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Read About the 1918 Flu Pandemic Through Utah Digital Newspapers

According to Tina Kirkham, Digital Library Project Manager,

“The value of this collection of historical newspapers is that it allows us to crawl into the psyches of the people who were living through these events. The newspapers’ editors and readers had no idea when or how the danger would end. Their fear and uncertainty is evident throughout every issue.”

The Marriott Library has been building the Utah Digital Newspapers (UDN) program for nearly twenty years. By digitizing newspapers, the library is able to open up new methods for conducting research by making the full text of all articles keyword searchable. With over 3.6 million pages currently available ranging from 1850 through 2019, there are countless research projects that could be undertaken. To help with research related to the 1918 pandemic, the library has created the 1918 Flu Pandemic Newspapers Collection with more than 1,000 articles.

Professor Logan Mitchell, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, was doing some research using UDN when he came across this historic content on the Spanish Flu. Through Mitchell’s research using UDN, the library hopes to be able to continue to curate and refine the articles related to the flu pandemic.

These images are both from the Richfield Reaper on December 21, 1918. One headline (left) requests volunteers to care for the eight orphans left by the death from flu of a widow, Mrs. Horne, a few days before Christmas. On the same page, another article (right) reports that the epidemic is “clearing up.” This shows how confusing the situation was. People were still dying, though at a slower rate. Yet they could not know that the epidemic was going to get worse, not better, in early 1919.

Utah Digital Newspapers is on its way to including every page of every newspaper, large or small, across Utah. It’s interesting to read the headlines in the big-city dailies, then contrast that with the concerns of a small town as represented in its weekly local paper. The smaller papers were so personal and specific. The reader really gets a glimpse into the life of the community—how they cared about and for one another.

Access the 1918 Flu Pandemic Newspapers Collection here.

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