Total Pageviews

Friday 10 April 2020

The Pandemic, The Simplex Typewriter, and The Little Boy Writer

These past few fraught weeks have been a reminder of the dreadful fate of Raymond E. Koessler, whose typewriter I treasure above all others I own. Raymond was given this Simplex Special No 1 for Christmas in 1913, when he was nine. He wrote many letters with it, as well as little stories, the originals of which I still have safely stored in the Simplex’s box.
Raymond died, aged 14, in 1918, a victim of the pandemic called the “Spanish flu” (Influenza A virus subtype H1N1), which actually had nothing to with Spain, but quite conceivably had the same origins as Coronavirus. Raymond’s typewriter was the subject of my very first post on this blog, more than nine years ago, and this present-day nightmare has me thinking about him yet again.

Raymond is buried at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Cemetery, Cashton, Monroe County, Wisconsin.
We need to be reminded that while the 1918 pandemic spread rapidly, killing 25 million people in just the first six months, it was during its second wave, from October through to December 1918, that the highest death rates were recorded. The immune systems of people of all ages, but particularly young adults, overreacted to the virus - the so-called “cytokine storm”.
Headlines from the La Crosse Tribune and Leader-Press, September-December 1918
A majority of deaths were high among otherwise healthy young adults, aged between 19 and 42. All told, between January 1918 and December 1920, the pandemic infected 500 million people – about a quarter of the world's population at the time. The global death toll is estimated to have been up to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million (more than 675,000 Americans had died by the beginning of 1918, 8459 of them in Wisconsin alone).
The pandemic reached Wisconsin in September 1918. In Monroe County a thousand people contracted the flu. From August 1918 to April, 1919 there were 136 deaths in the county from influenza and pneumonia, or 3.8 deaths for every 1000 people. Raymond had previously suffered from a bout of pneumonia in 1915.
        Raymond’s Simplex was bought by his uncle in La Crosse, 24 miles west of Cashton, at Doerflinger's Department Store, on the corner of 4th and Main. 

The La Crosse Tribune and Leader-Press, Christmas 1912


Bill M said...

If only that typewriter could talk. At least there are the letters.
Perhaps if Raymond had lived we'd be reading about his experiences of 1918.

There are several parallels between 1918 and today's pandemic. Unfortunately I think some at the top have not learned or do not want to learn from the past.

Stay home & stay safe.

Richard P said...

I well remember this story from your original post. It is, sadly, a timely reminder.

J-P said...

A timely reminder indeed. It's a pleasure reading your blog ~ best to you and yours.