1881 – The American Red Cross provided relief for disaster for the first time. The disaster was the Great Fire of 1881 in Michigan.


Early Red Cross adThe first disaster relief provided by the American Red Cross benefited thousands of fire victims left destitute this day by the Great Fire of 1881.It had been a long hot summer in the ‘thumb-area’ of Michigan and small forest fires were burning. A southwest gale fanned the flames into an inferno. The fire raged for three days, scorching over a million acres… 282 people died in the blaze.

The American Association for the Relief of Misery on the Battlefields was a result of the International Red Cross and the forerunner of the American Association of the Red Cross. Clara Barton was instrumental in establishing the American chapter in 1881.

Over one hundred nations now have Red Cross associations. Each national society carries on its own program; however, all are united in their aim to prevent misery in time of war or peace and serve all people, regardless of race, nationality or religion.

The Red Cross flag (white background with a red cross) is the reverse of Switzerland’s flag where the first Red Cross was founded in 1863 … and that’s how the organization got its name.

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