Happy Alaska Day!

•October 18, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Although it is perhaps difficult to imagine today, in 1867, when President Andrew Johnson’s Secretary of State, William Henry Steward, negotiated a sale of Russia’s Alaska territory, the American press and public originally derided the deal as “Seward’s Folly” and mockingly referred to the territory as “Andrew Johnson’s Polar Bear Garden.”


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of ZIGGURAT collection of Dennis Wilhelm and Michael Kinerk

Although the $7.2 million purchase transferred a territory twice the size of the state of Texas to the United States—(586,412 square miles, at a cost of less than two cents and acre)—the public thought little of the frozen tundra. Some of the public disdain for the deal might have also stemmed from its association with the wildly unpopular President Johnson, who would be impeached by Congress the following year. Congress, at least, recognized it as a bargain, and ratified the Alaska deal, and marked the anniversary of the formal transfer of territory on October 18 with Alaska Day.



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Less than three decades after the United States took possession of the territory, a gold strike sparked a stampede of “get-rich quick” prospectors into the region and the American public reconsidered their skepticism regarding the value of their colossal holdings in the Artic North.

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

A world’s fair held in Seattle, Washington in 1909, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, touted the territory’s potential as a source of seafood, lumber, oil, furs and pelts, and other natural resources.




The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

As was typical of international and colonial expositions of this era, The A-Y-P Exposition also had a midway or “pay streak attractions” section featuring “villages” of indigenous peoples, in this instance Igorrote natives of the Philippines and “Eskimos” from Alaska.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

A decade or so later, author, naturalist, and artist, Rockwell Kent put the territory back into American consciousness with his illustrated booklet, Alaska drawings (1919) and travelogue novel, Wilderness, published in 1920.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

During the Great Depression, artists finding employment under Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration Federal Art Projects, took inspiration from, (and showed slightly more sensitivity towards), Alaska’s native peoples and their culture.


Two pastel sketches of totems for posters about Alaska, by WPA artist Jerome Roth

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Oil painting for the Alaska Art Project by Carl R. Saxild,
The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The Wolfsonian also holds a four panel mural study created by Richard Haines in 1941 for a competition to decorate the walls of the U.S. Court House in Anchorage, which depicts Inuit fur-traders and American pioneers and fishermen tapping Alaska’s natural resources.

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Return of the Natives

•October 12, 2017 • 1 Comment

Earlier this week, Wolfsonian art handlers finished dismantling the library installation America the Beautiful: American Indians and the Promotion of National Parks, and began to put up Selling the Golden Leaf: Exoticism in Tobacco Advertising.

America the Beautiful American Indians Installation View3


The former installation—which I had assembled from portfolio plates, puzzles, calendars, advertising brochures, guidebooks, and postcards—examined the ways in which images of Native American peoples were used to promote the National Parks.


Visit by Third Grade students from the Temple Beth Am Day School

Part of the installation focused on the Great Northern Railway Company’s reproduction of Blackfeet Indian portraits by German-American artist Winold Reiss, to promote travel to Glacier National Park.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

It also looked at the Santa Fe Railway’s cultural appropriation of American Indian symbols and imagery to encourage travel to the Grand Canyon.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchased with funds provided by the Mitchell Wolfson, Sr. Foundation

 Finally, the installation also looked at how Seminole Indians were used to attract tourists to Florida’s Everglades National Park in the automotive age.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Even as this installation has come down, new images of native peoples have replaced them on the walls and in the display cases. This new installation—put together by associate librarian Dr. Nicolae Harsanyi—also examines how “exotic” peoples and colonial motifs were used by graphic artists such as Eric Simon and others to sell tobacco products. Here is his report:

Commodity-type products, such as beer, shampoo, gasoline, cigarettes, fast food, soft drinks, detergent, ice cream, and toothpaste, rely heavily on the communicative powers of their advertising and brand names. Images evoking the colonization of the Americas— specifically how the Europeans learned about tobacco and its use from the native populations—frequently occur among the visual strategies employed to promote tobacco products.



