The Quarantine of 1918

The COVID-19 pandemic is not the first instance the library had to close due to public health concerns. In late 1918, Spanish Influenza was quickly spreading across the country. The pandemic spread worldwide and was estimated to have killed at least 50 million people, 675,000 of them in the United States. It was a unique pandemic, as young and old alike were at risk. The city health board reported that not one case of Spanish influenza had been reported in Mansfield by Oct. 4, 1918, but they insisted measures still be taken to reduce risk.i The following day, 25 cases were reported to the health board, one being considered serious. Dr. G. T. Goodman, the city health official, didn’t think it was necessary at the time to take stringent action, but asked citizens to take caution.ii On October 8, 1918, a quarantine went into effect closing schools, churches, lodge houses, and the public library.iii The disease continued to grow and, on October 9, 1918, 30 more cases were reported and the first death was reported: Mrs. Millie Hays Sigler, the 42-year-old wife of Curtis C. Sigler.iv It was also reported that the Mansfield General Hospital could only care for four patients at a time in their isolation ward.v

library

Before the quarantine order, the library was already being used to help victims.  In September, the basement was being used as a hospital supplies room and office for the Red Cross.vi Soon more deaths happened in the city.  33-year-old Mansfield police patrolman, Henry Miller, died on October 12, as did 24-year-old Ralph Sites, who passed away during his mother’s funeral, who also succumbed to influenza.vii In the next two days, there would be 50 new cases with 8 deaths and a familiar warning was issued to citizens by Dr. Goodman: “stay at home and take care of yourself.”viii By October 18, 43 people had succumbed to the sickness.ix

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The Mansfield News, October 16, 1918

By November, the daily cases reported began to decrease but the health board still decided to increased the ban and ordered all businesses to close by 7 o’clock each night.x On November 6, Dr. Goodman reported for the first time in a month that no new cases of Spanish Influenza were reported and talks began about lifting the ban.xi On November 11, 1918, the library reopened and, on the following day, experienced one of its busiest days ever. The Mansfield News reported that there seemed to be a new appreciation for the library, shown by many of the remarks given by patrons.xii The library had been closed for over a month. Mansfield’s other businesses quickly returned to normal as well.  Six places, including the library, were reported to have been robbed on the night of November 14. Ora Baldwin, his brother Harry, and Clifford Bartrum reportedly first robbed the Buckeye Bakery, getting $1.50 and a flashlight.  They next went to Calvert Laundry where they got another flashlight. Armed with the two flashlights, they made their way to the public library where they were arrested.xiii

Sources:

i The Mansfield News, 04 OCT 1918 p2
ii The Mansfield News, 05 OCT 1918 p4
iii The Mansfield News, 08 OCT 1918 p2
iv The Mansfield News, 09 OCT 1918 p4
v The Mansfield News, 09 OCT 1918 p2
vi The Mansfield News, 21 SEP 1918 p8
vii The Mansfield News, 12 OCT 1918 p4
viii The Mansfield News, 14 OCT
1918 p4
ix The Mansfield News, 18 OCT 1918 p4
x The Mansfield News, 01 NOV 1918 p7
xi The Mansfield News, 06 NOV 1918 p7
xii The Mansfield News, 13 NOV 1918 p10
xiiiThe Mansfield News, 15 NOV 1918 p4

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