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American Red Cross A Brief History of the American Red Cross

1821: Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, was born on December 25 in North Oxford, Massachusetts. Died April 12, 1912.
1828: Swiss citizen Jean Henry Dunant, founder of the Red Cross, was born May 8. World Red Cross Day is celebrated annually on his birthday. Died October 30, 1910. Shared first Nobel Prize in 1901 with French humanitarian Frederic Passy.
1862: Dunant published A Memory of Solferino, in which he described an 1859 battle in Italy and how he tried to help the thousands of wounded. He urged creation of war relief societies, leading to the founding of the Red Cross.
1863: A five-member International Committee of the Red Cross was created in Geneva, with Dunant as a member. A red cross on a white background, the inverse of the Swiss flag, was adopted as its emblem.
1864: An international diplomatic conference adopted the first “Geneva Convention” to protect the sick, wounded, and medical personnel on the battlefield. Three more were later added to protect the wounded and sick at sea (1907), prisoners of war (1929), and civilians (1949). Additional protocols governing civil wars were added in 1977.
1881: On May 21, Clara Barton, a former teacher and government worker from Massachusetts, founded the American Association of the Red Cross in Washington, D.C. That same year, the first chapter was established in Dansville, New York. Supplies were shipped to Michigan forest fire victims by New York chapters in the organization’s first disaster relief operation.
1892: The American Red Cross carried out its first international relief program. One million starving Russians received grain from Midwestern farmers.
1900: The U.S. Congress granted the American Red Cross a charter, providing a national mechanism for the American Red Cross to provide services to members of the U.S. Armed Forces and relief to disaster victims at home and abroad. The charter was revised in 1905.
1906: An earthquake and fire destroyed much of San Francisco. President Theodore Roosevelt named the American Red Cross as the agency to lead relief efforts.
1909: Jane Delano, superintendent of Army nurses, joined the Red Cross headquarters in Washington. This was the first step in giving the organization a national nursing corps.
1909: American Red Cross first aid and safety programs began.
1914: Water safety program was established.
1914: The American Red Cross sent a “Mercy Ship” to Europe at the beginning of WW I, which carried surgeons and nurses to aid the wounded on both sides.1917America entered World War I. The American Red Cross became a major humanitarian force with more than 30 million contributors and volunteers, carrying out medical and welfare activities for the armed forces and millions of civilians abroad.
1930: The Red Cross began aiding victims of severe dust storms in the Midwest caused by widespread drought conditions. It distributed government food and seed during the Great Depression, aiding millions of Americans.
1939: The Red Cross established a blood and plasma program and eventually mobilized more than seven million volunteers to carry out national programs in support of the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II. Produced 29 million lifesaving food parcels for prisoners of war, collected 13 million units of blood, and aided 76 million war refugees.
1948: The Red Cross established the first nationwide civilian blood program in Rochester, New York. Added a rare donor program in 1968 and tissue banking in 1985.
1950: Red Cross workers provided humanitarian assistance to U.S. troops in Korea.
1951: President Harry S. Truman established a federal blood program for national defense purposes and named the Red Cross the official blood collecting agency for the country for the duration of the Korean conflict.
1962: Red Cross workers went to Vietnam. By the end of U.S. involvement in 1973, they had responded to two million requests for services to members of the armed forces.
1972: Tropical Storm Agnes ripped through the eastern section of the United States, killing and injuring thousands. More than 29,000 Red Cross volunteers aided some 700,000 people.
1985: Immediately after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licensed the first test to detect the antibody to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, Red Cross Blood Services regions begin testing all newly donated blood.
1985: Through public education programs, the American Red Cross began working to prevent HIV infection.
1988: The Red Cross entered into a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to greatly expand HIV/AIDS education programs nationally.
1989: Hurricane Hugo devastated parts of the Carolinas, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands and was followed shortly after by the Loma Prieta Earthquake in Northern California. The Red Cross spent some $224 million on these and other disasters that year.
1990: The American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing and Information Center opened after captured Nazi documents in the archives of the former Soviet Union were released, enabling the Red Cross to trace the fate of thousands of victims.
1990: Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Services workers followed U.S. troops to Operation Desert Shield/Storm in the Middle East to provide emergency communications and other humanitarian services.
1991: Elizabeth Dole became President of the American Red Cross. She is the second woman President of the organization since Clara Barton.
1992: On August 24, Hurricane Andrew devastated parts of Florida and Louisiana. Some 14,800 Red Cross disasters workers mobilized in the single most comprehensive and expensive disaster relief effort in Red Cross history—$83.7 million.
1993: In April, massive flooding began in the Midwest and continued through the summer months, damaging or destroying more than 56,000 homes. During this disaster, the Red Cross sheltered more than 15,400 people in 193 shelters, served 2.8 million meals to disaster victims and emergency workers, and provided emergency assistance to some 35,800 families.
1995: The American Red Cross assisted victims of the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City. More than 9,000 Red Cross workers were involved in helping with a variety of needs ranging from financial assistance to trauma counseling.
1996: In March, the American Red Cross implemented the HIV p24 antigen assay test within 24 hours of its approval by the Food and drug Administration. This test further reduces the risk of transmission to 1:676,000 per unit of blood transfused.