Smile Politely

Postcard from 1907 showcases local response to past pandemics

Of course, by now, the rational and thoughtful among us have accepted the word “unprecedented” into our lexicon in a new and… unprecedented way. But we also know this isn’t the first time that humans, including those in Champaign County, have had to deal with lockdowns and pandemic regulations. 

This postcard comes from a friend, David Sholem, who is a partner at Meyer Capel Law in Champaign. Their building sits on Church, just across from West Side Park, and was known as the Burnham Athenaeum, which at one time housed the Champaign Public Library, until 1978. 

The postcard states:

Dear Mary;

I do not believe you need to be afraid to come up here now. They have not closed the University or quarantined the town. I think the worst is over. Let us know.

Nancy (signature unclear)                                                                                        

It’s been over 113 years since this postcard made its way to Tuscola, IL. And with it, we get a brief glimpse into what our community was dealing with at that time over a different sort of outbreak. My best guess is that, given the date, this was referencing fear over the Typhoid Fever outbreak in New York the previous year. From 1906-1907, the disease killed over 10,000 people annually, and the presumption here is that fear was gripping the nation, even though it never spread as widely as what came a decade later in the 1918 “Spanish” Flu pandemic. That flu didn’t originate in Spain, by the way. It’s a misnomer. 

A great find from a reader and one definitely worth sharing at this particular moment. 

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