On this page we will look back at life in the city during the war years. Here we will provide the visitor with the stories making the news, what was happening in sports and entertainment, city politics, the social scene and the prominent people at the time. So, check back often for new editions. To share your family or neighborhood stories, please email PhillyWWIyears@gmail.com
TODAY IN PHILADELPHIA – SATURDAY OCTOBER 12, 1918
There will be overcast skies and periods of rain throughout the day today. The high will reach 68° with the low near 59°. The Department of Health release its mortality report today showing 3,234 deaths last week. Of those over 80% or 2,635 deaths were caused by the influenza epidemic. That figure is almost triple the previous week’s total and is the largest death toll for one week ever recorded in the city’s history.
It is estimated that over 1000 bodies lie unburied in Philadelphia. Hundreds of bodies are being stored in the basements of hospitals, the morgue and private homes. The city is attempting to send hundreds of workers from the streets, water and sewer departments to cemeteries to work as grave diggers. The city is also asking for citizen volunteers to help bury bodies. Some of the city’s industrial plants are using their workers to build coffins to make up the shortage. Laborers at the water bureau have already built 200 coffins for use by those in need.
One of the many heart wrenching stories caused by this plague is that of Jack Rosenfeld of 754 South 3rd Street. Young Jack was a senior at South Philadelphia High School when he became sick with the flu 2 weeks ago. He died a few days later. Since his death Jack’s body has lain at the home of his father, Rabbi I. Rosenfeld. Rabbi Rosenfeld leads the Rumanian Congregation Synagogue. The Rabbi tried to find an undertaker to bury his boy but to no avail. After a week he knew he could wait no longer. Along with a friend the Rabbi built a simple casket out of pine wood and borrowed an express wagon to carry his son. He and his friend drove the wagon to Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Frankford. There he hired a man to help dig a grave and with his own hands lowered the body of his beloved son into the ground.
Five nurses at Philadelphia General Hospital have died from the flu within the last 3 days. These women, martyrs in the fight against this plague, were worn out from the long hours caring for others and lacked the strength to fight the disease once it struck them. Their names are Miss Nellie O’Neill (head nurse), Miss Mabel Bougher (head of the children’s ward) and Misses Effie Baltain, Marian Walter and Myrtle Sides all student nurses. These women refused to leave their posts to rest. They knew that because of the shortage of nurses that would mean leaving some of the 1200 patients unattended. The Hospital’s Superintendent, William G. McAllister, said today that these women were truly heroes, He stated “No soldier on the field of battle cold be any more courageous”. Fifty four other nurses at the hospital are ill with the disease.
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