Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1919 Killed 675,000 in United States


Washington, D.C., circa 1919. “Walter Reed Hospital flu ward.” One of the very few images in Washington-area photo archives documenting the influenza contagion of 1918-1919, which killed over 500,000 Americans and tens of millions around the globe. Harris & Ewing glass negative.

Christopher Helin 1920s 6.5x8.5 glassneg eb 092014

The flushing of streets and sewers by sprinkler trucks was a widespread if not terribly effective public-health measure during the “Spanish influenza” epidemic of the late teens. LOC

San Francisco circa 1919. “Nash Two-Ton Tanker Truck.” This begins a new series of photos, scanned by Shorpy from large-format negatives taken by or for Christopher Helin, travel and automotive editor of the San Francisco Examiner from about 1915 to 1930.



The mortality rate among adults in the prime of life was so high that many parents of young children died.

November 24, 1925. Washington, D.C. “City orphans at Ambassador Theatre.” LOC source for number of deaths

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: