Today in Smithsonian History: May 15, 1981
1918 WWI Red Cross recruiting poster by Harrison Fisher. Fisher (1877 – 1934) was an American illustrator born in Brooklyn, NY. After studying at the San Francisco Art Association, he began his career in 1898 as a newspaper and magazine illustrator. He became known particularly for his drawings of women, which won him acclaim as the successor of Charles Dana Gibson.
May 15, 1981 “The American Red Cross, a Century of Humanitarian Progress, 1881-1981” opens at the National Museum of American History, and continues through September 7, 1981.
The American Red Cross was established in Washington, D.C. on May 21, 1881, by Clara Barton (1821 – 1912), who became the first president of the organization. She founded the American chapter after becoming involved in the work of the International Red Cross in 1869 during the Franco-Prussian War.
Barton led one of the group’s first major relief efforts, a response to the Great Fire of 1881 in the Thumb region of Michigan, which occurred on September 4–6, 1881. More than 5,000 people were left homeless by the fire. The Red Cross also led relief efforts after the Johnstown Flood, which occurred on May 31, 1889. More than 2,209 people died and thousands more were injured in or near Johnstown, Pa., in one of the worst disasters in United States history.
The Red Cross established infirmaries and provided housing and supplies to the citizens of Johnstown, Pa., in the months following the devastating flood of 1889. (Photo via Johnstown Area Historical Association)
Posted: 15 May 2017