Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

How did the Flu Epidemic of 1918 change the World?
Brad Peuster
US History
Time Frame:
One day
World War I

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:


  • An enrichment activity to help build a wider range of knowledge on a topic not often covered

  • To be given towards the end of the Unit once you have established a general understanding of World War I

  • Students will be given Three general articles to be read on the FLU epidemic of 1918 and then some primary source letters (must read at least two)  and news articles to be read (must read at least three).

  • Students will be asked to produce a letter as if they were alive during the time and what they would expect to see in a letter home.  




  • To gain a wider understanding of the FLU Epidemic and how it affected America


District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:


  • Key Concepts and Understandings 9-12.WH.5.PC.C

  • Key Concepts and Understandings 9-12.WH.5.PC.B


Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:



Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:


List of News Articles

•Harry S. Truman: Influenza Pandemic letters ( Dec 3rd, 1918), (Jan 7th, 1919), (Jan 12th 1919), (Jan 19th, 1919)



Full description of activity or assignment.


  • As a whole class we as a class will read an article by John M Barry article, The FLU in Philadelphia Article and an CNN article on the FLU. Teacher lead reading of the Barry article as it is more general, and then have half the class read one article and the other half read the second article.  

  • The teacher will generally explain and share ideas on the FLU, what it is?  And how it was affecting America. Making sure students have all questions answered before they leave.

  • Students as individuals will pick at least two Truman letters  and read. Then pick and read at least 3 news Articles about the FLU (Primary Sources)

  • Once they have had a chance to read and process the material they are to create a letter home dealing with the FLU and their concerns.  This is to be a letter in first person and clearly demonstrating an understanding of the material they have read over.


Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:


  • It should be to a family member back home (create your own town and date)

  • It should establish why the FLU was a concern for most Americans

  • It should show as much detail about the FLU as you feel is necessary

  • Based upon the letters and news stories you have read please include details that prove you have read them.

  • Letter Rubric