News/June 2019
Spit Spreads Death, Mutter Museum

When the Liberty Loan Parade began on September 28, 1918 over 200,000 people crowded along Broad Street to cheer a line of marchers stretching over two miles.

It was to become an iconic moment in the history of Philadelphia and part of the global story of the deadliest flu epidemic the world has ever seen.

Within 72 hours, every bed in Philadelphia’s 31 hospitals was filled. Over the next six weeks, a quarter of the population fell ill and more than 12,000 people died. The disease’s rapid spread paralysed the city and traumatised its inhabitants.

When the pandemic finally ended in early 1919, Philadelphia had lost over 20,000 people. Its death rate was the highest among major American cities.

 

Mutter Museum Liberty Loan Parade

Spit Spreads Death, The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 in Philadelphia, 4th Liberty Loan Parade, 1918. Image: The College of Physicians/Mütter Museum

On 28 September 2019, an interactive parade of light and sound will remember the individuals who lost their lives and the health workers who put their own lives on the line in times of crisis.

Led by multiple banks of dazzling white light, and pulsing with the sounds of a hundred different audio sources held by the marchers, the parade will be a beacon for people to join. Those marching will propel it onwards towards Philadelphia’s City Hall, as a collective act of remembrance and a celebration of the health workers who keep us all safe.

The parade will take place at dusk on 28 September, 2019. The project website is www.spitspreadsdeath.com. Follow the hashtag #SpitSpreadsDeath on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for more news and updates.


Spits Spreads Death: The Parade is created by Blast Theory and commissioned by the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Major support for Spit Spreads Death has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and the Institute for Museum and Library Services, with additional support from the Groff Family Memorial Trust and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, a state agency funded by the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

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