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The American Experience

Among the Victims


The onset of illness for those battling the flu of 1918 was quite sudden. In a matter of mere hours, a person could go from strapping good health to being so enfeebled they could not walk. Victims complained of general weakness and severe aches in their muscles, backs, joints, and heads. Often enduring fevers that could reach 105 degrees, the sick fell prey to wild bouts of delirium. Innocent objects--pieces of furniture, wallpaper, lamps--would adopt wicked manifestations in the minds of those consumed by fever. When the fevers finally broke, many victims fortunate enough to have survived now endured crushing post-influenzal depression.

This flu was a great leveler of men; it recognized neither social order nor economic status. It struck with impunity among the rich and famous, as well as the lowly and the meek. Among its more well-known victims: Silent screen star Harold Lockwood, swimmer Harry Elionsky, "Admiral Dot," one of PT Barnum's first midgets, Irmy Cody Garlow, the daughter of Buffalo Bill Cody, General John Pershing*, Franklin Roosevelt*, actress Mary Pickford*, and President Woodrow Wilson*.

*survived the flu


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