Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Waiting for the Aporkalypse: who did the 1918 pandemic get?

Nigel Jones of History Today surveys some of the casualties of the 1918 influenza pandemic:
King Alfonso XIII of Spain

the commander of the US Expeditionary Force, General 'Black Jack' Pershing went down - but survived. In October [1918], while 50,000 Americans died in battle, 70,000 of them were hospitalised with 'flu, of whom 32 percent died.

The negotiations to end the conflict were held up for 48 hours when Prince Max of Baden, the Kaiser's last Chancellor, fell sick with 'flu, overdosed on palliative drugs, and went into a coma.

Other fatally afflicted victims included; the great sociologist Max Weber, who died in June 1920 when the pandemic was long past its peak; Lenin's lieutenant Jakov Sverdlov; and the Austrian erotic artist Egon Schiele, who had to watch the funeral cortege of his bride Edith, pregnant with their first child pass by before returning to his sickbed to die.

Two of the world leaders who gathered in the French capital to hammer out the Treaty of Versailles, British premier Lloyd George and US president Woodrow Wilson, both caught the 'flu - and lived. But the young British diplomat, Sir Mark Sykes - whose controversial Sykes-Picot plan to carve the Middle East into British and French spheres of influence - did not.

The pandemic also spared Joseph Pilates, German founder of the eponymous exercises, who, interned in the Isle of Man, claimed that all those who had adopted his yoga-like routines in his prison beat off the 'flu.

Via a quick look into the Dictionary of Canadian Biography online, a few Canadian casualties:

John Craig Eaton, the department store heir, age 45
Charles Gill, Quebec artist
William Hamilton Merritt, mining engineer and militia advocate
Flora Merrill Denison, feminist, theosophist, arts patron
Cawthra Mulock, builder of the Royal Alex theatre in Toronto
Sam Steele of the Mounted
Shaaw Tlaa, or Kate Carmack, who started the Klondike gold rush
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