1918 Influenza Pandemic in Norwich VT

Social distancing yet still supporting their neighbors helped get them through it.

I am posting this story on behalf of the Norwich Historical Society as part of the series that Laura Pidgeon from Hanover high school is doing on the history of Norwich. There are several links in the story that will help you go back in time.

"As From a Bolt From a Clear Sky"
Spanish Influenza in Norwich

by Lauren Pidgeon

It seems in the past week, I've talked about nothing except Coronavirus. It's taken over our world, making us cancel many social events and stock up on hand sanitizer. It made me wonder how Norwich got through the 1918 Influenza pandemic. The 1918 Hanover Gazette shows that, like today, Norwich and Hanover residents practiced social distancing, supported their neighbors, experienced propaganda in the news, and looked to state governments for guidance. It was also the middle of World War l which complicated responses. 

Timeline of Influenza related to the Upper Valley

Information drawn from- "Cold Comfort" by Laura Stephenson Carter

 The first case of flu in America is reported in Kansas.
September- Vermont health officials declares the flu to be a "contagious and infectious disease" and advise those who are ill to stay home and those who have been in contact with the ill to self quarantine for 4 days. 
September 18th- The first case of the flu comes to Mary Hitchcock Hospital.
October 4th- VT Governor bans public gatherings such as school, church, and other public entertainment. Norwich schools close.
October 1st-13th- Dartmouth cancels all classes and extracurriculars. 
November 11- World War l ends

Newspaper clippings from the Hanover Gazette reveal the story in Norwich

Like today, many Norwich citizens practiced public distancing and canceled many public events.

Hanover Gazette Norwich, Oct. 10, 1918

Clip noting school closures, Hanover Gazette Norwich, Oct. 2, 1918

These girls were home from college, probably Normal School, where they were learning to teach.

Hanover Gazette Norwich, Oct. 10, 1918

In the article below from the Hanover Gazette, Oct. 3 1918, it's evident that during this time of crisis, neighbors came together and helped each other out.

Through the whole pandemic health officer, Dr. L.B.Jones, known as the horse and buggy doctor, helped by making house calls to treat patients. He also ordered quarantines and signed death certificates.

The war played a big role in the story of the pandemic. In Vermont, and around the U.S, many of the doctors and nurses had joined the army and were helping the troops overseas. Medical students and retired nurses had to step up and help. The war also made nationalist politics and blame a part of the pandemic, as shown below in a Hanover Gazette article from Oct. 3, 1918. 

The newspapers are filled with ads for cures, like the one below.

As this clip shows, by November, Influenza was back.

Hanover Gazette Norwich,
Nov. 21, 1918

In Vermont, there were 43,735 reported cases of influenza between September 1918-February 1919. Of the people who contracted it, 1,772 people died meaning that 4% of Vermont residents who got the flu, died. 

Fletcher, VT case study

Interested in learning more about the Spanish Influenza in Vermont?

Recalling the Flu Pandemic of 1918
The Flu Epidemic, 1918
Cold Comfort
Fletcher, VT case study

About the Project

Lauren Pidgeon is a Hanover High student from Norwich who is interested in our community’s history.

She spent her March Intensive exploring public history here at the Norwich Historical Society.

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