American Red Cross Founder’s Day | May 21
(Last Updated On: November 7, 2022)


On May 21st, National American Red Cross Founder’s Day marks the anniversary of the American Red Cross. Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross in 1881 and became the first president of the organization. She led the organization for the next twenty-three years.


The American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization that provides assistance in the United States. It is the designated affiliate of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Headquartered in Washington D.C., the American Red Cross is governed by volunteers. In addition to domestic disaster relief, the American Red Cross also offers services in five other areas:

  • Community services to help the needy
  • Communications services and comfort for military members and their families
  • The collection, processing, and distribution of blood and blood products
  • Educational programs on preparedness, health, and safety
  • International relief and development programs

Like many women during the American Civil War, Clara Barton (1821-1912) rolled up her sleeves, bandaging, and nursing wounded soldiers. Following the war in 1869, she traveled to Europe, and for several years Barton volunteered her time working with the International Red Cross during the Franco-Prussian War. Upon returning to the United States, she was determined to bring the Red Cross to America.

HOW TO OBSERVE American Red Cross Founders Day

Learn more about the American Red Cross, its founder, and its volunteers. Discover local Red Cross history and its impact in your community. Following are a few sites to help you get started:

  • A Story of the Red Cross by Clara Barton
  • Clara Barton by Elizabeth Brown Pryor
  • Blood, Sweat, and Tears: An Oral History of the American Red Cross by Michele Turk

Use #AmericanRedCrossFoundersDay to post on social media.


National Day Calendar continues researching the origins of this Red Cross holiday.


May 21st Celebrated (and Not So Celebrated) History


The Evening Post reports that the velocipede made its appearance in New York City with the inventor Karl Drais. According to the article, these two-wheeled machines (known as bicycles today) seemingly caused the price of a horse to drop!


Following her experiences with the International Red Cross in Europe, Clara Barton brought the knowledge home to the United States and established the American Association of the Red Cross. Today, the organization is the American Red Cross.


Connecticut passes the first speed limit legislation. Motor vehicles were restricted to a maximum of 12 mph in cities and 15 mph in the country.


Sutro and Company of New York City and a member of the New York Stock Exchange became the first company to install the first automatic electric stock quotation board. Despite the advent of an electronic ticker, the ticker tape machine remained in use for more than 30 years.

May 21st Celebrated (and Not So Celebrated) Birthdays

Mary Anning – 1799

In 1821, the fossil hunter found a complete Ichthyosaurus. Two years later she became the first person to discover a complete Plesiosaurus skeleton.

Glenn Curtiss – 1878

The American aviation pioneer advanced aircraft development throughout his lifetime. As an innovator, Curtiss built motorcycles, planes, and several other machines including bicycles. Much like the Wright brothers, it was the bicycle that propelled the inventor toward flight.

Regina Anderson – 1901

A librarian for the New York Public Library, Anderson became an essential member of the Harlem Renaissance. She wrote plays and co-founded the Harlem Experimental Theatre.

John C. Allen – 1907

The American engineer gained recognition in the 1960s for his wooden roller coaster designs.

Mr. T – 1952

“I pity the fool!” ~ Mr. T

Born Lawrence Tureaud, the American actor and professional wrestler came to prominence during the 1980s. Known for his role as B.A. Baracus in the A-Team, he also appeared in several films.

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