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January 1, 1982

The American Red Cross: The First Century

JAMA. 1982;247(1):86. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320260064038

Celebratory volumes issued on anniversaries of organizations are rarely serious contributions to history. What makes this volume an exception to the general rule is its relatively short text and abundance of photographs, color posters, broadsides, news clippings, cartoons, and letters. It is a mini-archive, a source of primary documents that historians will be able to use in writing the history not only of welfare and relief practices, but of American culture itself.

Some of the photographs and posters are stunning works of art in their own right. One view from the ceiling of a gigantic warehouse shows two tiny relief workers atop a mountainous pile of relief supplies during World War II—much more effective testimony to the extent of the relief effort than numerical statistics, and a marvellous study in geometric shapes and shadows. The wartime posters document a fascinating shift in conceptions of women. The World War I posters