Pullman in the First World War

The Fourth Horseman

Between January, 1918, and December, 1920, a virulent strain of the H1N1 influenza virus spread in a worldwide pandemic. The death toll of this outbreak is estimated to be between 20-50 million people; some sources claim that the disease and subsequent physiological reactions caused as many as 100 million casualties. By contrast, World War I resulted in 30 million casualties.

The disease was thought to have originated in the Allied troop staging area in √Čtaples, France. It probably was first harbored in birds; since the troop staging area had a vast livestock area for feeding the troops, the disease leapt from chickens to pigs, and from there, to humans.

The site of the very first confirmed outbreak was at Fort Riley, Kansas at a military training facility preparing American troops for involvement in World War I. The first victim diagnosed with the new strain of flu on Monday, March 11, 1918, was mess cook Private Albert Gitchell. The disease became known as the “Spanish Flu” epidemic because Spanish newspapers, free from wartime censorship, first reported on the outbreak.

With tightly packed row houses in the neighborhood and full production shifts in the Pullman Factory, Pullmanites suffered greatly from the effects of the Spanish Flu. (More information)


Column listing Pullman employees' activities in the Pullman Car Works Standard.
This was a regular feature of the magazine; during the epidemic, it contained numerous examples of influenza illnesses and deaths.



Red Cross car the Walter Reed.
Official Pullman Company photograph of the Walter Reed, a Pullman laboratory car. These cars, made for the front, were put to use in the United States combating the Influenza epidemic.


Interior of a Pullman laboratory car like the Walter Reed.
These cars, initially made for the front, were put to use in the United States combating the Influenza epidemic.


The Influenza Blues
Sheet music from the Broadway musical A Lonely Romeo

The tune, dealing with one man's sadness that no one is around to go out for an evening of fun because they are all sick and dying, can be heard here:

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