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The Suburbanite
  • The Monday After: Canton battled flu epidemic in 1918

  • A McKinley museum program about the 1918 flu epidemic will be filmed by C-span.

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  • “TO PREVENT SPANISH INFLUENZA START USING ‘NOSTRIOLA’ NOW.”
    Such was the urging of an advertisement published in The Repository early in October 1918, as the flu epidemic of 1918 and 1919 arrived in Canton.
    “ ‘Nostriola’ Is Antiseptic, Cleansing, Opens Air Passages, and Prevents Disease of Nose, Throat and Bronchial Tubes,” the patent medicine ad continued, suggesting the product — in balm, liquid or atomizer — would fight the germs of influenza.
    “Don’t take chances, but get ‘NOSTRIOLA,’ ” said the ad, “and let every member of the family start using it night and morning.”
    Either the claims were overstated, or not enough people in the city used the medicine, because the epidemic thrived in Canton during the months that followed.
    IN THE BEGINNING
    Although nearly daily front-page death notices were being published in The Repository about Canton-area servicemen who died at military camps, the first civilian flu death in the city did not occur until Oct. 8, 1918.
    “While Canton Health Board was meeting Tuesday night to discuss the epidemic of Spanish influenza, which is sweeping the country, Henry I. Zeiger, 819 Auburn Place NW, died after a short illness with pneumonia growing out of influenza, the first death here due to this disease.”
    The newspaper reported that when the city health department had met the day before, it had discussed means of fighting the spread of the flu — including closing up public places in the city. But, no action was       taken, other than deciding to “use every known preventative of the disease.”
    McKINLEY MUSEUM PROGRAM
    Kimberly Kenny, curator of the Wm. McKinley Presidential Library & Museum, will discuss some of the ways Stark County fought influenza when she lectures at 6 p.m. Oct. 6 at the museum during a “Soup at Six” program on the 1918 flu epidemic.
    The program, which will be taped by the C-SPAN network for airing on one of its channels at a later date, will include information such as that which is included in the museum’s “Stark County Story” exhibit.
    “The epidemic reached Stark County in September 1918,” text in that display notes. “In October, the Health Department ordered theaters, schools, public halls, lodges, clubs and places of amusement to close. People were asked to wear protective masks outdoors. Members of the Home Guard patrolled streetcars to prevent overcrowding. Martial law and quarantines were imposed.”
    LEARNING ABOUT FLU
    Early in the disease’s stay in Stark County, however, such drastic measures were thought not necessary. It was hoped that a thorough understanding of the disease, along with thoughtful vigilance on the part of area residents, could keep the disease from getting out of control.
    “It is especially important to beware of the person who coughs or sneezes without covering his mouth and nose,” said a surgeon general’s report published in The Repository. “It also follows that one should keep out of crowds and stuffy places as much as possible and keep homes, offices and workshops well aired; spend some time out of doors each day; walk to work if at all possible; in short, make every possible effort to breathe as much pure air as possible.”
    Page 2 of 2 - A Canton retail establishment turned that advice into almost a promise.
    “To Check The Epidemic Shop Where Safety is Assured,” said a Zollinger advertisement in The Repository which called the store “100 Per Cent Sanitary.”
    “1,000 Feet Of Window Ventilation On Our Five Floors,” the ad continued. “You Can Shop Here With The Utmost Confidence Of Health Protection.”
    An ad for Vick’s VapoRub offered a list of preventative measures that could be taken — up to and including “ALWAYS CALL A DOCTOR.”
    Other measures included going to bed and staying quiet, taking a laxative, eating nourishing food, keeping up your strength and resorting to something the ad called the “cure,” which, of course, was Vick’s.
    Only days before saloons and poolrooms were closed in Stark County, before area athletic events were canceled, before theater events were shut down to prevent the spread of the disease, local officials were confident that the flu epidemic was not as serious in Canton as it was elsewhere in the state and country.
    “The number of cases the city has now is hardly above the normal number of grip cases in other years,” said Dr. Charles A. Lamont, city health officer, in mid-October 1918. “And so far as I now there is not a single case of malignant grip, or the Spanish influenza, which is causing deaths elsewhere.”
    Lamont’s assessment of the situation quickly would change in the days that followed his statement.
    Before the end of the month, Lamont was reporting that at least 500 people in the city were sick with the flu and the end was not in sight.
    Alliance, Massillon and finally Canton essentially were shuttered.
    “Canton will experience a Sunday today unique in its character as churches, motion picture houses, clubs and other places likely to attract crowds will be closed,” reported The Repository on Oct. 13, 1918, “and a ban on Sunday motoring is still in force.”
    LEARN MORE ABOUT IT
    At 6 p.m. Oct. 6, Wm. McKinley Presidential Library & Museum’s Soup at Six program will feature Curator Kimberly Kenney, who will present her new program, “Influenza:  Understanding the Worst Pandemic in Human History.”  
    The program will explore how the flu pandemic spread, what might have caused it, and why it struck young people at higher rates than other diseases. Learn how Canton and Stark County coped with the disease, how modern science uncovered some of its secrets more than 80 years later, and if it will happen again in our lifetime.  
    This program is $15 and includes a signature soup, fresh baked bread, beverage and dessert. Reservations are required. Call 330-455-7043 for reservations.