Looking Back in Time: Letters Children Wrote during the 1918 Flu Pandemic

Introduction: In this article, Mary Harrell-Sesniak searches old newspapers to find letters children wrote during the 1918 Flu Pandemic to, hopefully, bring a smile to our readers in this tough time. Mary is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background.

Looking back in time is always a joy to a genealogist – and during these tough times, it’s certainly a joy to let you know what children were thinking and doing about 100+ years ago. That’s right.

I’ve found a treasure trove of submissions by children to editors of newspapers. Some mention the influenza or WWI, but most don’t. When there was a contest or prize incentive, children became creative.

I’ve purposely not added comments so that you can read them with a fresh perspective. Enjoy!

Dorothy Orlea Thomas and Mamie Woltmann had their letters published in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Children's letters to the editor, Evening Nonpareil newspaper article 15 December 1918
Evening Nonpareil (Council Bluffs, Iowa), 15 December 1918, page 19

When the editor of the Jackson Citizen Patriot’s comics department asked readers to suggest a name for the Duffs’ new baby, many children responded in Jackson, Michigan.

Children's letters to the editor, Jackson Citizen Patriot newspaper article 17 March 1917
Jackson Citizen Patriot (Jackson, Michigan), 17 March 1917, page 12

Henry Kerr trapped some animals and had a swimming adventure in Norwich, Connecticut.

A child's letter to the editor, Norwich Morning Bulletin newspaper article 1 May 1919
Norwich Morning Bulletin (Norwich, Connecticut), 1 May 1919, page 10

Pauline Buckley and Yvette Ruth Deuberry were published in Omaha, Nebraska.

Children's letters to the editor, Omaha Daily Bee newspaper article 16 March 1919
Omaha Daily Bee (Omaha, Nebraska), 16 March 1919, page 39

Ethel Holland’s “Out in a Blow” won a drawing contest in Norwich, Connecticut.

A child's letter to the editor, Norwich Morning Bulletin newspaper article 1 May 1919
Norwich Morning Bulletin (Norwich, Connecticut), 1 May 1919, page 10

I’d like to finish this article with a cooking tip. After all, aren’t we all madly scouring the Internet for ideas as to what to do with our dwindling food stocks? Inez Orn had a suggestion from Norwich, Connecticut.

A child's letter to the editor, Norwich Morning Bulletin newspaper article 21 March 1918
Norwich Morning Bulletin (Norwich, Connecticut), 21 March 1918, page 10

Now that you’ve read these, please ask your youngsters to write their own letters. Write them to newspapers, grandparents, friends and neighbors. Then tuck them away for future generations to uncover!

If I’ve found a little gem by your family member, please let me know in the comments section below.

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6 thoughts on “Looking Back in Time: Letters Children Wrote during the 1918 Flu Pandemic

  1. I always wanted to find out about my mom’s side of the family. I never got to know my grandma because she passed away when I was very young, and my granddaddy died before I was born. So I envy the ones that are able to find out about their family genealogy. You do a great job and maybe one day I will be able to use your website for myself. Keep up the good work…

    1. Kim,

      Thank you for your kind comments.

      I hope you find some information about your mom’s ancestry in GenealogyBank. From time to time I find new information about my own family — including yesterday when I located some articles mentioning my great grandmother. I remember her as a little girl, but reading them makes me feel as if I knew her better.

      Mary

  2. Your article on the children’s letters during the 1918 pandemic was very interesting! Wish our newspapers had a juvenile section today. I plan to share this with my family and ask my grandchildren to write a letter during Covid-19!!

    1. Linda,

      Happy that you found the article interesting and that you are inspired to ask your grandchildren to write letters.

      I have had the same thought about wishing there was a juvenile section in today’s papers. Maybe we should suggest it as a way to improve subscriber levels.

      Mary

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