Western Reserve Historical Society is dedicated to helping the community stay engaged by providing members and the public with online exhibits, activities, stories, content, lessons, virtual speakers, and more. Over the coming days and weeks, these resources will be posted on our social media platforms as well as sent directly to you in weekly emails.

Our first story explores day to day life in the early 1900s, including the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 and its impact on Northeast Ohio. As historians, we know we are in for tough times, but we also know that we will emerge from this crisis, and what we learn from history can help save lives. While the news remains sobering, hope can be found in history. 
WWI In Cleveland
Eric Rivet, Curator of Collections and Exhibits
Notable Ohioan:
George Washington Cri le, 1864-1943
George Washington Crile (1864-1943) was an internationally-known surgeon and co-founder of the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. He was also a respected medical scientist whose research and writings included surgical shock, glandular function, blood pressure and transfusion, shell shock, and the effects of wartime surgery

He served in the Army Medical Corps during the Spanish American War. During World War I, he was surgical director at the American Ambulance Hospital in Neuilly, France. In 1917, he organized and trained medical personnel from Lakeside Hospital, Cleveland, Ohio, who then served at United States Army Base Hospital No. 4 in Rouen, France. In 1921, he co-founded the Cleveland Clinic, serving as president (1921-1940) and as a trustee (1921-1936).

In 1913, Crile helped found the American College of Surgeons, and was a member and officer not only of that organization, but also of the American Medical Association, American Surgical Association, Royal Academy of Surgeons, and the Royal Academy of Medicine.

WRHS houses and preserves diaries, papers, articles, speeches, medical records, photographs, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings and more pertaining to George Washington Crile. To search our archives and see for yourself, head over to our online collections database!
Want to find out what your family members were doing in the early 1900s? You're in luck, because WRHS is a FamilySearch affiliate Library! Researchers can sign up for a FamilySearch account remotely and gain access to billions of records from the comfort of home. Follow the link below to get started! It's simple, and free!
International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union
In the early 1900s, women increasingly participated in politics and activism. Working women were no different, and their unions demanded better hours, increased wages, and humane working conditions. Cleveland unions were galvanized under the leadership of New York’s International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) and worked together to form the Joint Board of Cloak & Skirt Makers' Unions (JBCSMU).

In 1918, after unmet demands, the JBCSMU began a strike, and less than a month later negotiations began. Cleveland companies and the Secretary of War, Newton D. Baker, were willing to work together and compromise because everyone was so focused on the efforts of World War I. Finally, on Christmas Eve of 1919, the unions ended a 10-year struggle to establish unionism and firmly established collective bargaining in the Cleveland garment trade.
The 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic
In 1918 Cleveland had to cope with two major global events.  One was the first World War, a conflict that the United States entered in April 1917.  Nearly 41,000 Clevelanders would serve in the armed forces and 1023 would die as a result of the conflict. The second event was a global pandemic commonly referred to as the Spanish Influenza.

The city was no stranger to the flu, more commonly known as the “grippe”. Outbreaks of the flu can be found in Cleveland in the 1880s and at other times in the city’s history, including a mild outbreak early in 1918.  But this version was different, far more virulent than previous forms.  Its origins are still debated, but it became part of the news when a major outbreak took place in Spain in the late spring of 1918 thus resulting in its popular name. By the summer it had spread into Europe and Britain, and by August some cases were reported in Canada.   The ongoing war in Europe played a significant role in the spread of the illness – large numbers of troops lived in close quarters in barracks and moved across borders thus infecting one another and others as they moved about. 

By September a more virulent form of the flu had reached Boston, arriving by ship. It spread rapidly and by September 22 US Army Surgeon General William Gorgas advised Cleveland City Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Rockwood of its likely spread to the city.  However, it took until October 4th for the city to investigate flu conditions in the community. By October 7th there were 500 cases in Cleveland and action was taken to limit the spread.

Then as now, isolation was seen as the best preventative. The initial approach was to suggest voluntary closures, but on October 14th theaters, movie houses, dance halls, night schools, churches, and Sunday Schools were ordered to close.  Streetcar conductors were ordered to assist police in arresting those who spat on the floor of the cars.  Outdoor gatherings could take place only with permission. The closure of schools followed on October 15th.  Businesses, including saloons and poolrooms remained open, but their hours of operation were shortened. The fact that saloons remained opened led to protests from clergy, many of whom had prohibitionist sentiments and who had seen their churches closed.   The overall closing of the schools occurred after an initial attempt to keep them open so that teachers could monitor health conditions.  The initial plan was to close only if absentee rates at any particular school reached 20 percent.  Clever students “gamed the system” by playing hooky – thus insuring a particular school’s closure.

By October 21st the situation had gotten worse and there were 1,000 people in local hospitals.  A concern about a shortage of beds for patients was answered by using other spaces in the city including the Cleveland Normal School and the local headquarters of the Liberty Loan war bond drive. The operating hours of local businesses were further shortened.  However, industrial Cleveland continued at work given its role in supplying material for the war.  Sick workers were advised to stay home – and at this time, sick pay as we know it was non-existent. 

The epidemic began to ease by the first week of November. The closure order was lifted on November 10 and the schools reopened three days later.  In between those dates an Armistice ending the fighting in the “Great War” was announced.  In a sense Clevelanders had two reasons for rejoicing.  But the crisis was not yet fully over – a new, but minor wave of the flu continued into the coming early months of 1919. 

The cost of the epidemic was considerable both fiscally and in terms of mortality.  Cleveland businesses lost $1.25 million dollars (equivalent to more than $21 million today).  Globally over 50 million people died directly from the flu or from pneumonia or other issues caused by the flu.  The estimated death toll for the United States was 675,000, and for Cleveland more than 4,400 or 474 per 100,000 – a higher rate than that in Chicago or New York City. The flu was the costlier of the two global events that reshaped the city in the late 1910s – it lost more of its citizens to the epidemic than it did on the battlefronts of the war
Lessons From The 1918 Flu Pandemic
Listen to this 2018 Ideastream interview with WRHS's Senior Vice President of Research & Publications, John Grabowski, and hear how the 1918 Flu Pandemic impacted Cleveland, a century ago.
After the Pandemic: 1920s World Series
The 1920 World Series saw the Cleveland Indians defeat the Brooklyn Dodgers five games to two. The fifth game resulted in several World Series firsts: the first grand slam, the first home run by a pitcher, and the first and only unassisted triple play, all by Indians players.
Cleveland American League Baseball Club: World's Champions 1920
Life at Hale
Black and white photograph of group posing for photo in front of Hale house, 1920s
By 1920 Jonathan Hale’s ​violin​ and voice had become famous in the Cuyahoga Valley. Jonathan was a gracious party host during holidays and get-togethers, and often played his fiddle for friends and family.  “The times to me seems long since I had the pleasure of an old fashioned hearty shake of the hand --- & long common chit-chat with my never forgotten friend, of the snug brick palace located among the rugged hills of Bath . . . & oft wish I was seated with him before his old kitchen fire, a few good apples---and Mug of good cider---where I could hear him tell a few anecdotes---sing a few tunes.” - D.V. Bradford of Akron, Ohio.

Jonathan exchanged songs through letters with family and friends and became the first teacher of the choirs in the valley townships of Stow, Tallmadge, and Hudson.
Book Recommendation of the Week
Did you know that Anna Perkins once shocked Cleveland citizens by selling newspapers while dressed in male clothing on Public Square or that Moses Cleaveland was as much an investor and speculator as a “leader of men”?   These and other interesting and essential facts about the city’s history are part of a new book published by the Western Reserve Historical Society.  Authored by Dr. John Grabowski, WRHS's Chief Historian and editor of the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, Cleveland A to Z: Historical Essentials for Newcomers and Residents in Northeastern Ohio consists of 72 short lively essays, each touching on issues that have helped define the community.

Dozens of QR codes accompanying the articles allow readers to access the ever growing body of local history available on historically vetted websites.  Whether it’s the odor of “Vinegar Hill” or the emerald necklace that comes with residence in our community, this new work will help build an understanding of why our city is what it is.