Letterbooks: American Red Cross, 1876-1893, Early Years

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In 1881 Barton founded the American Red Cross and the first local branch of the society formed in Dansville, New York, where she had a summer home. Correspondence in this group reflects some of the Red Cross’s early relief efforts, in particular to the victims of the Mississippi and Ohio river floods from 1882 to 1884, and a yellow fever epidemic in Florida. In addition, there is one letterbook from Barton’s 1883 employment as Superintendent of the Women's Reformatory Prison in Sherborn, Massachusetts.

The Clara Barton Papers letterbooks include outgoing letters and memos sent by Clara Barton, Julian B. Hubbell, Barton's associate and chief field agent of the Red Cross, and other Red Cross officials such as George H. Pullman and Stephen E. Barton, Barton’s nephew. . The correspondence reflects communications with the International Committee of the Red Cross at Geneva and local Red Cross chapters in the U.S. Also included are copies of telegrams, letters, and narrative reports from various disaster relief operations and records of camp service. Occasionally, copies of Barton’s personal correspondence also appear. While the letterbooks have been divided chronologically, they frequently overlap making it challenging to find all related correspondence for a particular event or time period.

An important note on Letterbooks:

Letterbooks are bound volumes containing copies of correspondence on thin, tissue-like pages. The sender created these copies in order to have a record of outgoing letters. The front of each volume typically contains an index of the included correspondents and subjects. The thin pages in these particular letterbooks present two transcription challenges: text bleed-through and mirror image text from preceding pages. Bleed-through can make transcribing a page more difficult, but try your best to decipher the document. Mark pages of mirror image text as “nothing to transcribe" and go to the proceeding page to view and transcribe the document.

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