Friday, December 26, 2014

Winter Holidays in Eastern Europe: Verteps and Szopka

Portable Vertep stage with puppets.

Christmas was the beginning of a festive time in Eastern Europe.  In Ukraine, festivities began on Christmas day, celebrated on January 7, according to the Julian calendar and concluded  on January 19, with the celebration of the Epiphany.
Vertep puppets, 17th century.

Ukrainian Vertep

One of the most interesting  Ukrainian Christmas customs was caroling and vertep.  Vertep is a portable puppet theater, which was carried by carolers from village to village. This custom began in the 16th century, and reached the height of its popularity in the 1750’s.  Students at the Mohyla Academy in Kiev, contributed many ideas to the theater, including the two part performance.

Vertep, 1945, Ivano-Frankivsk Region

The theater itself was small and portable.  It was a two-story structure, with two stages, one on top of the other. The stages had horizontal and vertical grooves cut into the floors, which enabled the puppeteer to move the puppets around. The puppets were wooden, with a wire attached to one leg, which enabled the puppeteer,who was standing behind the stage, to control the puppet’s movements.  The plays were accompanied by music, a choir, cymbals. flute, drum, violin and bandura, a  large Ukrainian stringed instrument, similar to a lute. 

Each play had two acts.   The first act, performed on the upper stage, was religious.  The nativity story was presented and sometimes a story about Rachel and King Herod was performed.  The second act took place on the lower stage.  Short, humorous scenes were performed to entertain the spectators.  There were stock characters, representing people in village life.  Every play included “Kozak Zaporzhets,” a character who represented a hero popular in Ukrainian folk tales.  The Kozak character was always larger than the other puppets, he smoked a pipe and played the bandura.  The stories were about daily life with characters representing greed, cowardice, and cheating.  The Kozak always prevailed, outwitting all, including the devil. 

Kozak Zaporzhets, a character in Vertep plays

Vertep plays declined in the middle of the 1800’s, which is probably why my grandmother and great-aunts never mentioned them. Vertep lives on in miniature nativity scenes displayed in people’s homes, and carolers dressed up as characters from the vertep plays.  Vertep plays continue today in Ukraine and the United States with live actors instead of puppets playing the characters.

Carolers dressed as characters from Vertep plays

Polish Szopka   

A custom similar to Vertep developed in Poland.  It began in the 13th century with a creche, displayed in a church in Krakow.  Living nativities followed and when dialogue was added they became jaselka plays.  By the eighteenth century the still figurines in nativities  were replaced by puppets, first stick puppets, then marionettes. Puppet shows were banned from the church, and moved into the towns and villages. They became associated with caroling and lost some of their religious connections. The plays were a reflection of daily life in Poland, making fun of everyday situations.
Szopka with two stages.
The  theaters, called szopkas, were carried from town to town by carolers. They performed religious and secular plays often with real Polish characters such as Tadeuz Kosciuszko, or mythical ones like Pan Twardowski and the Dragon of Wawel. 

Krakow is the center of szopka making and many are made for the tourist market. People built elaborate szopkas with two towers, resembling St Mary’s Church in Krakow and a central dome modeled after the Zygmunt Chapel of Wawel Castle.  The practice of building szopkas declined during World War I, but was revived in the 1920’s. Today, the city of Krakow  sponsors a Szopka contest every year. 
Contemporary Szopka puppets in front of traditional characters.

Brama, "Ukrainian Christmas Puppet Theater, VERTEP".
Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine, "Vertep, New Year,  Epithany". www.encyclopedia of
Polish American Journal, "Szopka, A Fairy Tale Stable."
Rukutvory-Ukrainian Folk Art on Line,

Friday, December 19, 2014

Genealogical Mysteries: The Final Word on Joseph Koshuba

The mysterious Joseph Koshuba was the subject of my first blog post in March of 2013.  Since then I solved the puzzle of the identity of Joseph, several times, and most of my solutions were way off.

