Thursday, May 31, 2012

An American Red Cross Flashback

123 years ago today, the American Red Cross responded to the Johnstown, Pa. flood, where 2,000 people were killed. This date became a significant piece of American and Red Cross history. Up until this point, the American Red Cross was primarily founded as a battlefield relief organization. When our founder, Clara Barton, and volunteers offered assistance to the Johnstown flood, the organization entered into the world of peacetime disaster relief.

Volunteers arrived providing furniture and supplies for flood survivors. Under Barton's direction, the American Red Cross distributed new and used supplies valued at $211,000, and some 25,000 people were helped. They also established "Red Cross Hotels" to house victims. Merchants and businessmen left homeless by the flood were the primary tenants of the hotel, and it was so successful that other hotels were soon built.

The exhaustive news coverage of the Johnstown flood and the relief effort helped establish the American Red Cross as the major disaster relief agency in the United States.

The Johnstown Flood Museum features a display about Barton and the Red Cross, including examples of some of the relief items she distributed, documents, photographs and more.

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