From the Archives: Found Medicine

Flu pills. Photo by Millie Rossman

A cure from the past

During January staff from Mount Holyoke’s Archives and Special Collections worked with a team of students to inventory and rehouse oversize and odd materials in the Archives stacks. A box from the class of 1922 revealed, among other treasures, this medicine. Labeled “For Flue,” the bottle of pills was apparently brought to campus in the fall of 1918 by a student from Nebraska. The instructions read “two to five to be taken as necessary.” Over the course of a few weeks that September more than a quarter of the College’s student body of 864 were sickened by the flu pandemic—part of the worst flu outbreak the world had ever seen. Sadly there was one student death: Elizabeth M. Smith, class of 1922, a first-year from Pennsylvania. Archives staff are awaiting chemical analysis of the pills to determine what the medicine was or may have been. 

This article appeared in the spring 2017 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly.


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