Joseph Koshuba was my great uncle, and brother of my grandfather, John Koshuba.  Joseph died suddenly in 1919, leaving his wife Florence and three children.  I have a lot of family pictures, and my main source, my mother, identified many (unknown to me) family members.  In the wedding picture below, my mother identified the man in the first row, on the  far left as Joseph Koshuba. 
Wedding of John Koshuba and Pauline Rychly , November 1916.

The picture above is  of my grandmother Pauline Rychly Koshuba's wedding to John Koshuba in November, 1916.  Florence Koshuba is in the first row on the far right. My mother also identified her. I assumed that the man standing behind her, with his arm on her shoulder was Joseph Koshuba. At the time I assumed that because his hand was on Florence's shoulder. Since my mother was born in 1918, two weeks before Joseph died, I assumed that she was just guessing that the man on the left was Joseph. Now I know that she was right.  How could I prove it?

Top row from the left: Florence and unknown man,. Front row: Fred Koshuba, Joseph Koshuba and Katherine Florence. Source: Susan Strickler.

This picture was also taken at my grandmother's wedding.  It is of Florence, her two children and  the man I assumed  to be her husband Joseph standing next to her. The seated man with the little girl on his lap appears to be the man on the left in the picture above.  Why is he in this picture?  I revised my theory.  Maybe he was John Koshuba's brother-in-law, Peter Wons or perhaps he was Dymtro Popko, since his wife, Pelagia Rychly Popko was standing behind him in the large wedding picture. This picture was sent to me by Joseph Koshuba's grand-daughters, and they said that the baby girl was their aunt, Katherine Florence. So why was she sitting on Peter Wons' lap?  Well, since I assumed he was her uncle, it would make sense.

Wedding of Florence Holmberg to Joseph Koshuba, Feburary 1913.  Source: Ed Wons.

This picture is from the wedding of Florence Holmberg Koshuba's to Joseph Koshuba in February, 1913.  It was sent to me by Ed Wons,the grandson of Peter Wons and a Koshuba family cousin. This picture proved my theory about the identity of the man in the pictures from my grandmother's wedding wrong. Ed said that in this picture Peter Wons is in the second row, on the left right behind his wife, and John and Joseph's sister, Teckla Koshuba Wons.The two little boys in the picture are their sons. Now I know that Peter Wons is definitely not the man behind Florence in the group picture of my grandmother's wedding.

 Florence was identified as the bride by her grand-daughters. The groom is Joseph Koshuba, since I have the record showing that he married Florence Holmberg in February, 1913. The man on the left with with little girl on his lap in the 1916 wedding picture is Joseph. The man standing next to Florence in the Koshuba family picture taken at my grandmother's wedding in 1916 is not Joseph, neither is the man standing behind Florence in the large group picture from her wedding.

Joseph  and John Koshuba with an unknown man in the middle, wearing sashes and hats of the Zapororzhie Sich Society. 1912. Source: Pauline Noznick.

The next mystery:  who was the man with the moustache?  In this  picture from 1912,  Joseph Koshuba is on the left and John Koshuba is on the right.  The man with the mustache is in the middle. He may either be a relative or a close family friend.  Look again at the Holmberg-Koshuba wedding--is the man with the moustache in the second row on with right--without the mustache? If it is him, he had regrown the mustache by 1916.

What conclusions have I drawn from this mystery? Don't be a lazy or sloppy genealogist . DO NOT ASSUME ANYTHING.  Wait until proof is found.   Remember, patience is the genealogist's friend. I have fallen into these traps myself--first, I assumed that my mother misidentified Joseph Koshuba.  Then I assumed that another man was Joseph, mainly because he had his hand on Florence Koshuba's shoulder. In order to make my story work, I assumed that the man who turned out to be Joseph was either Dymtro Popko or Peter Wons.  All wrong.  I found documentation of Joseph and Florence's marriage when Joseph's grand-daughters identified Florence as the bride in the 1913 wedding picture.  I also had a copy of the marriage license, documenting the marriage. That solved the mystery of Joseph Koshuba--and the identity of the man in my grandmother's wedding picture.


