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