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American National Red Cross Collection

Prints and Photographs Division

Collection digitized? A large portion of the collection is digitized. [View the images in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog]

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Overview of the Collection

The American National Red Cross Collection consists of approximately fifty thousand photographs and their negatives, acquired from the American National Red Cross (A.N.R.C.- also known as the American Red Cross, or A.R.C., which later became its official name). The photos date from the beginning of the twentieth century to 1933, offering pictorial documentation of human endurance in war and in times of national disaster and a visual record of the accomplishments of the American Red Cross in giving relief to peoples all over the world.

Norman H. Davis, the late President of the American Red Cross, believed that this collection belonged to the American people. With this thought he made arrangements for its transfer to the Library of Congress, where it could be properly housed, exhibited, and made available to the public. The collection arrived in 1944 and 1952.

The greater part of the collection relates to World War I and to the reconstruction in Europe in the early 1920s.

Reims - one of the main streets with business going on as usual, May 1919.
Reims - one of the main streets with business going on as usual, May 1919.

http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.01555
Brest - Red Cross workers Mrs. J.S. Lewis (left) and Mrs. E. B. Lutz (right) giving Red Cross ... comfort bags to American soldiers boarding the boat for home. [1919?].Brest - Red Cross workers Mrs. J.S. Lewis (left) and Mrs. E. B. Lutz (right) giving Red Cross ... comfort bags to American soldiers boarding the boat for home. [1919?].
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.01344

Fifty-seven days after the declaration of war by the United States against Germany, the advance guard of the A.R.C. sailed out of New York harbor. On this first ship went Paul Ramey, a photographer who had earlier taken motion pictures of wild animals in Africa. His job was to take pictures of the American Army in France and of Red Cross relief work. Lewis W. Hine, famous for his character studies of children and of Ellis Island immigrants, also went overseas and throughout the collection are many fine examples of his work. At least 32 other photographers' work is present in the collection. (See the American National Red Cross Collection: Rights and Restrictions Information for a list of their names.)

Particularly well-represented in the collection are scenes and events in France, England, Italy, Russia, Albania, the Balkans, and Greece. Other countries of Europe represented in this collection are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Lithuania, Holland, Hungary, Ireland, Rumania and Turkey. The American Red Cross brought food and medical relief to the people of these countries.

The collection also contains photographs of Alaska, Brazil, Canada, Canal Zone, China, Cuba, Guam, Guatemala, Haiti, Hawaii and Japan. There are views of earthquake and flood victims, child welfare, typhus and cholera epidemics in these areas.

Also represented in the collection are Red Cross conventions, committees, home hygiene, hospital work, life saving instruction and occupational therapy. The collection includes many portraits of the personnel of the American Red Cross, the people who have made possible the great work of this organization.

Constantinople, Turkey. Mosque of the Six Minarets, photographed by the American Red Cross. April 1919.Constantinople, Turkey. Mosque of the Six Minarets, photographed by the American Red Cross. April 1919.
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.01242
Red Cross volunteer workers, learning Braille.Red Cross volunteer workers, learning Braille. 1918 Nov.
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.02473

In addition to the original photographs, the photographs include copies of documents and other individuals' and organizations' photographs collected by the organization related to its relief work.

Access and Description

Digital scans of more than of 18,000 5 x 7 inch glass negatives are available online. The descriptions that accompany the images draw primarily on original captions accompanying the images, and the titles for the photos are generally drawn from these sources. To search for topics or names, focusing on A.R.C. negatives, include "anrc" with search terms. Example: Brazil anrc.

Also online are selected photographic prints scanned in the course of fulfilling duplication orders for research, publication, and exhibition.

The overlap among the negatives and photographic prints in the collection is still being explored. Original photographic prints from the collection are represented in both processed and unprocessed collections:

  • Selected photographic prints have been grouped by subject matter into LOTs and can be requested for viewing through routine service in the Prints and Photographs Reading Room. [view descriptions of LOTs]

  • The remainder of the photographic prints are unprocessed and stored off-site. Requests to view them can be submitted through Access to Unprocessed Materials procedures, using an online form. It is important, when requesting items among these thousands of photographic prints, to state a particular subject or geographic focus in order to narrow down the request.

Access to remaining, unprocessed negatives from the collection is very limited, as is the documentation about them. Inquiries should be submitted through Access to Unprocessed Materials procedures.

Rights Information

There are no known restrictions on photographs taken by staff of the American National Red Cross. The rights status for photographs collected from other sources, particularly those created outside the United States, is not known. For more information, see American National Red Cross Collection: Rights and Restrictions Information.

Related Resources

  • The division holds photographic prints documenting Red Cross activities taken by photojournalists, government and commercial photographers, including Toni Frissell and the Office of War Information. [view descriptions of groups (LOTs)] [view negatives]

  • Visual materials transferred from the Clara Barton papers may document some aspects of the organization's history [view descriptions]. The papers are available in the Library of Congress Manuscript Division [view description]. The Manuscript Division also has a microfilm of textual materials from the Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College [view description].

  • Milhollen, Hirst D. "The American Red Cross Collection of Photographs and Negatives" in A Century of Photographs, 1846-1946. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1980: 130-141 (reprinted from the Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress, Feb. 1945). [View this article External link from A Century of Photographs, available online via Hathitrust.org]

  • World War I in Pictures: An Overview of Prints and Photographs Division Collections


Compiled by: P&P staff, partially excerpted from Milhollen, Hirst D. "The American Red Cross Collection of Photographs and Negatives" in A Century of Photographs, 1846-1946. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1980: 130-141 Created: December 2016.

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