Big Breakthrough in the Koshuba Family
Finding Fred Koshuba
Joseph Koshuba One Year Later 
Assumptions: The Fred Koshuba Story
The Koshuba Brothers
The Genealogy of the Holmberg-Koshuba Family
The Genealogy of the Kleviak Koshuba Family

Friday, December 12, 2014

Winter Holidays in Eastern Europe: Hanukkah.

An Eastern European silver Hunukkiah.

While Christians in Eastern Europe were celebrating St Nicholas Day and Christmas, Jews celebrated Hanukkah, known as the “Festival of Lights.”  Hanukkah, a festival lasting eight days usually occurred in December.  The holiday is based on a historical event, the liberation of Israel from the Syrian Greeks in 164 BCE (I am using the abbreviation for Before the Common Era, an alternative to the older BC or Before Christ).

The composer Handel wrote an oratorio about Judas Maccabee.  It is often performed  during the Hanukkah season.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the ruler of the Syrian Greeks, began to harden his rule of Israel,  defiling the Temple in Jerusalem and banning the Jewish religion and requiring the Jews to follow Greek cultural practices.  The Maccabees, a group of Jews led by Judah Maccabees and four of his brothers, sons of the priest Matthias, fought for over three years to liberate and rededicate the Temple in Jerusalem.  Because the victory happened during the holiday of Sukkot, which happened in early fall, the Maccabees decided to celebrate Sukkot after the Temple was rededicated, on the 25th day of the month of Kislev, in the year 164 B.C.E.  Since Sukkot is a seven day observance, Hanukkah used the same time frame.

Painting by Auguste Dore, "The Victor, Judas Maccabeus"

The story of Hanukkah was told by Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian, writing 250 years later, calling it the Festival of Lights. In the Mishnah, the oldest part of the Talmud, written a century after Josephus, the Festival of Lights became known as Hanukkah, (dedication in Hebrew) In the Talmud, completed 600 years after the victory of the Maccabees, the story of Hanukkah centered on the miracle of the jar of oil.  Although the victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks was unexpected, the fact that a jar of oil, containing enough oil for one day, lasted for eight was considered miraculous.   By this time, fasting and mourning were not allowed during the Hanukkah festival.

A special candelabra, called a Hanukkiah was used for the holiday.  It had places for either eight candles or oil pots, and one spot for the Chumash, a candle used to light the others.  At first, the Hanukkiah was simple, but with time, they became more elaborate or fanciful. 

Chocolate coins made in Israel by Elite.

Hanukkah was a happy holiday, no work was allowed while the candles burned, so that time was filled with games. Children played dreidel, a small spinning toy, and adults played games of chance. Children were given coins as gifts on the fifth day of the holiday, a part of this small gift was expected to go to charity. 
Old dreidel.

Gelt remains today as foil covered chocolate coins.  My father-in-law always gave everyone in the family a dollar bill, announcing that it was Hanukkah gelt. Fried foods, usually prepared using rendered goose fat were eaten all over
Sufganiyot, jelly doughnuts.
Eastern Europe during Hanukkah. In Poland, jelly doughnuts were the preferred treat, in Lithuania, fried potato pancakes called latkes were favored. Cracklings, fried crisp goose skin, called gribenes in Yiddish, were a special treat.

Potato latkes

With the development of Zionism, Hanukkah took on a new meaning.  The idea of fighting for freedom and for national identity became associated with Hanukkah.  As Jews left Eastern Europe for Palestine in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, often they had to defend themselves.  The story of Hanukkah and the Maccabees was the story of freedom and liberty.  The founding of Israel continued these ideas.  The Jews defeated the Greeks in 164 BCE, because they were deprived of their religion and identity. The Holocaust raised the same issues of oppression, religious freedom and cultural identity that Hanukkah did two thousand years ago.

