FACT CHECK: Does This Image Show A Poster From 1918 Encouraging People To Wear Masks?

Elias Atienza and Hannah Hudnall | Contributor

An image shared on Facebook claims to show a poster from 1918 encouraging people to wear face masks during the Spanish flu pandemic.

Verdict: False

The image has been altered. The original poster is about fighting tuberculosis and does not mentions face masks.

Fact Check:

Social media users have been sharing an image of a poster they claim is from 1918 that encourages people to wear face masks. The poster shows a man attempting to stop a ghost-like figure from entering his home as his family hides behind him.

“Wear a mask and wash your hands!” reads the text featured on the poster. “Avoid touching your face. Maintain a safe distance from others.” (RELATED: Viral Post Claims People Can Contract Legionnaires’ Disease From Wearing Face Masks)

However, through a reverse image search, Check Your Fact found the sign is an altered version of a genuine poster. An image of the original can be found on the Library of Congress’ website, which explains the poster was created in 1919 and commissioned by the Red Cross. The message on the original reads, “The next to go. Fight tuberculosis! Red Cross Christmas seal campaign.” There is no mention of face masks or social distancing on the poster.

While the original poster had nothing to do with mask-wearing, the practice was widespread during the Spanish flu pandemic, according to History.com. Some cities even adopted “no spitting” ordinances in order to limit the spread of disease, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in public indoor spaces in areas of “substantial or high transmission.”

Elias Atienza and Hannah Hudnall