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. loan

The development of color lithography in the late 1870s allowed companies to create attractive images to better present their products. The artist for the Exposition cigar box inside label has depicted an allegorical representation of the discovery voyage of Christopher Columbus to America. This label was produced by Schlegel Litho for cigars sold at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The official seal of the 1907 Jamestown Exposition contains symbols evoking Virginia’s colonial and independent pasts—the bust of Pocahontas encircled by a wreath of corn and tobacco, and the two crops white settlers adopted from the indigenous populations of the New World.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca

Long before Detroit became renowned for the production of automobiles, the city had earned a solid reputation for manufacturing cigars and chewing tobacco. Scotten Dillon was a major manufacturer of plug, chewing, and non-cigarette smoking tobacco in Detroit, Michigan between 1852 and 1969. By the 1890s, the firm employed 1,200 workers. A label for fine cut tobacco produced by this company features a Native American man holding in his left hand a small bundle of tobacco leaves while invoking a supernatural power with this outstretched right hand. The Woodland Indian tribes— which included the Ojibwa people—believed that tobacco was the unifying thread of communication between humans and the spiritual powers. When praying to the Creator a native held tobacco in the left hand because it is the hand closest to the heart.

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

Another cigar box inside label features a famous Sioux chief, Red Cloud (1822–1909). Born into the Bad Face band of the Oglala Sioux in the Nebraska Territory, Red Cloud became chief of the Oglala Sioux in 1860. For nine years he led his warriors in campaigns the prevented the U.S. Army from opening up the Bozeman Trail to the Montana goldfields. The Treaty of Fort Laramie was signed by Red Cloud in 1869 after the Army garrisons were withdrawn and their forts burned. He then laid down his arms and lived at the Red Cloud Agency in Nebraska, becoming an advocate of peace who often traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with political leaders and to speak to white audiences. He was deposed as chief of the Oglala in 1881. The Red Cloud brand goes back to 1874 and the then frontier town of Red Cloud, Nebraska, where Red Cloud Stogies were manufactured continuously until a fire destroyed the operation in 1922.

XC2017.08.1.1_000   The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

Cruwell Tabak, a German tobacco company founded in 1705 and still existing today, also emphasized the ceremonial importance of tobacco in this image of a tribal chief with a pipe used on an advertising card from the 1930s. American Indians used tobacco to seal peace treaties between tribes and agreements between individuals. The chief kept a special pipe with a long decorated stem called a peace pipe. The stem could be held between quarreling individuals until they reached an accord—smoking together signified that they had reached an agreement or that a bargain had been sealed.


 The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Born in Germany, Eric Simon (1892–1978) designed advertisements for various German tobacco companies between World War I and World War II. In 1933, he was invited to London to work for Sir William Crawford; as the Nazis took power in Germany, Simon, whose wife was Jewish, decided to remain in England, brought over his family, and ultimately moved to the United States in 1940. Native Americans smoking pipes were a recurrent theme of his designs.


XB2005.12.13.2_052 XB2005.12.13.61_000    XB2005.12.13.75_000.jpg   XB2005.12.13.8_035.jpg

  The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The installation Selling the Golden Leaf opens today and will be on view through April 1, 2018.


Meet the Fokkers: KLM Founded This Day in History

•October 6, 2017 • Leave a Comment



Wolfsonian Curator Silvia Barisione providing museum staff with a preview tour of KLM materials exhibited in Modern Dutch Design, November 18, 2016June 11, 2017

