|1912, Panoramic view of ‘2/5’ of the state of Delaware. The rapid spread of the pandemic led authorities in Delaware to close indefinitely nearly all public gathering places. [Credit: The Library of Congress]|
Delaware first reported cases on September 27th. Between October 4th and October 14th, there were 389 deaths from influenza registered in the state. Because state officials were often overwhelmed by the pandemic, they often underestimated the number of deaths. It is likely that the actual number of those who died in Delaware during this period was probably much higher. On October 14th, the PHS noted that new cases of influenza in Wilmington and Delaware were increasing at a slower rate than previously. On October 25th, state officials told the PHS that “the situation in Delaware continues to improve day by day. Fewer cases are reported each day and the new cases seem to be of a milder type. Hospital cases have been reduced one-half. It is stated that the improvement began on October 13th.”
|c1910, The interior of W.B. Danforth Drugs in Wilmington, Delaware. Medicine was in high demand during the pandemic, and numerous claims of ‘cures’ for influenza began to spread. None, however, proved effective. [Credit: The Library of Congress]|
During the height of the pandemic, the quarantine station at Ready Island (Port Penn) was made into an influenza hospital. State officials in Delaware were so overwhelmed that they tried to send cases to Philadelphia hospitals. These cases were refused as Philadelphia itself was overwhelmed.
Liberty parties across the state were canceled. Newspapers reported a shortage of caskets. At the University of Delaware, Alumni Hall, one of the oldest buildings on the campus, became a temporary infirmary.
On October 3, 1918, the Delaware State Board of Health met in an emergency session and ordered most of the state shut down to stem the death doll from influenza. Their order read, in part, “Whereas: A very serious epidemic of influenza is now raging in the state of Delaware...to protect the health of the entire citizenship of Delaware...all schools, theatres, all churches, all motion picture houses, all dance halls, all carnivals, fairs and bazaars, all billiard rooms and pool rooms, all bowling alleys in the entire State of Delaware shall be closed and kept closed until further notice.” This order was lifted on October 27th.
Influenza remained prevalent throughout the state during the winter and spring of 1919. By the summer, the disease began to disappear from the state.