Fact check: Post wrongly identifies five photos as showing 1918 Spanish flu pandemic

- A Facebook post has shared a series of images with text claiming they were taken during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

“I found these photos of 1918 flu pandemic. So relatable...,” reads the caption of the post ( here ), which has been shared more than 86,000 times as of June 16.

This is only partly true. Of the 13 images featured in the post, seven were taken during the pandemic just over a century ago, in which at least 50 million people around the world are estimated to have died ( here ). The five that were not, and the one that cannot be clearly dated, will be discussed in this fact check.

The first photograph showing two women wearing cone-like masks ( here ) was taken two decades after the outbreak.

Photo agency Alamy, which offers the picture for sale on its website here , states that it was taken in 1939 in Canada and that the headwear was actually designed to protect against snowstorms.

The next photo ( here ) was taken by an Associated Press photographer in 1953. According to The AP website ( here ), it shows women posing in “war surplus gas capes” to protect against smoke and smog in Philadelphia.

According to Alamy, the image of two women wearing face coverings as they walk down the street ( here ), was taken in 1913. The caption, in German, says this is a new, Turkish-inspired, fashion

( here ).

Getty images states that the photograph showing two women wearing gas masks pushing a pram ( here ) was taken on June 9, 1941. The photo agency captions the picture on its website: “A gas masked young mother attends to her child's pram gas mask during a surprise gas test in Kingston” ( here ).

Despite its vintage design, the poster urging people to ‘Stay At Home’ ( here ) is contemporary to the coronavirus pandemic, not the Spanish flu. The illustration was created by artist Mathieu Persan, who told Reuters that he created the poster on March 13, 2020 ( here ).

While it is possible the poster advertising the social benefits of the Bell Telephone for those in quarantine ( here ) was in circulation during the Spanish flu, the advert itself predates the pandemic by at least eight years. An advert with the same wording, but from the Bell Telephone Company of Missouri rather than from the New York Telephone company, can be seen in a 1910 newspaper clipping from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ( here ).


Partly false. While some of the images were taken during the Spanish flu pandemic, at least five were not.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .