Historical Timeline


The International Committee and the Geneva Convention establish treaties among nations. This will lead to the founding of the Red Cross. The Red Cross is based on the work of Henri Dunant in 1859, who conceived of a neutral organization to care for the sick and wounded during war time. Dunant is considered the “founder” of the Red Cross.


The American Association of the Red Cross is founded by Clara Barton. Along with the commitment to aid the sick and wounded, this organization becomes the first Red Cross organization to take on disaster relief work.


“Red Cross Society of Hawaiʻi” is founded in the Islands.

Despite having to deal with the annexation of Hawaiʻi by the United States that year, Princess Kaʻiulani turns her attention to the arrival in Hawaiʻi of sick and wounded solders from the Philippines during the Spanish American War. Kaʻiulani and 300 women mobilize to feed and care for the shiploads of injured soldiers.

Among the organizers of the Red Cross Society of Hawaiʻi are: Mrs. Harold M. Sewell, Society president; Mrs. Sanford B. Dole, first vice-president and Princess Kaʻiulani (heir apparent to the Hawaiian throne after Queen Liliʻuokalani), second vice-president.

The organization dissolves at the end of the war.


Bubonic plague, cholera and typhoid strike Hawaiʻi. The “Hawaiian Red Cross Society” is organized by a group headed by Sanford B. Dole. The Society will dissolve in 1911 due to inactivity.


Two organizations emerge as forerunners of American Red Cross of Hawaiʻi. The War Relief Committee is headed by W.R. Castle and the Allied War Relief is led by Beatrice Castle. The War Relief Committee, formed in September 1914, includes W.R. Farrington, C.J. Hedmann, C.K. Ai and J. A. Rath. The primary objective for the War Relief Committee is to accept and forward funds for orphans and widows of the Great War. The Allied War Relief Committee is composed of women from church guilds who have been sending relief money and hospital garments to Europe since mid-1914.


August 23, 1917 – The American Red Cross of Hawaiʻi is born in Honolulu.

World War I relief work had begun in Hawaii under the auspices of the War Relief Committee. On this date, the War Relief Committee is officially chartered by the American Red Cross as the “Honolulu Chapter.” A chapter is also formed in Hilo.

The ʻIolani Palace Throne Room is opened to Red Cross volunteers to prepare surgical dressings for the hospitals overseas during World War I. The University Club Building and the Kilohana Art League Building serve as the headquarters for sewing, knitting and supply packing.

September 14, 1917 – Princess Liliʻuokalani asks her representative, Col. Curtis Iaukea, to present a Red Cross flag to Territorial Gov. Lucius Pinkham. The flag is sewn by 79-year-old deposed Queen Liliʻuokalani and her loyal volunteers during her residence at Washington Place. The making of the flag and the presentation shows the Queen's tremendous support of the Red Cross' efforts during World War I. The flag is raised at ʻIolani Palace.

September 29, 1917 – Hawaii Red Cross holds its first membership drive, leading to 16,000 people joining the organization and raising $35,000.


February 8, 1918 – Junior Red Cross is established in Hawaiʻi.

March 16, 1918 – Red Cross activities combine to form the “Hawaiian Chapter” with four branches: Hawaiʻi, Kauaʻi, Maui and Honolulu.

May 6, 1918 – Second War Fund Drive nets $677,265, an enormous sum of money in the early 1900s. Included in the Drive is a spectacular parade of 2,000 women workers.

July 1918 – War relief work is divided into four departments: surgical dressings, hospital supplies and garments, knitting and refugees. Volunteers, including women, children and men (the firemen of Makiki Station are well known for their knitting), produce 282,838 articles that are sent to the war front.

October 1918 – To supplement funds raised through memberships, the Red Cross opens a small market at the corner of Nuʻuanu and Beretania Streets, selling home-grown fruits and vegetables and used clothing. On opening day, a Honolulu policeman is called in to control the crowd of customers shopping out of patriotism.


Castle and other community leaders, including future Amfac/JMB Hawaii Inc. founder Henry A. Walker, Jr. and Dr. William Baldwin, whose father founded Alexander & Baldwin, were part of a large contingent of Hawaiʻi doctors, nurses, refugee workers, and nurse aides recruited by the Red Cross to travel to Siberia to aid thousands of war refugees. They set up the first Red Cross hospital in Vladivostok, a Pacific port city in Russia. Baldwin became director of the Vladivostok hospital and Walker ran a relief train into the Russian interior picking up refugees and bringing them to Vladivostok.


April 1926 – Red Cross volunteers use canoes to help evacuate residents from a Hawaiian fishing village of Hoʻōpuloa on the South Kona Coast as lava pours out of Mauna Loa’s crater. Hoʻōpuloa is far from any road and transportation is easiest by canoe or steamers. The Red Cross workers paddled frantic residents and their possessions to the nearby village of Milolii. Hoʻōpuloa is destroyed by the lava flow.


Commodore Wilbert Longfellow, founder of the Red Cross Life Saving Corps, visits Hawaiʻi to teach lifesaving techniques to the Hawaiʻi beach boys, including legendary swimmer and surfer Duke Kahanamoku. Longfellow, known as the “amiable whale,” developed the National Red Cross Life Saving Corps in 1914.


