Students Explore the 1918 Influenza Pandemic at NC State

History 596 presenting the Soldiering On virtual exhibit in the DH Hill Library's Visualization Studio on 11 December 2017.  The section depicted here shows Ella McGuire, an African American who nursed NC State students during the pandemic.

History 596 presenting the Soldiering On virtual exhibit in the DH Hill Library's Visualization Studio on 11 December 2017. The section depicted here shows Ella McGuire, an African American who nursed NC State students during the pandemic.

Next week, NC State graduate student Claire Du Laney will participate in the UNC-Chapel Hill symposium "Going Viral: Impact and Implications of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic," where she will present a poster on the class project "Soldiering On:  The 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic at NC State College" that was created by History 596 students under the direction of Professor Tammy Gordon.  The class looked at a number of University Archives materials and other resources to explore the impact of the pandemic on the NC State campus, culminating in a virtual exhibit presented on 11 December 2017 in the D.H. Hill Library's Visualization Studio.  (The exhibit is accessible through the "Soldiering On" link above.  While it is designed for display in the Visualization Studio's 360-degree space, web users can scroll to the right to view the entire exhibit.)

The exhibit recounts the conditions on campus when the flu struck in the fall of 1918.  The U.S. Army had just replaced the ROTC program with the Student Army Training Corps (SATC) at NC State, and enrollment spiked at approximately 1000 students (several hundred more than the previous year).  The entire student body was organized into six military regiments, a reserve force deployable if needed in World War I.  At the same time, the military established Camp Polk across Hillsborough Street from the college.  The camp trained hundreds of soldiers on tank operation and maintenance in 1918.

Winslow Hall was the infirmary during the 1918 pandemic.  It quickly filled to capacity.With such crowding in and around campus, the flu spread quickly in late September 1918.  The infirmary (today Winslow Hall) filled to capacity within hours.  The YMCA Building (where Kamphoefner Hall is today) housed the overflow.  At one point 300 students were sick simultaneously, and by the time the pandemic subsided in 1919, a total of 450 students had contracted the disease.  Thirteen died, and they were memorialized in the 1919 Agromeck yearbook

The infirmary staff included an African American nurse named Ella McGuire, who recalled the pandemic years later.  Because so many students were sick, women from the Raleigh community volunteered to provide care, and two succumbed to the disease, including Eliza Riddick.

In addition to showing the effect of the pandemic on NC State, the History 596 exhibit explores the impact of the war and patriotism on how people discussed the flu, gender, and racial divisions in the medical professions.  It also looks at the different ways that people memorialized those who died from the disease.  If you are attending the "Going Viral" symposium, check out Claire Du Laney's poster during the student poster session, Thursday, April 5, 4:45–6:00 p.m., at the Friday Center for Continuing Education.

This portion of the exhibit discusses the memorialization of students who died from the 1918 flu.For more information on NC State during World War I, see these earlier postings of Special Collections News:

Preparing for World War I

NC State During World War I

Robert Opie Lindsay, North Carolina's Only Flying Ace

Who was Eliza Riddick?

From Somewhere in France: Letters from Alumni in World War I

World War I and Agriculture

Fred Barnett Wheeler: Alumnus, Soldier, Councilman, Mayor

Agricultural Patriotism During World War I

Lieutenant James Malcolmson Rumple

Recipes from World War I (Part 1) - Meatless

Recipes from World War I (Part 2) - Wheatless

Recipes from World War I (Part 3) - Sweetless (Sugarless)