History Lesson: SF Had an Anti-Mask League During the 1918 Flu Pandemic Who Rallied Against Face Masks - 2020-04-27
It turns out that, a century ago, San Francisco was home to a movement akin to the "liberate" protests that have been going on around the country, in which city residents formed an Anti-Mask League as the 1918 influenza pandemic extended into January 1919.
Yes, San Francisco may be a progressive place where we embrace science and listen to health experts these days, but a century ago, public fatigue with health orders relating to the influenza pandemic in its second wave incited protest — specifically a local order that, just like we instituted here again a little over a week ago, required surgical-type cloth masks in public to help stop the spread of the virulent strain of the flu.
NPR reporter Tim Mak unearthed this tidbit from San Francisco's past and wrote about it in a Twitter thread last week. It comes via newspaper clippings from January 1919, and historical reporting by local author Gary Kamiya, and Alfred W. Crosby in his book America's Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918. Mak also drew on the SF Chronicle's archives and the University of Michigan's Influenza Encyclopedia.