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Christmas in 1918: Our first holiday pandemic

Published: Dec. 27, 2020 at 7:05 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Eastern Iowans are celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Eve with masks and hand sanitizer during 2020. But, this isn’t the first time Iowa’s celebrated the holiday during a pandemic.

TV9 looked through newspapers published in Cedar Rapids around Christmas during 1918 and found similar stories you see from media outlets today. Although, none of those stories made the front page because World War I ended in November 1918 with Armistice Day.

The Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette reported on December 2, 1918, reported the Iowa City Board of Health decided to shut down activities in the city. The shutdown affected schools, opera houses, movie picture shows, poolhalls, dance halls, and other public places of amusement.

Newspaper from December 2, 1918.
Newspaper from December 2, 1918.(Cedar Rapids Library)

However, the paper reported “soft drink parlors” were not ordered closed. However, parlors had to provide individual sanitary cups for their customers.

The paper reported the health board authorized the establishment of a new emergency hospital for isolation purposes—largely to be’ devoted to people who could not be treated otherwise.

The paper reported on Christmas Day, that another health board asked dentists and barbers to wear masks.

Newspaper from Christmas Day, 1918
Newspaper from Christmas Day, 1918(Cedar Rapids Library)

In The Republican, which was another Cedar Rapids Newspaper printing at the time, some companies advertised their products as cures to Spanish influenza.

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