On this date in 1919, KLM was formally founded, making the company the oldest airline still operating under its original name. As the Netherlands had remained neutral during the First World War, Dutch aeronautics had not developed at the pace that it had among the belligerent nations. To revive Dutch interest and popularize the nation’s role in post-war commercial air travel, aviator and lieutenant Albert Plesman helped organize the Eerste Luchtverkeer Tentoonstelling Amsterdam (ELTA, or the “First Aviation Exhibition Amsterdam”) in the summer of 1919, inviting Great Britain, France, and Italy “to strut their stuff.” The Dutch participants flew in former German Fokker aircraft.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The airshow and races proved so popular, that when eight Dutch businessmen organized an airline company in the aftermath of the exhibition, they named Plesman as the new firm’s administrative director. Queen Wilhelmina lent her support to the venture by bestowing the Koninklijke (“Royal”) predicate to the Luchtvaart Maatschappij (“Airline Company”), which became known by the abbreviated acronym, KLM.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The company’s first flight took place nearly a year later, when Jerry Shaw piloted a leased British four-seat biplane from London to Amsterdam. Flights were scheduled only during fair weather, and were suspended during the 1920 winter season, after which, the company began using their own pilots and Fokker aircraft.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

While royal Dutch mail ships had dominated the sea route from Amsterdam to the Dutch East Indies, KLM launched its first intercontinental flight to the colonies in the Far East in October 1924 with a single-wing Fokker Trimotor manufactured in the Netherlands.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

By September 1929, KLM booked regularly scheduled flights between Amsterdam and Batavia (Jakarta) and Java. Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, the Amsterdam-Batavia route held the record as the longest-distance scheduled air service in the world.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

New Deal Ephemera

•October 5, 2017 • Leave a Comment

While the Caribbean islands and West Coast of Florida bore the brunt of Hurricane Irma’s impact, the storm caused comparatively minor inconveniences here at The Wolfsonian. The threat of the storm initially forced the postponement of a visit by a Junior Seminar History class of Florida International University students and also prompted the cancellation of a meeting of the Ephemera Society of America at our museum. A couple of weeks later, however, three intrepid Ephemera Society members ignored the post-storm news hysteria and came down for a visit and to sit in on my own rescheduled FIU class meeting to review, deconstruct, and critically analyze a display of some of the library’s Great Depression and New Deal-era ephemera.


Photographed by Lynton Gardiner

Diane de Blois, who serves as the editor of the Ephemera Society journal, arrived at the museum with her husband and business partner, Robert Dalton Harris. The couple are co-proprietors of the amazing West Sand Lake, New York-based American ephemera store, aGatherin’. Another Ephemera Society member, Kara Accettola of Little Sages Books, arrived at the museum to observe how The Wolfsonian uses art and ephemeral artifacts to augment university students’ understanding of the cultural history of America during the Great Depression.


Photographed by Lynton Gardiner

The twenty undergraduate students taking my Junior Seminar have been divided up into groups, with each group making weekly oral reports on five types of primary sources: literary;


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchased with funds donated by Mitchell Wolfson, Jr.



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

motion picture;


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

museum objects and artifacts;


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchased with contributions from Sam Herzberg, Leonard Lauder, Juliet Possati, Marco Possati, Mary Vuglen, and the Wolfson Family Foundation/Louis Wolfson, III

and music and sound recordings.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The meeting at The Wolfsonian introduced the students to VTS (Visual Thinking Strategies), image deconstruction, and critical analysis of historical artifacts.


Photographed by Lynton Gardiner

The students and visitors had the opportunity to examine a wide variety of ephemeral items, including: rare books, periodicals, pamphlets, portfolio plates, campaign stickers, advertisements, display cards, fans, pennants, sheet music covers, broadsides, calendars, mimeographed bulletins, posters, song books, and sound recordings.


