World War I and the Influenza Pandemic



A deadly moment in American history, the Spanish Influenza pandemic reached numbers of Minnesotans during the early 1900’s. Ignatius Hannon of Minneapolis encountered it during its peak in 1918. The Hannon family owned and operated the John Hannon Detective Agency and Patrol Service beginning in 1901. Despite the success of this agency, Ignatius Hannon left Minnesota to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War I.

On his way to South Carolina and the Naval Shipyard, Hannon described the journey in a letter to his mother on October 12th, 1918. At each large city between Chicago and Charleston, Hannon noted 10-15 coffins of servicemen being unloaded, presumably deceased due to the disease. Some men were transported without coffins as Hannon points out “so many are dying they can’t make coffins fast enough”. The Minneapolis Morning Tribune reported the main way the disease spread was through coughing, sneezing and spitting. Quarantine was used as a major preventative measure against the disease, even on Hannon’s ship where 15 cases had been reported.

This letter and other artifacts from the Hannon family are from the Lenore Hannon Collection which can be found at the Hennepin History Museum Archives.

Minneapolis Morning Tribune, April 3, 1918, pg 7

Haskin, Frederic J. “Coughing, Talking, Sneezing, Deadly Projectors of Human Poison Gas, Say U.S. Doctors.” The Minneapolis Morning Tribune, April 3, 1918.

Written by Bridget Jensen, Archive Volunteer

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