The 1918 Influenza Pandemic (Photos)

This post was written in collaboration with Kevin Quinn, Sarah Lepianka, and Katherine Stinson – Archives Technicians in the Still Photos Branch.  

The 1918 Influenza Pandemic, also known as the Spanish Flu, was one of the deadliest events in human history.  While fighting between the Allied Powers and the Central Powers raged on in Europe, the disease knew no borders.  Conservative estimates place the worldwide death toll at 30 million people, with reported cases in large cities and remote regions of the world alike.*

Traffic cop in New York City wearing the gauze masks. Local Identifier: 165-WW-269B-7A


Photographs held at the National Archives illustrate the pervasiveness of the disease and the unsuccessful attempts to inhibit its spread.  All images in this blog come from the American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs, which have been digitized in full as part of the Wartime Films Project.

More photos from the Spanish Flu can be viewed on the National Archives Catalog, as well as additional documents on the “Deadly Virus” online exhibit.




*Due to lack of records, estimates of the number of deaths attributed to the flu range anywhere from 30 to 100 million people.

3 thoughts on “The 1918 Influenza Pandemic (Photos)

  1. Fascinating and terrifying. My grandmother died in this outbreak in 1920. She had endured a terrible refugee journey during WW1. On her return to her home town, London, she barely had time to reunite with her family. The virus killed her leaving her 3 young children in the care of her parents.

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