How the Spanish Flu Affected the Petroleum Industry

Fuels Market News Magazine delves into the NPN archives to see how the sector fared in the 1918 pandemic.  

July 27, 2020

By Keith Reid

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The year was 1918, and a pandemic dubbed Spanish Influenza was raging across the globe. In the U.S., NPN Magazine was busy chronicling the ins and outs of the petroleum industry and made only passing mention of the death toll in its pages.

“Members of the oil industry, especially in the East, where he was widely known, learned with deep regret of the death on October 6 of Vincent M. Ward, manager of the Elk Refining Company… Young Mr. Ward, who was a victim of influenza, had made rapid strides in the oil business since his graduation a few years ago from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.” 

This death notice, found casually buried in a news item in an October 1918 issue of NPN Magazine, provided insight as powerful as it was subtle into the impact of “Spanish Flu” pandemic that would eventually kill somewhere between 20 and 50 million people throughout the world.

NACS has access to over 100 years of NPN Magazine’s archives (it ceased publishing in 2013). Starting with the just-released summer issue of Fuels Market News Magazine—the first published under the NACS Media banner—the magazine will feature historical highlights that parallel the interesting and critical developments seen in the industry today. Want to hear the rest of the story, and see what parallels exist to the COVID-19 pandemic? Read the latest issue of here.

Keith Reid is editor-in-chief of Fuels Market News Magazine and editorial director of Fuels Market News.