Celebrating Hanukkah in the Lodz Ghetto, World War Two.  Source: Yadvashem
I have not been blogging for the past few weeks, since my brother was very ill and passed away on November 16, 2014.  he suffered from leukemia and developed acute myeletic leukemia.He was a great brother, and had many friends. I miss him.

Pete and me, January 2012.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Winter Holidays in Eastern Europe: St Nicholas Day in Ukraine and Poland

St Nicholas Day, painting on glass by Yaroslava Surmach Mills, 1975.  In the painting, a Ukrainian St Nicholas is with an angel and a devil.  Notice the boy on the right with a branch in his hand.  He appears to be crying, probably because a gift of a willow branch means that his behavior needs to improve.

St Nicholas Day is a children's holiday.  It is celebrated in December, either on the sixth or the nineteenth, depending on people's religious affiliation.
Saint Nicholas, who lived in the fourth century, was the Bishop of Myra in Lycia, which today is in Turkey.  He is known as the patron saint of children, agriculture and sailors.  
Icon of St Nicholas, the patron saint of mariners.

He is one of the most popular saints in Ukraine, his icon is displayed in Ukrainian homes and churches. Many Ukrainian Orthodox and Catholic churches are named in his honor.  St Nicholas Day is a very old festival,coming to Ukraine with Christianity in the tenth century.

Ukrainian postage stamp showing parents putting gifts under their child's pillow, with St Nicholas watching through the window.

Saint Nicholas, known to Ukrainian children as Svyaty Mykolay, wears a bishop's mitre and carries a crozier.  When he visits, he is accompanied by an angel and occasionally, a devil.  He brings gifts to children, usually fruit and cookies.  Sometimes the angel quizzes the children about religious subjects, and St Nicholas reminds them to do good deeds.   In some areas, St Nicholas comes after the children are asleep and leaves small gifts under their pillow. He might leave a willow branch under the pillow to encourage a child to be on his/her best behavior. In other areas, the children leave their empty shoes and St Nicholas fills them with goodies for  the good children and coal for the bad. Many churches put on plays and pageants about St Nicholas, telling his story, and encouraging children do good.  

St Nicholas Pageant, 1912.  St Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church, Mahony, PA

My first and only encounter with St Nicholas was in St Paul, Minnesota.  I was a  young child, and my grandparents recruited a relative to dress as St Nicholas.  When he came into their living room, dressed in bishop's vestments, and I began to cry out in fear.   The next year, Santa Claus came down the chimney and left gifts under the tree.  St Nicholas never reappeared.

St Nicholas visits the children of the Svitlychka Ukrainian Cooperative Nursery School, Jenkintown, PA.

In old Ukraine,  St Nicholas Day took two forms.  One was warm Nicholas,  his festival was the twenty-second of May.  This was an agricultural celebration, since St Nicholas was also the patron saint of farming.  Farmers would take their horses to the fields for their first grazing, sheep would be sheared and buckwheat sown.  It was also believed that St Nicholas would protect livestock from wolves.  

St Nicholas Icon from Holy Spirit Ukrainian Orthodox Sobor, Regina, SK.

The other form of St Nicholas was "old" or "cold" Nicholas," celebrated in December. Saint Nicholas day heralded the beginning of cold winter weather.  Folk beliefs said that old Nicholas brought the first snow by shaking his beard.

In Poland, St Nicholas comes riding a white horse or rides in a sleigh.  He is accompanied by an angel.  He usually brings a special cookie called a pierniczki, fruit and holy pictures.  In some homes he leaves gifts under the children's pillow, in others he leaves them in their shoes. Some Polish children write to St Nicholas asking for gifts.  If they are well behaved, the gifts may arrive on Christmas day.

Polish children and St. Nicholas. The Polish St Nicolas wears a Roman Catholic bishop's mitre, the Ukrainian saint wears an Eastern Rite mitre.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Poppy Day, Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, Veterans Day

photo by Carla Anne Coroy.

