The ‘pest house,’ Grim Reaper and how the ‘Spanish Lady’ brought the Gem City to its knees

A sign posted in the Dayton-Wright Airplane Company in 1918 reads "If you don't want to close up the shop with an epidemic of Spanish Influenza quit spitting on the floor." DAYTON WRIGHT AIRPLANE COMPANY PHOTOGRAPHS / WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
A sign posted in the Dayton-Wright Airplane Company in 1918 reads "If you don't want to close up the shop with an epidemic of Spanish Influenza quit spitting on the floor." DAYTON WRIGHT AIRPLANE COMPANY PHOTOGRAPHS / WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY SPECIAL COLLECTIONS

You may not recognize the name, but a ‘Spanish Lady” killed more than 50 million people in 1918 and 1919.

An estimated 500 to 675 of those people lived in or near the Gem City.

Dayton Daily News and Dayton.com staff photographer and reporter Lisa Powell, with the help of colleague Laura Bishoff and local historians, uncovered a little known story of how the Spanish flu shut down Dayton.

>> Coronavirus: Social distancing a lesson learned from Spanish flu pandemic

In this special episode, Lisa and "What Had Happened Was" host Amelia Robinson dish about the Grim Reaper, pestilent houses, the Vicks Vapor Rub shortage, the media blackout and why one solider probably had his fill of cold, soft boiled eggs.

 

Spanish flu has been compared to the coronavirus pandemic.

Children ready for school in Starke during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. State Archives of Florida
Children ready for school in Starke during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. State Archives of Florida

Stories of Hope

We all need inspiration in these difficult times. And as always, this community delivers. We are sharing these stories of hope in action, every day in the Dayton Daily News.

>> Archdeacon: When sports is no longer a diversion

Lisa Powell.  TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Lisa Powell. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Credit: Dayton Daily News Archive

Credit: Dayton Daily News Archive

ABOUT THE PODCAST

An illustration that ran in The Palm Beach Post during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.
An illustration that ran in The Palm Beach Post during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.

"What Had Happened Was" is a podcast for Dayton, powered by Dayton.com and recorded in the DATV studios. You won't believe the stories that come from right here. Host Amelia Robinson shares the best tales from the Gem City, Land of Funk and Birthplace of Aviation: Dayton, Ohio.

>> “What Had Happened Was...” podcast finalist for prestigious Marconi award

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