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Looking Back: How to Make Influenza Masks 

Click here to read the full front page of the October 25, 1918 issue of the Paso Robles Leader.

Excerpt from the Friday, October 25, 1918 issue of the Paso Robles Leader

–The Red Cross has issued directions for the home manufacture of influenza masks, which, it declares, are absolutely necessary to safeguard the citizens against the further spread of the epidemic. The directions for making the masks are as follows:

From gauze 36 inches wide, cut 36 inches of the selvedge.

Divide into strips 9 inches wide.

Fold each strip into halves, then into thirds, making six thickness of gauze

Turn the raw edges and stitch all four sides to hold firm. (Selvedge need not be turned in. Can be stitched on the sewing machine or by hand.) Mask now measures 7 inches by 6 inches.

Put three pleats on 7-inch ends, lower pleat deeper than the other two to allow room for chin.

Attach a tape 11 inches long to each of the two lower corners.

Attach a tape 13 inches long to each of the two upper corners.

Tape may be one-quarter, one-half or five sixteenths of an inch wide.

Place a black thread in the center of mask to designate the outside.

Historical note from the United States Center for Disease Control:

“The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin. Although there is not universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, it spread worldwide during 1918-1919.  In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in spring 1918. It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States.”

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The newspaper in this column is from the digitized library of the Paso Robles Historical Society Newspaper Preservation Project.

This “Looking Back” view at Paso Robles history comes from one of the hundreds of local newspapers in the Paso Robles Area Historical Society collection. Several local newspapers, dating from the 1800s, have reported on local, national and world events, providing priceless historical views of our community that are not available from any other source. The Historical Society is seeking community support for the multi-phased Newspaper Preservation Project to help fund the transfer of these aged and fragile pages to digital images. See the society website for more information about becoming a member or donating to any phase of this project.

The Paso Robles Daily News is pleased to support this important project. Watch this space for future “Looking Back” articles.

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The news staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote or edited this story from local contributors and press releases. The news staff can be reached at