Where and When?

Title:  Tramway Employees being inoculated against Influenza

Tramway Workers being innoculated against influenza  -  possibly around 1918-1920

  Reproduced with acknowledgement to John Stirling, Currie, Edinburgh:  Nov. 6, 2009   Photographer not known


Enlarge this photo

   Tramway Workers being innoculated against influenza  -  possibly around 1918-1920


Tramway Employees  -  Influenza Inoculations

Old Photo

Thank you to John Stirling for allowing me to reproduce this photo.  The photo is taken from a collection of lantern slides that John rescued from being destroyed in 1974.  The photographer is not known.

Some of the other slides from this series are known to have been taken between about 1910 and 1920.

When and Where?

Can you suggest where and when this photo might have been taken.  The title on the slide is 'Tramway Employees being inoculated against Influenza'.

Spanish Flu?

Might this photo have some connection with the Spanish Flu pandemic that spread across the world from 1918 to 1922?

Here is another lantern slide from the same collection.  It may also be connected with the same pandemic.  It shows girls gargling in a large store, presumably in Edinburgh.


If you have any ideas thoughts about the photo at the top of this page, please email me.

Thank you. 

Peter Stubbs:  December 17, 2009




Liz Miller

Jersey, Channel Islands

Thank you to Liz Miller who replied to my suggestion that the vaccinations might have some connection with the Spanish Flu pandemic that spread across the world from 1918 to 1922.

I have included an extract from Liz's comments below.

Liz wrote:

Date of the Photo?

"I  didn't think that vaccination was invented that early, so checked Wikipedia.   Here's what I found:


"The first significant step towards preventing influenza was the development in 1944 of a killed-virus vaccine for influenza by Thomas Francis Jr.

Application of this observation by Francis allowed his group of researchers at the University of Michigan to develop the first influenza vaccine, with support from the US Army.  The Army was deeply involved in this research due to its experience of influenza n World War I, when thousands of troops were killed by the virus in a matter of months."


"I wonder if it is Smallpox that the tramway workers are being vaccinated against.  On a quick search I can't find when there were outbreaks in the Edinburgh area.   There may have been an outbreak when I was a baby (1943).  Would that fit in with the dress of the Doctors?"

"It will be interesting to see what others come up with!"

Liz Miller, Jersey, Channel Islands:  December 18, 2009

Further Research Needed

Thanks for your comments, Liz.  It looks as if a little more research will be needed.  The title on this slide is 'Tramway Employees being inoculated against Influenza', so it seems to me that influenza is more likely than smallpox.

As for the date, does the style of the tramway workers' caps, or anything else in the photo give a clue?  I've tried looking at a higher resolution copy of this photo but it's still not possible to read the wording on the paper on the table.

Peter Stubbs:  December 19, 2009




Peter Stubbs


I found an article in the British Medical Journal in 1929 that refers to an influenza epidemic that year.  Perhaps this is the year when the photos were taken.

Here are extracts from the BMJ article:

January 1929

"The Registrar General for Scotland reports that during the week ended January 19th deaths from influenza numbered 179, which was 123 more than in the previous week."

Tramway Workers

"The public services suffered severely, for about 250 tramwaymen were off duty largely from this cause, and the police force was reduced by a sick list of 230.

In Edinburgh the number of cases of influenza, though it was generally of a mild type was very large.  As a precautionary measure, the staffs of various hospitals received preventative inoculations

An offer was made by the health department of the city to inoculate staffs of the tramway and other transport services, and this offer was accepted by a large number of men, over 100 tramway workers having been inoculated by January 25th."

The British Medical Journal, February 2, 1929, P.219




Joan Ballantyne

Thank you to Joan Ballantyne who wrote:

Infection Control?

"Whatever happened to infection control? Two hypodermics and a winchester of vaccine.  I wouldn't want to be the last!"

Joan Ballantyne:  Message posted in EdinPhoto Guestbook:  December 18, 2009


Where is it?

Around Edinburgh