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918,  the hostilities of World War One ended.  It was an armistice, an agreement to lay down weapons and stop fighting.  There was no surrender by defeated parties.  Combat ended and the soldiers went home.

The end of the War is remembered  in countries involved in World War One on November 11.  For many years it was called Armistice Day, but in the United States in 1954, the name was changed to Veterans Day.  Today, In many countries it is called Remembrance Day, and the symbol associated with it is a red poppy.

Remembrance Day, London 2014.  photo from The Daily Mail.
A few days ago I saw a story on the national news about Remembrance Day in Great Britain.  For this year's commemoration, an artist created a red ceramic poppy, each one representing a soldier from the British Empire who died in World War One.  The poppies were placed in the moat surrounding the Tower of London.  In Great Britain, Remembrance day is the Sunday closest to November 11.  Last Sunday, the crowds came to see the poppies, people hung pictures of family members who died in World War One on the fence around the moat.  It was quite a sight, especially since World War One was fought one hundred years ago.

How did the poppy become the symbol of the end of the most devastating war the world had known?  It started with a poem written by a Canadian doctor, Lt. Col. John McRae, in 1915, who was serving in Europe during World War One.  He titled his poem "We Will Not Sleep".  It is known today by its alternate title, "In Flanders' Fields." 

Illustrated 'In Flanders' Fields"  from the collection of the Canadian War Museum

A woman, Moina Belle Michael, who was volunteering in what we would call today a USO, in New York City, saw a copy of the poem in a magazine on November 9, 1918.  She vowed to wear a red poppy as a sign of remembrance.  She started a campaign to make the red poppy a symbol to remember those who lost their lives in The Great War.  In 1919, the newly formed American Legion adopted the memorial poppy as a symbol.  In 1921, artificial red poppies, made in France, were sold in the United States to raise funds for rehabilitation and resettlement of areas in France that were devastated by battles in the War.  Although the poppy did not become a symbol for Armistice Day in the United States, Poppy Day did become a way to raise funds for the American Legion at Memorial Day in May.

In 1954,  The Armistice Day holiday became Veterans Day.  Instead of  remembering war dead, it honors all living veterans.  Memorial Day, the last Monday in May is the day that honors American soldiers who died in wars. 

However in many other countries, November 11 continues to be a day of remembrance for those who died in World War One, and the red poppy is the symbol of those who lost their lives in World War One, one hundred years ago.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Personal Side of the Influenza Pademic of 1918.

Peter Noznick about 3 years old.

In my last post, I wrote about the Influenza Pandemic of 1918.  This week, I will discuss the human side of the epidemic.  It is very easy to get caught up in the immensity of the epidemic, the huge number of deaths, the quick spread of the disease.  Since it took place 96 years age, most of the people affected have passed on. How did the flu affect families?  I know from my family history that the effect of the pandemic was devastating and long lasting.

Joseph Koshuba, about 2 years before he died.

In my extended family there were two people who died during the time period of the Pandemic of 1918-1919.  One was my husband’s aunt, Mollie Karbovsky.  The other was my great uncle, Joseph Koshuba.  I learned about Millie’s death from my mother-in-law.  It was more difficult to find anything out about Joseph Koshuba’s death, because I did not know any family members who could give me information. He died on January 19, 1919, at the age of 33. The date of the death and his age made  influenza a possible cause of his death. So, I got a copy of his death certificate from the Minnesota History Center.  I found that the cause of death was myocarditis. I still could not rule out the flu, since myocarditis is caused by a viral or bacterial infection that reaches the heart.  Many people died from secondary infections caused by the flu.  Later, when I met his granddaughters, they told me that he had heart disease.  My assumption was wrong.  I have to say that when working on family history, always look for documentation to back up family stories and assumptions.  

