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The 1900 Storm: Tragedy and Triumph

Galveston relief effort was
Barton's last disaster mission

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Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, was 78 years old in September 1900 when the great hurricane struck Galveston. Photo courtesy of the Red Cross.

The Red Cross helping disaster victims is far from an unfamiliar site today. However, in 1900, the Red Cross was a young organization, just 19 years old.

Yet under the leadership of Clara Barton, the American Red Cross helped establish an orphanage for storm victims and helped to acquire lumber to rebuild houses. The organization raised money by selling photographs of the storm devastation.

The Red Cross and the New York World newspaper shared headquarters in Galveston following the 1900 Storm.

The offices were at 25th Street and The Strand. The New York World made an agreement with the Red Cross that if Barton would visit Galveston, all contributions the paper received would go toward the Red Cross efforts.

Barton, then 78 years old, accepted and joined other Red Cross volunteers who traveled to Galveston from Washington, D.C., to administer relief to the people left standing amid the rubble that the 1900 storm piled on the island.

The trip to Galveston was Barton's last disaster operation.

In her written history of the events in Galveston, Barton said her workers "grew pale and ill," and that even she, "who had resisted the effect of so many climates, needed the help of a steadying hand as I walked to the waiting Pullman on the track, courteously tendered free of charge to take us away."

Information taken from Clara Barton's "A Story of the Red Cross;" a historical sketch of the Galveston County Chapter of the American Red Cross prepared by Don Peak, former chapter executive in Galveston; and from information at The Galveston County Historical Museum.
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Published in conjunction with the City of Galveston 1900 Storm Committee.

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