Photographed by Lynton Gardiner

Collectively the class analyzed the iconography created to promote and critique President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s National Recovery Administration (NRA). The students noted the patriotic colors used for display cards, and we talked about the significance of the use of a Native American “Thunderbird” with lightning bolts and a cogwheel in its talons to symbolize the Administration’s aim of revivifying the nation’s depression-dormant industry.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The students noted how critics on the left caricatured the NRA symbol, with the Socialists converting it into a Capitalist eagle with industry and the nation’s hapless workers in its clutches.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The Communists also lampooned the NRA symbol on the cover of Labor Defender, using photomontage images of starving and striking workers within the hollow outline of the eagle and superimposing a swastika over the same to imply that the program was fascist.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase

Critics from the right also parodied the program, celebrating its demise when the conservative justices of the Supreme Court ruled the NRA unconstitutional.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

The students had the opportunity to view ephemeral items promoting the entire alphabet soup of New Deal programs. These included Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) yearbooks, handbooks, badges, and even mimeographed newsletters produced by the young enrollees themselves.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Promised gift

Much of the brochures, pamphlets, and booklets produced by the Administration to document the economic problems of the Depression and to tout the effectiveness of FDR’s New Deal solutions focused on words and images of jobs and work.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Christopher DeNoon Collection for the Study of New Deal Culture


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Christopher DeNoon Collection for the Study of New Deal Culture


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

Communist detractors devoted considerable effort and propaganda to recruiting African-Americans to their cause, focusing on racism, Southern chain gangs, lynchings, the plight of the Scottsboro Boys, the inequities of sharecropping, and the fact that the percentage of unemployed blacks was double the rate of their white counterparts.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The Roosevelt Administration made successful overtures to African-Americans, wooing and winning over many black Republicans to the Democratic Party by the 1936 presidential election with federal relief and work programs that promised the community equal pay and fair employment. The First Lady, Eleanor, was also recognized as an outspoken and tireless champion of civil rights.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Source unknown


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase

While many of the New Deal programs did much to alleviate the suffering brought on by the Great Depression, it was the outbreak of the Second World War that actually brought America back to full employment. With millions of men shipping off to the European and Pacific front lines, the need for workers to fill war-production assembly required campaigns to bring six million women into the workforce.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Martijn Le Coultre


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Leonard A. Lauder


•October 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Today’s post comes to you from Sharf Associate Librarian Rochelle Pienn. Ms. Pienn works exclusively with the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection at The Wolfsonian–FIU Library. During a recent visit to the Sharf residence in Boston, I had the opportunity to select and pack twenty-eight boxes of unique photograph albums, rare books, and scarce reference works to be added to that collection. Stay tuned for future blog posts describing some of these amazing materials amassed by Fred Sharf over a lifetime of collecting and researching European colonial enterprises across the globe, and the rise of the Japanese Empire in the Far East. Here is Ms. Pienn’s report:

In the aftermath of Mexico’s recent earthquake, images of seemingly impassible mounds of rubble dominate the media. Rescue workers scour the landscape for survivors. While those of us in the tropics endure ominous news of impending hurricanes for days in advance of any actual landfall of dangerous storms, earthquake victims continue to remain shocked by the abrupt arrival of unexpected disaster.

The Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection at The Wolfsonian features first-hand historic images of earthquakes from around the world. These 1882 pictures from an original photograph album show the remains of a church in Panama after a catastrophic earthquake.


The WolfsonianFIU, gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf


The Wolfsonian–FIU, gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

The album, which documents the 1881 arrival of the French Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interoceanique Panama Canal construction workers, also features this haunting albumen print of the post-earthquake landscape.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

The deadly quake’s wreckage contributed to numerous insurmountable obstacles that eventually compelled the French to withdraw from the project.

Over fifty years later on the other side of the globe, Pakistan fell victim to the great Quetta earthquake of 1935. This period album, compiled by a young, unnamed officer of the British Army, provides a firsthand look at his journey, which begins uneventfully in India.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

After passing through Baluchistan, he survives to show the annihilation.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

Previously familiar structures are rendered unrecognizable.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf


The Wolfsonian–FIU, gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

Our man’s unit is lauded for its role in the cleanup and restoration.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

The tragic death toll made for the constantly grim removal of corpses.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

The album ends with before-and-after photos, and a bit of British gallows humor.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

To look back in time at more eyewitness accounts of earthquakes and other historic events, visit The Wolfsonian–FIU Library.


