100 Years Ago, a Flu Outbreak Shut Down Excelsior

by | Jan 2020

An old stethoscope sits on an old medicine book.


Thirty-nine flu cases had been reported in the town in January 1920.

One hundred years ago, Excelsior area churches, schools, and theaters were closed and “all public gatherings” halted for one week to prevent the spread of influenza. The action was taken by the board of health in the last week of January 1920. Thirty-nine flu cases had been reported, while Minneapolis had 34.

The memory of the 1918 influenza pandemic—when 10,000 Minnesotans died from influenza and pneumonia—was still fresh. Dr. Hugh Arey, Excelsior’s public health official, recommended the closures, even though outings weren’t tempting, with daytime highs of only 12⁰F.

The Minnetonka Record reported the ban was lifted on February 1, 1920, in time for church services, and school resumed on February 2. During the shutdown, no new cases of flu were reported.

Steve Kobs is a volunteer for the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society


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