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March – Red Cross Month in New York City

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Red Cross Month traces its roots to the Christmas Roll Call, an end-of-year fund-raising effort begun during World War I to aid war victims in Europe.

 

The colorful flags that flew over New York City’s lower Fifth Avenue during Red Cross Week in May 1918 were immortalized in these two paintings below.

 

Childe Hassam, Red Cross Drive, May 1918 (Celebration Day)
Childe Hassam, Red Cross Drive, May 1918 (Celebration Day)

 

Caroline Van Hook Bean, Red Cross Week, May 1918, Fifth Avenue, New York
Caroline Van Hook Bean, Red Cross Week, May 1918, Fifth Avenue, New York

As the years progressed, other forms of fundraising replaced the Christmas Roll Call and Red Cross Week, but the idea of a special honor for the Red Cross continued.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed March as Red Cross Month in 1943. While the president proclaims Red Cross Month on the national level, cities and municipalities do the same locally. Here, shown with images from our archives, are some of the ways New York City has celebrated our organization.

 

Mayor Rudy Giuliani presents New York Red Cross chairman Jonathan O’Herron with a proclamation in 2000.
Mayor Rudy Giuliani presents New York Red Cross chairman Jonathan O’Herron with a proclamation in 2000.

Only New York can celebrate Red Cross Month on Broadway. On March 14, 1962, composer Richard Rodgers hosted a benefit for the New York Chapter at the only preview of his musical “No Strings.” Proceeds from the benefit helped fund construction of a new chapter headquarters building near Lincoln Center. “No Strings (see poster below) ran for 580 performances on Broadway and won three Tony Awards

no strings poster

 

 

Mrs. Judson B. Shafer, chairman of the Red Cross Benefit Committee, shows Mr. Rodgers a rendering of the new building.
Mrs. Judson B. Shafer, chairman of the Red Cross Benefit Committee, shows Mr. Rodgers a rendering of the new building.

Through the years, the tradition of hanging flags during Red Cross Week was continued in Red Cross Month. Flags, banners and signage are seen in all New York boroughs on offices, buses, hotels, government buildings and taxis.

 

Representatives of the Central Queens Red Cross Chapter help raise the Red Cross flag at Kennedy Airport in March 1967.
Representatives of the Central Queens Red Cross Chapter help raise the Red Cross flag at Kennedy Airport in March 1967.

 

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Even the control tower at Kennedy Airport has gone red in tribute to Red Cross Month.

jfk tower

The Red Cross has a proud history in Greater New York and continues to answer the call every day to help all those in need.

Learn more about Red Cross history on redcross.org. Follow Nicholas Lemesh on Twitter, @NickLemesh.