American Red Cross Lehigh Valley-Bucks Chapter History

The American Red Cross Lehigh Valley-Bucks Chapter is comprised of Bucks, Lehigh and Northampton counties, serving a population of more than 1.2 million people. Our network of generous donors, volunteers and employees share a mission of preventing and alleviating suffering, here at home and around the world.

For more than a century, the American Red Cross has been dedicated to serving people in need. We do this every day because the Red Cross is needed every day. The Chapter’s 100th anniversary was in 2017, and we are an amalgamation of 5 chapters, most started in 1917 at the impetus of World War I.

1941. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the request of the Army and Navy, the American Red Cross is collecting thousands of units of dry plasma as part of the national defense effort. After going through an intricate series of processes, the blood plasma is made ready for delivery after being frozen, dehydrated and sealed hermetically in a glass flask. It is restored to liquid form by the addition of distilled water by the Armed Forces and civilians in case of emergency. Photo by Elwood Johnson/American Red Cross

The American Red Cross was organized on May 21, 1881 by Clara Barton. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter was started in 1916 with branches in surrounding counties including Bucks County.

The Allentown Chapter was chartered on April 30, 1917, chairman E. A. Saleliac at 931 Linden St, Allentown. The Chapter requested a name change to Lehigh County, granted September 19, 1938.

The Easton Chapter was chartered on May 14, 1917, chairman was Edward J. Fox. The first organizational meeting was held on April 19, 1917. The first office was at 118 N. 2nd Street in Easton.

The Catasauqua Chapter was chartered on May 29, 1917, chairman was James S. Stillman and included Catasauqua, North Catasauqua, West Catasauqua and Hokendauqua. The chapter was disbanded and transferred to Lehigh County on March 24, 1944.

June 24, 1963. Allentown, Pennsylvania. American Red Cross beginners swimming class at Fountain Park. Call-Chronicle photo from the American Red Cross.

The Bethlehem Chapter was chartered on June 4, 1917. Dr. William Estes helped organize the chapter. On February 18, 1916 a few women got together to do Red Cross work for European sufferers. They collected monies and produced items to be sent overseas.

The Lower Bucks County Chapter was chartered on October 24, 1955. Bucks County was originally a branch of the Southeast Pennsylvania Chapter (SEPA). The parts of the county that were not in the chapter remained a branch of the SEPA chapter. The chapter was later disbanded and transferred back to SEPA.

The Lehigh Valley Chapter was chartered on July 1, 1988, consisting of the Lehigh County (Allentown and Catasauqua), Bethlehem, and Easton chapters. The counties involved were Northampton and Lehigh.
The present day Lehigh Valley – Bucks Chapter was formed on November 1, 2014, consisting of the counties of Northampton, Lehigh and Bucks.
The chapters in World War I were involved with the feeding of the troops and in production of garments. Throughout both World Wars the chapters enlisted many nurses for both the military and hospitals overseas and in this country.

World War II saw the first cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) courses started, swimming and first aid. Blood collecting was started in World War II. In between the Wars, the chapters responded to national disasters, such as in Florida, and Mississippi. The local chapters were also supportive of the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War. Blood collecting continued during these conflicts.

The Red Cross has an excellent collection of scrapbooks, meeting minutes, and photos from the various chapters, including a collection of World War II uniforms worn by the Red Cross volunteers. All of these are located at 3939 Broadway, Allentown, Pennsylvania. Thanks to the following, for information on the chapters: Shirley Powers, volunteer historian; Annie Werbitsky, volunteer archivist at National; and Jane Ward, staff member, for help with Bucks County.

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