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					The American Red Cross
Serving Humanity Since 1881
An exhibit from the
American Red Cross Museum and your local Red Cross

Uncle Sam for the Red Cross
James Montgomery Flagg, 1941.

The Red Cross Movement and the Beginnings of the American Red Cross

I

n October 1863, The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement was created in Geneva, Switzerland, to provide nonpartisan care to the wounded and sick in times of war. The red cross was adopted as the Movement’s emblem at this first International Conference as a symbol of neutrality and was to be used by national relief societies. In August 1864, the Geneva Convention Treaty was signed by the representatives of 12 governments. The extraordinary efforts of Henry Dunant led to the eventual establishment of the International Red Cross.

Henry Dunant, founder of the Red Cross Society.
Photograph: Switzerland, 1864.

The founding of the American Red Cross in 1881 was due to the devotion and dedication of Clara Barton. Today, the organization’s actions, guided by its commitment to humanity and a desire to promote mutual understanding, friendship, cooperation, and lasting peace amongst all peoples, follow these fundamental principles: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality.

Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross.
Photographer: Mathew B. Brady, Washington, D.C., 1866.

Health and Safety Services
Commodore Wilbert E. Longfellow, known as “the amiable whale,” created the National Red Cross Life Saving Corps in 1914. By the time the United States entered the First World War in April 1917, the American Red Cross was the undisputed master of water safety instruction and thus given the Commodore Wilbert E. Longfellow responsibility for teaching lifesaving demonstrates a rescue technique. in army camps and naval stations. The Red Cross Life Saving Corps was the forerunner of the present-day Red Cross water safety program. The American Red Cross has provided health and safety services to people for more than 90 years as part of its mission of emergency prevention and preparedness.
Photographer and location: Unknown.

Community Services
Community Services provides relevant humanitarian services that help particular local groups be safer, healthier and more self-reliant.

Youth Services
Volunteer Gayle Andrews rocks a child from St. Michael's Day Nursery.
Wilmington, Delaware, 1969.

During the late 1960s, the idea of blending youth volunteers into the mainstream of Red Cross service received strong support. In 1971, American Red Cross President George M. Elsey announced a new national plan for volunteer personnel and program development that increased volunteers’ responsibilities. All age groups and segments of the community became involved in diverse capacities. As a result, Red Cross Youth was replaced by Youth Services, which integrated young people into chapter and field unit programs at all levels.

Biomedical Services
The American Red Cross established its first blood center in 1941 and immediately began supplying blood products to the Allies during World War II. In Italy, where plasma was used near the front lines, it was not uncommon to see medical corpsmen trotting beside litters, administering plasma as the wounded were carried from the field. Today, the Red Cross receives more than six million volunteer blood donations a year and serves more than 3,000 hospitals nationwide. Individuals undergoing surgery, accident victims, cancer patients, and hemophiliacs receive lifesaving blood provided by the Red Cross. Along with blood and Taken in a village in Sicily, this photograph plasma, the Red Cross also provides shows an army medic administering blood tissue and bone. plasma to prevent fatal shock.
Photographer: U.S. Army Signal Corp, 1943.

Disaster Services
Although the American Red Cross is not a government agency, its authority to provide disaster relief was formalized when, in 1905, the Red Cross was chartered by Congress to “carry on a system of national and international relief in time of peace and apply the same in mitigating the sufferings caused by pestilence, famine, fire, floods, and other great national calami- An American Red Cross disaster volunteer comforts a child after a tenement fire in ties, and to devise and carry on New York City in 1972. measures for preventing the same.” The charter is not only a grant of power, but also an imposition of duties and obligations to the nation, to disaster victims, and to the people who generously support its work with their donations.

International Services
The American Red Cross is a part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement which symbolizes the unity of all Red Cross work carried out by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), more than 170 Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies around the world and the Magen David Adom in Israel. The mission of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is to relieve human suffering wherever it may be found; protect life and health; ensure respect for the human being, particularly in times of armed conflict and natural disaster; help prevent disease; promote health and social welfare; and encourage voluntary service.

The American Red Cross helped survivors of the Massacre of Tutsi in 1994. Two refugees of Rwanda's brutal massacres seek aid at a Red Cross camp.

Armed Forces Emergency Services
Since the work of Clara Barton on the battlefields of the Civil War, the Red Cross has been in each war and conflict up to the present. Around the clock, around the globe, we keep the American people in touch with members of their family serving in the U.S. military. The Red Cross communication system is capable of reaching family members residing in the largest and smallest American communities, as well as ships at sea, embassies and isolated units.

Alexander Bolden, American Red Cross field director, New York City, makes an emergency call over a field telephone near the front. Korea, circa 1950.


				
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