Mollie Karbovski’s death from the flu was easier research.  My mother-in-law, told me that she died during the Pandemic.  Her death was October 15, 1918. Mollie was ten years old when the flu reached Peoria in late September, and was declared an epidemic October 11. Her death certificate did not have any information about cause of her death.  She was buried in Jewish Cemetery in Peoria, but this cemetery is no longer used, and many people who were buried there were reburied in another cemetery.  In some areas, there were so many deaths during the epidemic that undertakers ran out of coffins, and gravediggers were too sick to dig graves.  Again, this was early in the Pandemic, so I do not know if this affected her burial.

Mollie and William Karbovski.

Rose, Mollie’s mother, was pregnant when Mollie died.  From my research, I found that pregnant women had a high mortality rate during the 1918-19 Pandemic.  Rose survived, and gave birth to Lillian on October 25.  How did Rose avoid the flu?  She was 31, in the age group that was heavily affected, and she was pregnant. I found that people who had a bout of the flu early in 1918 had immunity, and did not get the mutated version of the virus that caused the wave that spread in the fall.  It is also possible that she had the Russian Flu of 1889-90, the first pandemic of modern times. People over 30 may have had some immunity to the flu if they contracted the Russian Flu. Rose successfully delivered Lillian, and had another child four years later.   

Peter Noznick about the time he had his surgery.

Peter Noznick, my father also contracted the flu in 1918.  He was three years old and survived.  He recovered from the flu, however the secondary infection he developed affected his entire life.  The flu led to an ear infection, which spread to the mastoid, the part of the skull behind the ear.  There were no antibiotics in 1918; today children in the United States rarely get mastioditis.  The only treatment available for chronic mastoiditis in those days was surgery.  In 1930, my father and his family moved from New York City to Connecticut.  Since they did not have the money to pay for surgery in Connecticut, my father returned to New York City. Staying with relatives and using their address, he managed to have the surgery at Bellevue Hospital.  He made the trip alone, and spent several weeks in the hospital waiting for the only surgeon who did that type of surgery to be available. While he was waiting, several men in the ward died from the surgery.  He survived, and returned to Connecticut. As a result of mastoiditis and the surgery, he was deaf in one ear for the rest of his life.  In later life, he suffered from Parkinson’s Disease.  Some have theorized that some people who had the flu during the 1918 Pandemic developed symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.  From what I have read, some studies showed a link, and others did not.   

The Flu is still dangerous today—we still have pandemics, but since the flu shot, they are not as catastrophic as the Flu Pandemic of 1918.


Friday, October 24, 2014

The Influenza Pandemic of 1918

This rhyme was popular in 1918

Ninety-six years ago, in 1918, the United States faced a pandemic so lethal that 195,000 people died from it just during the month of October. At the time it was called the Spanish Flu, but it didn’t originate in Spain.  It was a quick killer, hitting young adults, many dying within a day or two of showing symptoms.  Nobody knows how many people died of the flu in 1918-1919, but it is estimated that as many as one-third of the world’s population at the time was infected, and as many as 50 million died, more than three times the number of deaths in World War One. It is believed that more people died in a year from the flu pandemic than the bubonic plague, the Black Death of the Middle Ages, killed in a century. When the Flu Pandemic ended in 1919, 28% of the American population had been infected and between 500,000 and 675,000 people died.

It reached its height in October of 1918, just before the end of World War I.  The War, with its concentration of troops probably helped its spread and made it a pandemic.  It was deadly, killed quickly, sometimes within hours.  Schools, theaters and other public places in the United States were closed to keep the flu from spreading.  Deaths were so numerous, that funeral homes and cemeteries couldn't handle the numbers. People were buried in mass graves, and the size of funerals were limited and often held outdoors in order to curtail the spread of the disease. There was no treatment, quarantine was about the only preventative measure that was effective.

There are several theories about the origin of the Flu in 1918, one points to the town of Etaples in France, which was a major troop staging area, and the location of a military hospital.  Other theories point to the East, specifically China, which experienced an outbreak of respiratory illness in November 1917, which was identical to Spanish flu.  How did the flu get from China to Europe?  China wasn’t involved in World War One, but the link may have been Chinese workers brought to the Western Front, in Europe, to labor behind the front lines.  Travel, now worldwide due to the war, helped the flu virus spread from Europe to the rest of the world.  Soldiers in close quarters were easily infected due to physical proximity, weakened immune systems because of poor nutrition, exposure to chemical weapons, and stress.

