The St. Louis Red Cross Motor Corps in 1918
Library of Congress / The New York Times / Redux

In October 1918, the Spanish flu descended on Stanford University. Residents donned facemasks, football games were canceled, and students were asked to quarantine on campus. But classes and assemblies continued to meet. And in addition to fulfilling their regular academic obligations, male students trained to combat German machine guns and poison gas in World War I. Over a tenth of all students fell ill, and a dozen died—roughly in line with the 45,000 cases and 3,000 fatalities recorded in nearby San Francisco. Yet faculty and students started to abandon face coverings just a month after the initial outbreak. Football returned to campus

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