Time Travelers: The Flu Epidemic of 1918 (2020)


The influenza virus that caused the worldwide pandemic originated in Haskell County, Kansas in early 1918.  The first flu case in Minnesota was reported in the last week of September.  In Lyon County, there were several residents becoming sick.  Many of the illnesses and deaths occurred in October.

During the time, residents were encouraged to stay home.  Schools, churches, theaters, and some businesses were closed.  While home from school, kids were often busy with chores, but after chores were finished, they engaged in outside play activities like marbles and jump rope, and indoor activities like making paper dolls.

Note: A pandemic is not equivalent to an epidemic. In an epidemic, a disease affects large numbers of people within a relatively local area such as a city or county or state. In a pandemic, a disease affects people across a broader area, such as a nation or globally. The parts that refer to the worldwide influenza crisis of 1918, the use of the word pandemic is used. The parts that refer to influenza locally, the use of the word epidemic is used, including the title and video.


Jump Rope

History of the 1918 Flu Pandemic and the children’s rhyme: In Flew Enza




History on Marbles: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/29486/brief-history-marbles-including-all-marble-slang

To play a game: marble rules and game play

Build a pool noodle: marble run

There is even a: Minnesota Marbles Club

Paper Dolls

In 1918 it was common for toys to be related to the war.  Dolls would be dressed as doughboys or Red Cross nurses. Check out the photo of the “toy” field hospital: WWI Children’s Play

Soldier Paper Dolls: https://www.education.com/slideshow/us-soldiers-paper-dolls/

History on Paper Dolls: https://www.opdag.com/History.html

In addition to the marbles, jump rope, and paper dolls, children’s games and toys in the early 1900’s simple toys and games that were passed down from previous generations.

Other games that children would have played: http://historicthedalles.org/schoolhouse/childrens-games/ https://ourpastimes.com/childrens-games-in-the-1800s-13583108.html

Contact the Lyon County Museum at 507-537-6580 or in one of the forms below to purchase an activity kit for $1. The kit includes:

  • A copy of the WW1 soldier paper doll
  • A cereal box panel  
  • A box of crayons
  • A few sheets of construction paper for extra clothes

Did you like our video? Please consider a $10 donation to the Lyon County Museum. Donations support exhibits, preservation, and programs. The link to our online gift shop is below:


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