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Thanksgiving 1918 took place during a deadly pandemic. What can it teach us for Thanksgiving this year?

By Anthony R. Wood, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in News & Features


During the war, Barnes said, "the absolute imperative was to sustain morale," a mission in which newspapers participated enthusiastically, and that "no bad news allowed" spirit lingered after the war.

Nor was whining allowed, said Monica Monica Schoch-Spana, a senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

People had lived through rationing and had watched loved ones die in front of their eyes. "Every day already was hardship experience," she said, "people were reeling on an everyday basis."

In short, Americans were ready for a break and were thinking, "Now we can step back from the height of scarcities," she said.

The New York Sun wrote of families welcoming returning military personnel they didn't know into their homes for dinner.


Said The Inquirer: "Philadelphia yesterday celebrated Thanksgiving with more genuine thankfulness, perhaps, than in many years."

The flu, however did not go away. It experienced a resurgence in December, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in the first six months of 1919, "influenza" deaths were matching the annual totals for each of 1915, 1916, and 1917.

"It's pretty clear it wouldn't have lasted as long as it did or been as deadly if people had been keeping to themselves," said Barnes.



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