I snapped this photo on campus last week, while classes were on an extended Spring Break
On a spring day in previous years this grassy field would have been full of students playing soccer, Frisbee, lounging in hammocks between trees and poles, or just sitting with friends. But in 2020 it was empty.
It immediately brought to mind this “photo” from the Student Life newspaper in 1918
Classes were suspended at Washington University for 6 weeks in the fall of 1918, following the orders of St. Louis Public Health officials to end the spread of influenza . Student Life, already operating on a shorter staff and smaller budget publishing a few pages once a week due to the war rationing, did their best to carry on. When classes resumed in winter 1918 (then on a trimester schedule) class meeting times were extended each day to fit in the missed content.
While other cities did not close public gatherings, St. Louis city and county did — and the result was a much “flatter curve.” In fact, you may recognize the now familiar “flattening the curve” graphic as shown in this analysis of the 1918 influenza pandemic comparing St. Louis deaths to those in Philadelphia.
Yes, posting something everyday* (ok, nearly everyday) is overly ambitious but that’s my aim now that virtual is our main way to communicate. Follow all the posts in this series at https://library.wustl.edu/tag/st-louis-history/
If you have a St. Louis history question about this post, or other topics, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @mrectenwald
Stay safe and healthy everyone