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Penn History

By Mira Shetty, University Archives Summer Research Fellow, 2018, with J.J. Ahern

Despite the unprecedented severity of the influenza epidemic, it waned quickly. By October 27, 1918, quarantines were lifted as both city and university life began to return to normal. Other nearby schools did not fare so well as Penn. The Daily Pennsylvanian reported that Swarthmore College was “placed under strict quarantine,” many members of Naval Academy fell ill, and Delaware College was closed.

Overall, the efforts of the University to police the student body and adhere to city and state quarantines greatly reduced the spread of the epidemic across campus. Additionally, the efforts of Penn students who volunteered to help in hospitals and neighborhoods were significant in helping Philadelphia cope with the outbreak. Unfortunately, the influenza epidemic during the fall of 1918 is overshadowed by the events in Europe. Hospitals made note of their efforts in their annual reports, and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania dedicated a plaque to the nurses who died during the epidemic. But by November attention had returned to the war in Europe, and anticipation for the troops to come home.