The Red Cross Seal
: Keep-well Stories For Little Folks
I am only a tiny bit of paper, with a little green and red color in the
form of a cross or a wreath. I am not much larger than a postage stamp.
I am going to tell you of some of the work I have done for mankind in
this big world, notwithstanding my small size. Please don't think I am
boasting of myself in an unbecoming manner. I was made long, long years
ago, when our grandfathers were just soldiers, and fighting each other
in a long and bloody war.
The mothers and wives of these soldiers were constantly thinking out
some plan by which they could do something for the "boys" at the front.
It is hard to sit with idle hands when those we love are in the thick of
battle, and I sometimes think that the women and children suffer most in
our great wars.
So, in 1862, when the days were very dark, when the battle seemed so
fierce, and when the hospitals, North and South, were crowded with the
sick and wounded, some good ladies of Boston thought of me. They decided
to make me into a stamp, and to sell me to get money to help the sick
soldiers. I was made and sold at a kind of "post-office booth" at many
I did not look then just as I do now--you see the style of my dress has
changed with the change in fashion. I have taken as my color the Red
Cross, the emblem of that great army of workers who, in 1864, first
organized the Red Cross Society at Geneva, Switzerland. This society
works for the sick and suffering; it does not matter under what flag
Did you ever think of what a great thing a flag is? Just a little bit of
cotton with a few colors on it, the red, white and blue, the tri-color
of France; the red, white and black, of Germany; the stars and stripes
of our own free land; or the Red Cross of Greece on a white field, the
flag of the Red Cross Society.
Men have fought and died for the thing which these bits of rag and color
mean to them.
But I am getting away from my story. With all the newness of the idea,
and my very small size, I helped to make nearly a million dollars during
that terrible war between our own beloved States. This money was used
for the benefit of the sick and wounded soldiers.
My mission has always been one of mercy. I cannot but feel good when I
think over the days of the past, and recall to memory the deeds I have
For a long time after that war I had nothing to do but to think of these
past deeds, and, as I thought of the poor fever-stricken soldiers to
whom I had brought medicine to cool their fever, and how I had gotten
bandages to bind the wounds made by shot and shell, I thought sadly that
I was forgotten, and that my mission was ended. These thoughts were sad,
for I knew there was a work to be done, and I wanted to be up and about
it. I wondered if the time would ever come when I could go on another
errand of mercy. I felt that I must be needed somewhere in the big
world, but I hoped I would never see another war.
The time of waiting was a weary one, but one day in 1892 I heard a call
from little Portugal, far across the ocean. I was needed by the Red
Cross there to aid in getting money for the sick and suffering.
Since I answered that call I have been at work in every country in the
world; in coldest Russia, in sunny Italy, and even in far-away
Sometimes I work to provide money for soldiers, for men will not stop
fighting each other, and the Red Cross owes allegiance to the sick and
wounded of every nation. Sometimes I work for the benefit of the
homeless ones; and, again, I work for hospitals for sick children. My
work is broad, indeed.
I have always been happy in this work, for it is a great one, but in the
year 1907 I started the work I like best of all.
It was that year that Miss Emily Bissell, a little woman of Delaware,
did what Jacob Riis suggested. He suggested that Americans adopt the
plan already begun in Norway and Sweden. This was to sell the Red Cross
stamps to aid in raising money for the great fight against tuberculosis.
So the first real seal for this purpose was issued in 1908, and since
that time I have brought to this cause over a million dollars. One
little seal, on which shines a red cross of Greece, for one little
penny, has grown and grown, until with the seals and pennies I have made
over a million dollars to help suffering human beings.
Now, let me tell you how it has been done. I am printed about six weeks
before Christmas. After I am printed, with my red crosses and holly
wreaths, and "Merry Christmas," agents advertise me in every nook and
corner of the country. I go to every little village--especially where
there are women interested in doing good for others.
I am sold to seal packages to go to far-away countries; I am used to
paste on the back of letters; I go everywhere carrying the message of
"Peace and good will to men."
In every place that I go some one is talking and writing about how to
prevent tuberculosis, the "great white plague," as Oliver Wendell Holmes
called it--the terrible disease that has killed so many people--more
than all the wars of the world. Seventy-five to ninety per cent. of all
the money I bring is used in the community in which I am sold.
The money I bring is used to hire nurses to go down into the crowded
city districts to care for the poor consumptives crowded in the tenement
houses. It may help to send a poor little cripple, with tuberculosis of
the hip-joint, to the "Fresh Air Home" in the mountains, where she has
a chance to get well. It often aids in sending a tired, sick mother to
the seashore in summer, where she finds rest and health. It aids in
sending some one to the schools to teach the gospel of fresh air, good
food, and pure water for the children.
So you see my mission has always been one of mercy, hope and health. Yet
I am such a little thing--just a bit of paper, bearing a little red
cross on a white shield, worth only a penny. "Great oaks from little
acorns grow," you know.
1. When were the first stamps used to make money
for charitable purposes?
2. Who first suggested using such stamps to aid
the fight on tuberculosis?
3. Who was Jacob Riis? Who was Oliver Wendell
4. Why is the cross of Greece used on the stamps?
What does it signify?
5. What is done with the money gotten from the
sale of the Red Cross seal?
6. Do you think it a good cause? Why? Will you
join the band of workers who are fighting "the
great white plague?"