A History of Hurricanes

•September 20, 2017 • Leave a Comment


Sitting in my electricity-less condominium in the wake of Hurricane Irma, I began composing this post in a manner now foreign and unfamiliar: without the use of my laptop. It is hard to remember the last time I took up pen and paper to compose anything longer than a greeting-card note. But having been temporarily deprived—or perhaps blessed—with the loss of electricity, I have had the opportunity to chat more with family and neighbors, hone my domino and card-playing skills, and pick up and read an actual book—at least during daylight hours. It was also a chance to catch up on sleep (since there was little else to do in the sweltering 90-degree heat) and to enjoy the silence only occasionally broken by the raucous cries of flocks of wild conures.


Photographed by author

It is almost impossible to talk about a hurricane without making comparisons to other storms. Given that Irma was the largest-recorded hurricane ever produced in the Atlantic Ocean, and considering the damage it wrought in the Caribbean, the consensus here in Florida is that despite the downed trees and power lines, and the inconvenience of living temporarily without air conditioning and refrigerators, things could have been much, much worse.


Photographed by author

Such sentiments, of course, ring hollow to those South Floridians who have lost loved ones to the storm, or to the thousands of persons whose homes and businesses were destroyed or damaged in the Florida Keys, Marco Island, Ft. Myers, Naples, and as far north as Tampa and Jacksonville. But as all Floridians know (or should know), we live in a region whose past, present, and future has and will always be shaped by hurricanes and tropical storms.


Photographed by Andrea Melendez/The News-Press

I had been living in Florida for about a year when Andrew, a category 5 hurricane, buzzed across the state like a lawnmower in August 1992, completely destroying more than 60,000 homes and damaging more than 124,000 others in Florida City, Homestead, and Cutler Ridge, leaving 250,000 residents homeless. Officially, 38 deaths were attributed to Andrew in Dade County, though those figures may not have included Mexican migrant workers living in trailers in the Everglades Labor Camp when the storm struck.

Courtesy of Sun-Sentinel.com

Courtesy of Sun-Sentinel.com

A major storm striking Miami Beach in 1926 also caused incredible destruction, but far greater loss of life, as residents of the young and relatively small community had relatively little warning and less experience with hurricanes. Believing that the storm had passed, many storm-battered residents attempted to flee across the causeway to the mainland as the eye passed over the island. Hundreds of lives were lost and bodies were never recovered during that storm.

August 201594175

 The Wolfsonian–FIU, Washington Storage Company Archive

As Floridians take stock of the damages as they take down storm shutters, and work crews clear away downed tree limbs and restore power lines, we inevitably draw comparisons not only to past storms in Florida like Wilma and Matthew, but to storms that raged and ravaged our neighbors in other states. Our thoughts go out to those Houston residents still reeling from the aftermath of Harvey’s floodwaters, and our Puerto Ricans and other Caribbean neighbors dealing with Hurricane Irma’s aftermath and now Maria’s winds and waves.

Courtesy of About-Magazine

Courtesy of About-Magazine

In this new era in which we endure hurricanes of increasing intensity, it is important to recognize that those of us living on the coast are all subject to potentially catastrophic storms and need to remain vigilant and prepared. “Superstorm” Sandy (2012) affected the entire eastern seaboard, making landfall and causing major damage in New Jersey and New York, and Gert (2017) brought unprecedented hurricane-force winds to Northern Ireland.


Damage from Superstorm Sandy, courtesy of http://newshour-tc.pbs.org

On September 21, 1938, a category 3 hurricane struck Long Island and Southern New England, bringing heavy rains and a storm surge that flooded coastal communities and destroyed thousands of homes, farms, cottages, bridges, railway lines, 3,300 boats, and 20,000 miles of power and telephone lines.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Seven hundred souls were lost to the storm, and 63,000 people left homeless.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Under Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s leadership, the federal government deployed the armed forces and Red Cross nurses to help in disaster recovery, but also sent out thousands of WPA workers to help with emergency clean-up efforts.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

WPA photographers were on hand to document the devastation, and Federal Writers Project workers in New England were hired to produce a factual and pictorial record of the worst disaster to strike New England in the twentieth century.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The book that they published likely established “a new speed record in book publishing.”


