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Historical Photos of People Wearing the Masks During the 1918 Flu Pandemic

The Spanish Flu was one of the deadliest diseases that spread across the world in 1918. It infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide and killed an estimated 20 to 50 million people. The first wave of the deadliest pandemic occurred in the spring of 1918 and it was generally mild. The majority of the patients recovered after several days and the mortality rate was very low. However, the second wave in the fall of 1918 was highly contagious. Patients died within hours or days of developing symptoms, their skin turning blue and their lungs filling with fluid that caused them to suffocate.

Schools, Universities, theaters, and businesses were shut down and people ordered to wear a mask. Citizens in San Francisco were also fined and punished for not wearing the mask in public. The penalty for violators was $5 and in some cases 10 days’ imprisonment. At that time the masks were made of gauze and they were not effective. People were told to make face masks with four to six layers of fine mesh gauze. Most of the people wore masks in public, but they took it off in their workplaces and gatherings.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors and health specialists have instructed to wear masks, because they are one of the most effective ways to prevent the transmission of the virus. Today we have the most effective, cheap, and disposable masks. Here below are some historical photos that show how people wore a mask during the Spanish Flu pandemic.

#1 A couple wearing face masks in London, 1918.

A couple wearing face masks in London, 1918.

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#2 Two men wearing and advocating the use of flu masks in Paris during the Spanish flu epidemic which followed World War I.

Two men wearing and advocating the use of flu masks in Paris during the Spanish flu epidemic which followed World War I.

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#3 Volunteers wearing masks feed children of stricken families.

Volunteers wearing masks feed children of stricken families.

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#4 Japanese school girls wear protective masks to guard against the influenza outbreak.

Japanese school girls wear protective masks to guard against the influenza outbreak.

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#5 Student Army Training Corps wear influenza masks in Portland, Oregon, on October 27, 1918

Student Army Training Corps wear influenza masks in Portland, Oregon, on October 27, 1918

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#6 New York City ‘conductorettes’ wear masks, on October 16, 1918

New York City ‘conductorettes’ wear masks, on October 16, 1918

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#7 Nurses leaving Blackfriars Depot, Chippnedale NSW, Austalia, during flu epidemic, in April of 1919.

Nurses leaving Blackfriars Depot, Chippnedale NSW, Austalia, during flu epidemic, in April of 1919.

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#8 Nurses in Boston wearing masks to contain influenza in the spring of 1919.

Nurses in Boston wearing masks to contain influenza in the spring of 1919.

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#9 Telephone operator with protective gauze.

Telephone operator with protective gauze.

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#10 Unident baseball players, one batting & one catching, with umpire standing behind plate, wearing masks which they thought would keep them from getting flu during influenza epidemic of 1918.

Unident baseball players, one batting & one catching, with umpire standing behind plate, wearing masks which they thought would keep them from getting flu during influenza epidemic of 1918.

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#11 U.S. Army Hospital Number 30, Royat, France: Patients at moving picture show wearing masks because of an influenza epidemic.

U.S. Army Hospital Number 30, Royat, France: Patients at moving picture show wearing masks because of an influenza epidemic.

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#12 People wait in line to get flu masks on Montgomery Street in San Francisco in 1918.

People wait in line to get flu masks on Montgomery Street in San Francisco in 1918.

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#13 Combatting influenza in Seattle in 1918. At work in the Red Cross rooms in Seattle, Washington, with influenza masks on faces.

Combatting influenza in Seattle in 1918. At work in the Red Cross rooms in Seattle, Washington, with influenza masks on faces.

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#14 Policemen in Seattle, Washington, wearing masks made by the Seattle Chapter of the Red Cross, during the influenza epidemic.

Policemen in Seattle, Washington, wearing masks made by the Seattle Chapter of the Red Cross, during the influenza epidemic.

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#15 A sailor and a member of the Women’s Motor Corps wear masks while treating influenza patients injured by the explosions of a coal loading plant at Morgan, New Jersey, on October 5, 1918

A sailor and a member of the Women’s Motor Corps wear masks while treating influenza patients injured by the explosions of a coal loading plant at Morgan, New Jersey, on October 5, 1918

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#16 A Cincinnati barbers’ shop

A Cincinnati barbers’ shop

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#17 U.S. Naval Hospital. Corpsmen in cap and gown ready to attend patients in influenza ward. Mare Island, California.

U.S. Naval Hospital. Corpsmen in cap and gown ready to attend patients in influenza ward. Mare Island, California.

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#18 A nurse takes the pulse of a patient in the influenza ward of the Walter Reed hospital in Washington.

A nurse takes the pulse of a patient in the influenza ward of the Walter Reed hospital in Washington.

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#19 Open air barber shop during influenza epidemic. University of California, Berkeley, California, 1919.

Open air barber shop during influenza epidemic. University of California, Berkeley, California, 1919.

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#20 St. Louis Red Cross Motor Corps on duty Oct. 1918 Influenza epidemic.

St. Louis Red Cross Motor Corps on duty Oct. 1918 Influenza epidemic.

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Written by Benjamin Grayson

Former Bouquet seller now making a go with blogging and graphic designing. I love creating & composing history articles and lists.

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