Recently published: Killer in the Heartland: An Early Epidemic of “Spanish” Flu in Kansas

My local history of the 1918-20 Great Pandemic (Spanish Influenza) led to a critical examination of competing theories as to the “origin, spread and character” of the virus. One account traced its genesis to Haskell County, Kansas. There I saw a false narrative in need of debunking. An untold rival narrative fairly begged to be brought into the light.

Telegram of March 21, 1918 from Haskell Institute superintendent H. B. Peairs requesting the assistance of the Indian Bureau to combat “a very serious epidemic of grippe.” (National Archives, Washington, D.C.) The telegram virtually initiates the literature of the Great Pandemic in North America.

The work involved visits to the National Archives in Washington DC and Kansas City MO and to Lawrence KS. The product, a 15,000 word scholarly article, “A 1918 influenza outbreak at Haskell Institute: an early narrative of the Great Pandemic,” was published in Kansas History, a Journal of the Central Plains, Vol. 43, No. 2, Summer 2020. It garnered an Edgar Langsdorf Award for Excellence in Writing from the Kansas Historical Foundation.

A PDF of the article, retitled, sectioned and lightly reworked, with new imagery:


A number of panoramic photos of the Haskell Institute student body are readily accessible on the Library of Congress website. The image above was taken on May 11, 1908. A 600-mb TIFF file yields remarkable detail, as below.