I’m sure you are a bit weary of seeing the word “pandemic” just now, but comparisons to the Spanish flu pandemic ought to provide a teaching moment.

A few weeks ago Jim posted an item about the pandemic, and used the quote often attributed to Mark Twain: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” I recently read Nancy Bristow’s American Pandemic about the Spanish flu, and the comment often ran through my head.

The May 11th issue of TIME Magazine ran just a sample from the book. The sample is reprinted here in its entirety:

“While some people are protesting public-health restrictions, easing them too early can cost lives, writes Nancy K. Bristow, author of American Pandemic: The Lost Worlds of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic: ‘While protesters in 1918 fought against the hated mask, their act of gathering, which was at the time entirely legal, was helping to spread the disease.”

Bristow’s book came out in 2012, but is quite relevant to today’s events. By chance, she spoke at last November’s symposium at the National World War I Museum and Memorial. The talk was recorded by C-SPAN, and can now be seen on their website. Use this link:


Blair Tarr is the Museum Curator of the Kansas State Historical Society. He oversees the three-dimensional collections of the Society, but has special interests in the Civil War, Wichita-made Valentine diners, and Leavenworth's Abernathy Furniture. In the last few years he has also done a lot of cramming on The Great War. He is a past president of the Kansas Museums Association and the Civil War Round Tables of both Kansas City and Eastern Kansas. He is currently a board member of the Heritage League of Greater Kansas City.