Sunday, December 04, 2005

Le Peste

I am reading this fantastic book now called The Great Influenza by John M. Barry; it covers the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 that killed somewhere between 50 and 100 million people worldwide, all in about a year. It's an amazing story and one that people are generally not familiar with. There are some great photos in the edition as well, one of which I have placed to the left. Spitting was actually made illegal in many places and ordinances were also issued to try to force people to cover their mouths as they sneezed. Whole cities were brought to a standstill as all public meetings (churches, bars, parades, etc) were banned and huge portions of the population fell ill.

One of the factors that really got the disease rolling in the US was the mobilization of troops (quickly forcing people from all over the the country into crowded quarters) and the wartime propaganda machine. Once President Wilson decided it was time to fight, there was no negative press coverage tolerated. This included any information that would make the US look weak and harm the war effort, like news of a paralyzing and demoralizing epeidemic...

Music was a big part of the propaganda effort, and as luck would have it, my friend Dave forwarded me some amazing mp3s of period songs from the WWI era today! These come from an impressive looking (I have not explored yet) site called

Harry Fay - How 'Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down On The Farm (After They've Seen Paree)
Arthur Fields - Hunting The Hun


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