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1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic at Georgetown University

This guide highlights primary and secondary sources available in the Georgetown University Archives for research on the impact of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic on Georgetown University.

Archival Materials

The archival resources listed below have not been digitized. They are available for use in the Booth Family Center for Special Collections on the 5th floor of Lauinger Library; use the Aeon request system to request materials and to schedule a research appointment to examine them. 

  • Jesuit Community House Diary, 1918

The House Diary provides an almost  daily account of activities and events in the Jesuit Community and on campus. Transcriptions of relevant entries from October 1918 follow:

  • Tues, Oct. 1st: “The Spanish Flu” has visited the College and our infirmary is filled with boys.

  • Wed. 2nd: We were obliged to borrow 30 mattresses from the Georgetown Hospital.

  • Thurs. 3rd: Army blankets arrived.

  • Sunday 6th: Fr. McDonnell, S.J. had mass at 6, 7, 8, 9 o’clock on the baseball field and 10 & 11 o’clock mass on the grand stand of the base ball field because of rain. The epidemic is raging in Washington & all churches are closed. There are about 25 boys down with the Spanish Influenza in the Infirmary.

  • Monday 7th: We have two sisters, trained nurses to take care of the sick boys in the infirmary . . . 

  • Wed. 9th: Fr. Reilly, S.J. arrived from Camp Meade where he was acting as chaplain to the stricken soldiers

  • Saturday 12th: One of our boys is very sick with pneumonia

  • Sunday 13th: We have a sister from the hospital to take care of the sick boys

  • Monday 14th: All churches were closed in the city yesterday on account of the Influenza


 Transcription of October 1918 Jesuit Community Diary Insert :

1st case on 26 Sept.

On [Sept.] 29 10 cases

Height about 19th of Oct at which time there had been about 80 cases with 8 pneumonatics, 0 deaths.

From there on number of cases and character of illness diminished, the last being admitted Nov 25.


  • Prefect of Discipline Diaries, GTA 000683. Box 1, 1918-1919 diary

In 1918, the Prefect of Discipline (Vice President of Student Affairs would be the comparable position today) was Fr. Vincent McDonough, S.J., for whom McDonough Gym is named. His entries through October 1918 relate to the class schedules, sporting events, and the weather. But from October 3 through November 1, when the D.C. health authorities gave permission for the churches to reopen, the impact of the Spanish Flu on campus dominates the pages of this diary. Transcriptions of the relevant entries  follow:

  • Thursday Oct 3: . . . Day scholars barred from school during epidemic*. All public schools and theaters are closed and indoor church services banned. Boys forbidden to leave grounds without written permission . . .

  • Saturday Oct 5: . . . No leave given today, quarantine being established during period of epidemic . . .

  • Sunday Oct 6: . . . Quarantine with guard at gate. Benediction being omitted during epidemic . . .

  • Monday Oct 7: . . . Two sisters of Bon Secours established as nurses in Infirmary. Father’s Recreation room taken as Dormitory.

  • Saturday Oct 12: . . . Guard at gate. Men allowed to walk in country in groups of 20 or more . . . Sisters of Bon Secours unable to continue work in Infirmary for present. Franciscan Sister from Georgetown Hospital now in charge, with 2nd nurse assisting. One nurse is special for boy who came here with Influenza and has been at death’s door for a week.

  • Sunday Oct 13: Mass was not of obligation to-day because of epidemic, but neither influenza scare nor police regulations could dampen Catholic spirit of boys. Every boy attended mass and it seemed as if every boy received Communion . . .

  • Sunday Oct 20: Boys left free regarding mass, but all attended and received Holy Communion. They were asked to remember Sister, one of the Bon Secours Sisters, who came to take charge of the Infirmary upon outbreak of the epidemic. She got sick after two days and was taken home. She died on Thursday. Father Rector [the University President] attended her funeral yesterday, and eight of our boys, *four from army and four from navy, acted as pallbearers. [*Note: In 1918, Georgetown’s entire student body shifted to military status and was assigned to follow a combined military and academic program specified by the War and Navy Department. Students under 18 years of age were instructed separately as a civilian unit.]

  • Saturday Oct 26: . . . Quarantine still in force, and so no night permissions . . .

  • Sunday Oct 27: . . . Mass not of obligation, because of police regulations, but all went to mass and received Holy communion.

  • Friday Nov 1: . . . Mass of obligation as Health authorities gave permission to open churches today. nearly all receive Communion . . . 


Letter from the Executive Committee of the Law School to the University President, outlining how class time lost during the pandemic would be made up, December 16, 1918. 


  • Hospital Patient Ledgers, 1912-1945, GTA 000445

Entries from October 1918 note a curtailment of service in certain care areas: "No patients during Epidemic of Spanish Influenza."


October 1918 Bulletin references masses being held on the Georgetown College Field [now Copley lawn] because of the pandemic.


Announcement for Oct 6th: By order of the District Government we were obliged to have the masses in the open air. We had masses at Georgetown [University] Field. This order was issued on account of the Spanish Influenza which is still raging here. 

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