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Adolphus S. Solomons: A Founder Of The American Red Cross

This is the third part of our look at the life of Adolphus Solomons. Part one appeared in the Nov. 1, 2013 issue; part two ran last month (Dec. 6 issue).

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are from “Adolphus S. Solomons and The Red Cross” by Cyrus Adler, Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, 33, 1934, pages 211-230.

Before describing Adolphus Solomons’s role in the founding of the American Red Cross, it is worthwhile to outline the history of the founding of the International Red Cross and the relationship of the American Red Cross to this organization.

The Red Cross movement is due to the initiation of Henri Dunant, a Swiss gentleman, based upon the experiences at the battle of Solferino, fought on June 24, 1859. He happened upon the field of battle while on a pleasure trip and was so impressed by the scenes he witnessed that three years later he published a book entitled Un Souvenir de Solferino which passed through several editions and was translated into various languages. This resulted in the formation of a society, which in its turn brought about the meeting of the thirty-six delegates, some official and some semi-official, on October 26, 1863, resulting in the more formal meeting of the delegates of the nations at Geneva, that created the International Red Cross. This first convention was concluded on October 22, 1864, and was largely intended for neutralizing hospitals and ambulances and for the amelioration of the wounded in armies in the field. The original convention of 1864 was followed by another in 1868. Most of the nations ratified the conclusions of these two conventions promptly.

Throughout the 1870s and early 1880s, a small group of Americans, inspired by Clara Barton, lobbied for Congressional approval of the Geneva Conventions. This group often met in Solomons’s home. At its first meeting in 1881 Barton was elected president and Solomons a vice president. Solomons helped draft a Senate resolution which if approved would have endorsed the Geneva conventions. Barton and Solomons also drew up a constitution of an organization they named the American Association of the Red Cross in anticipation of Senate approval of this resolution.

But it was not until March 1, 1882 that President Chester Arthur declared that with the advice and consent of the Senate, he acceded to the said convention, and the Senate ratified this action on March 16.

On March 23, one week after, there appeared on behalf of the American Association of the Red Cross, the following  appeal to the American people, which bears among others the signature of A. S. Solomons:

Appeal to the American People

The President having signed the Treaty of the Geneva Conference and the Senate having, on the 16th instant, ratified the President’s actions, the American Association of the Red Cross, organized under provisions of said treaty, purposes to send its agents at once among the sufferers by the recent floods, with a view to the ameliorating of their condition so far as can be done by human aid and the means at hand will permit. Contributions are urgently solicited.

Another conference was held at Geneva, September, 1884, and this was the first time at which an official representation of the United States Government was present. The representatives of the United States on this occasion were Miss Clara Barton, Judge Joseph Sheldon, and Mr. A. S. Solomons, who had become vice-president of the American Association of the Red Cross.

Upon his return from Europe Solomons was interviewed by the Washington Post and provided a detailed account of what had transpired at this Geneva Conference:

About the Author: Dr. Yitzchok Levine served as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey before retiring in 2008. He now teaches as an adjunct at Stevens. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.


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