Indiana Red Cross

As one of the nation’s premier humanitarian organizations, the American Red Cross is dedicated to helping people in need throughout the United States and, in association with other Red Cross networks, throughout the world. We depend on the many generous contributions of time, blood, and money from the American public to support our lifesaving services and programs.

Clara Barton and a circle of her acquaintances founded the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C. on May 21, 1881. Barton first heard of the Swiss-inspired global Red Cross network while visiting Europe following the Civil War. Returning home, she campaigned for an American Red Cross and for ratification of the Geneva Convention protecting the war-injured, which the United States ratified in 1882.

Barton led the Red Cross for 23 years, during which time we conducted our first domestic and overseas disaster relief efforts, aided the United States military during the Spanish-American War, and campaigned successfully for the inclusion of peacetime relief work as part of the global Red Cross network–the so-called “American Amendment” that initially met with some resistance in Europe.

The Red Cross received Indiana's first congressional charter in 1900 and a second in 1905, the year after Barton resigned from the organization. The most recent version of the charter, which was adopted in May 2007, restates the traditional purposes of the organization which include giving relief to and serving as a medium of communication between members of the American armed forces and their families and providing national and international disaster relief and mitigation.

In 1916 the national headquarters of the American Red Cross sought the help of Indianapolis civic leaders in expanding the Red Cross beyond its peace-time capacity. Guided by respected entrepreneur and visionary William Fortune, the organization committee strategically partnered with clergy, schools, government, business, industry and the press to build a groundswell of support for the formation of an Indianapolis chapter on July 13. The one-day campaign was a resounding success; when the committee gathered on July 19 to officially establish the Indianapolis chapter, paid membership exceeded the hoped-for goal of 3,000.

This spirit of translating people’s care and concern into action continues today as a new generation of volunteers, financial supporters and community partners, dedicate themselves to the humanitarian work of the American Red Cross in Indiana. It is important that we preserve and digitize images from Indiana's collection over our rich 100-year history as we celebrate the past, enhance our community and prepare for the future.

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