of Eudora, Eudora Community Library, Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area, Inc., Watkins Museum of History