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Today, of course, television, digital photography and video, twitter, and internet sharing allow us to see instantaneously the destruction wrought by hurricanes like Maria, battering our Caribbean neighbors even as I write these lines.


Courtesy of gzps/instagram

The Red Cross in Time of War

•August 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

On August 22, 1864, the twelve nations attending the Geneva Convention adopted an agreement advocating for the non-partisan care of the sick and wounded in times of war, and recognition of the neutrality of medical personnel. The “Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick of Armies in the Field” was the brainchild of Swiss humanitarian Jean-Henri Dunant, and in honor of his nationality, a reverse image of the Swiss flag—a red cross in a field of white—was chosen to adorn doctors’ and nurses’ uniforms, and to mark hospitals and medical supplies. For his efforts in establishing the International Red Cross, Dunant was honored with the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.


The Wolfsonian–FIU Library holds a number of rare photograph albums, books, periodicals, sheet-music covers, and other ephemeral items that document the humanitarian efforts of the Red Cross. During the South African War (1899–1902), Red Cross volunteer nurses played an important role in tending to the sick and wounded during the siege by the Boers of the British forces in the township of Ladysmith.

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection

Medical personnel of the International Red Cross were also active during the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905), tending to the sick and wounded without regard to nationality.



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection

A Photographic Record of the Russo-Japanese War, published in 1905, also lauded the heroic efforts of the International Red Cross and female supporters on the home front in alleviating the suffering of both Russian and Japanese combatants.







The Wolfsonian–FIU, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection

Doctors and nurses from the International Red Cross and the American Red Cross—the latter founded by Clara Barton and Adolphus Solomons in 1881—also served in the First World War (1914–1918).


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helen Palacio Luca

While the Red Cross maintained its neutrality status during the Great War, the belligerents on both sides attempted to use attacks on hospitals and nurses for propaganda purposes. The English nurse Edith Cavall served as the matron of a Brussels clinic that was taken over by the Red Cross when the war broke out. Cavall was arrested and tried by a German military court-martial for helping to smuggle more than 175 British and French soldiers, and Belgian civilians likely to be conscripted, out of German-occupied territory. Despite numerous calls for a pardon, the German High Command considered her Geneva Convention protections forfeited by her own testimony, and she was judged guilty of treason and executed by a German firing squad on October 12, 1915. Her execution prompted a British propaganda campaign against German “barbarism” and inspired thousands of women to sign up as nurses.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

French wartime propaganda also capitalized on alleged German atrocities such as the bombing of Red Cross hospitals, and the murder of Red Cross personnel by the German soldiers. The Wolfsonian–FIU Library possesses two rare mechanical works designed to show German disdain for the Geneva Convention and the neutrality of the Red Cross.





The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Promised Gift

Propaganda postcards also depicted “Hun” soldiers as being so desperately hungry that they killed and ate Red Cross dogs trained to locate wounded soldiers on the front lines.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helen Palacio Luca

During the First World War, President Woodrow Wilson made appeals on behalf of the Red Cross.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Patriotic American magazines, books, postcards, and sheet-music covers all promoted the image of the angelic Red Cross nurse.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helen Palacio Luca


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Pamela K. Harer




The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helen Palacio Luca

Other American posters used the bravery of Red Cross nurses serving on front lines to encourage the public to support the war effort by purchasing war bonds.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Elizabeth Loomis Norton and Richard M. Norton

During the Spanish Civil War (1936–1918) and the Italo-Ethiopian War (1935–1936), the Red Cross emblem was used in propaganda pieces denouncing the “barbarous” atrocities of the enemy, while lauding the humanity of their own side.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

During the Second World War (1939–1945), the nurses and emblem of the Red Cross were prominently displayed in American wartime magazines and broadsides.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Judith Berson-Levinson Collection