There were three waves of flu in 1918.  The first, which hit in the spring and early summer, was mild, and most of the people who contracted it survived. In the United States, it was first reported in Haskell County, Kansas, in early January 1918.  By March 11, it had spread to Queens, New York.  People who were sickened by flu in the first wave were lucky, since having the flu-developed immunity to the virus.  A second more dangerous strain appeared in August 1918, in three places at almost the same time: Brest, France, Freetown, Sierra Leone in West Africa, and Boston Massachusetts.  Between January and August, the virus had mutated and became deadly. The third wave continued through the spring of 1919.

This map views the earth from the top--the North Pole, showing the spread of the virus from China to the rest of the world.

In May 1918, young soldiers in Europe came down with the flu, most recovered, but some developed a virulent form of pneumonia.  Within two months, the flu spread from the military to the civilian populations of European cities.  It continued its spread into Asia, Africa, and South America and back to North America.

During the last week of August, dockworkers in Boston, Massachusetts developed flu symptoms of high fevers, severe muscle and joint pain.  Between five and ten percent of the men with flu developed pneumonia.   The flu spread quickly to the city of Boston.  By mid-September it had spread to California, North Dakota, Florida and Texas.

It was a young person’s pandemic.  In 1918-1919, ninety-nine percent of Spanish Flu deaths were people under the age of 65. In people between the ages of twenty and 40 years old, the rate was fifty percent.  It differed from previous flu outbreaks in that its symptoms were so severe.  Most people died of bacterial pneumonia, a secondary infection.  It also killed directly, causing massive hemorrhages and edema of the lungs.  Nurses noted fevers as high as 105 degrees and unusually severe bloody noses. Often the affected person turned blue, and spit bloody mucus.  It was not usual for a person to die with a day or two of contracting the disease.

People did not know how to stop the disease.  One common solution was to require that everybody wear a face mask. Posters appeared asking people to cover their mouths and noses when the sneezed or coughed. Another prevention method was to encourage men to stop spitting.  Drinking alcohol was another idea that became popular, so popular that it caused liquor shortages.  Closing places where people gathered like churches and theaters was common.

There were so many cases that accurate records could not be kept.  There was also a shortage of doctors and nurses, and those who were available often came down with the flu themselves.  Undertakers ran out of caskets, and there was a shortage of gravediggers. Schools, theaters and businesses closed. Telegraph and telephone service stopped because the operators were sick.  Garbage went uncollected and mail was not delivered.  Since there was no known cause or treatment, people tried other remedies like carrying a potato in a pocket, or carrying a bag of camphor. Wearing a special amulet around the neck.  By November of 1918, the number of new cases started to decline.

People were willing to try anything to prevent the flu, and there were business people willing to capitalize on that.
The flu disappeared almost a quickly as it appeared.  People wanted to forget about it.  Most people didn’t realize how dangerous it was.  When the Spanish flu pandemic began, it was believed that bacteria caused the disease.  Late in 1918, scientists and doctors realized that the cause was a virus. Although the existence of viruses had been known for about 20 years, was not until 1933 that the type A flu virus was isolated, and not until 1944 that a vaccine for type A flu was available.  
Although there have been several flu pandemics since 1919, none have been as severe. The flu pandemic of 1958-1959, (the Asian Flu), killed two million people worldwide and 70,000 in the United States.  Another pandemic in 1968-1969 (Hong Kong Flu) killed one million people worldwide and 33,000 in the United States. In the swine flu pandemic of 2009-2010 (Swine Flu), 12,000 Americans died. Influenza is still a dangerous disease, but now there are eeffective vaccines and treatments for it, and a flu pandemic has never been as lethal as the one in 1918.