April 8, 1937 – Chapter name officially changed to “Hawaiʻi Chapter” with branches on islands of Hawaiʻi, Kauaʻi and Maui.


Red Cross Hawaiʻi Chapter occupies Castle Kindergarten Building on South King Street.

May 1940 – Volunteer Special Services begins in Hawaiʻi. Volunteers are recruited and trained for the Production Corps, Motor Service Corps, Canteen Corps, Home and Service Corps, and Nurse Aid Corps.


December 7, 1941 – When Pearl Harbor is attacked, the Hawaiʻi Chapter becomes the only ARC Chapter in a combat zone and significantly expands operations to include a large segment of the population.

ARC Motor Corps evacuates people from Pearl Harbor area and sets up feeding stations for evacuees.

Canteen Corps opens feeding station at ʻIolani Palace and serves evacuees, truck drivers and other emergency workers. The Corps also serves food at two air bases on Oʻahu and prepares thousands of picnic lunches. The main canteen is located at Kaikoo, the Diamond Head home of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Carter. They provided their home to the Red Cross for the entire war period.

Surgical Dressing Corps, under direction of Mrs. H.A. Walker, make 2,558,458 dressings in 1942 and by May of 1945, 129,996 dressings are produced in a single month.

Knitting and Sewing Corps, made up of 2,300 women and led by Mrs. Le Roy Bush, produces handmade sweaters, socks, beanies, afghans, children’s gas masks in the shape of bunny rabbits, bed shirts, operating gowns, ditty bags and operating tent nets.

Gray Ladies (Hospital and Recreation Corps) work in recreation rooms, run errands for patients, talk to patients, give parties, and lead arts and crafts workshops.


Red Cross Hawaiʻi Chapter moves to 453 South Beretania Street (where the State Capitol now stands). Housed there are administrative offices, the Safety and Nursing Department and the warehouse. The Junior Red Cross is at Crane Park in Kaimukī.


With World War II ended, the Hawaiʻi Chapter turns to home service, nursing, first aid, Junior Red Cross and volunteer service.

April 1, 1946 – Major tidal waves (tsunami) hit Hilo on the Big Island. Waves as large as 55 feet leave a toll of death and destruction in the early morning hours. More than 155 are killed, 163 hospitalized and thousands more injured. The next day, 260 tons of food and supplies arrive from the Honolulu Chapter, transported by ships. Altogether, 446 buildings are destroyed, 549 buildings damaged and 565 families receive Red Cross aid. The Red Cross provides emergency aid to 6,350 people at a cost of more than $370,000.


June 1, 1950 – Mauna Loa erupts on the Big Island. The Red Cross of Hawaiʻi sets up shelters in Kaʻū district and in Kona and brings food, shelter and clothing to lava flow victims.


First Junior Red Cross Leadership Training Camp is held at Kokokahi with 54 teens from 44 schools. The training camp continues until 1954.


February 28, 1955 – Since January, some 200 earthquakes a day hint that a major eruption of Kīlauea on the Big Island is at hand. The eruption occurs as Red Cross opens shelters at Pāhoa and ʻOlaʻa and operate for 69 days. It serves 33,000 meals to 225 disaster victims, volunteers and emergency workers.


November 18, 1958 – A fire at six Aʻala tenements burns. The Red Cross houses 1,528 victims displaced by tenement fires.


August 1, 1959 – Hurricane Dot hits Kauaʻi causing $20 million in damages.

Disaster workers on Oʻahu and Kauaʻi are warned by civil defense agencies and the American Red Cross to prepare for emergency.

Roughly 400 people flee from the beaches and nearly 1,000 people evacuate submerged areas into schools, armories, and public facilities repurposed as emergency shelters.


January 13, 1960 – Kīlauea Volcano erupts from Kīlauea Iki crater. Hawaiʻi Red Cross opens a shelter in Pahoa, serves 20,746 meals and assists 63 families.

May 23, 1960 – A major tidal wave caused by an earthquake in Chile strikes Hilo. Sixty-three people are killed and there are $30 million in damages. At a cost of $390,000, the Hawaiʻi Red Cross provides shelters for 508 people, serves 12,754 meals, passes out 25 tons of clothing, and provides emergency relief.


The Hawaiʻi State Chapter moves into building at 1270 Ala Moana Boulevard, leased from the Ward Estate. With the assistance of the U.S. Engineers, the building is portioned into departments. The Chapter will remain there until 1972.


September 1, 1971 – American Red Cross of Hawaiʻi signs a lease for land in Fort Ruger on the flanks of Diamond Head which will become Red Cross headquarters in the Islands. The 65-year-lease through the U.S. Department of Defense costs just $1.


June 26, 1974 – A groundbreaking ceremony is held at 4155 Diamond Head Road, Fort Ruger. Construction of Hawaiʻi Red Cross headquarters begins. In May 1975, the construction of Hawaiʻi Red Cross headquarters building completed. (Red Cross Chapter moves into the new building, which is known as the Alfred L. Castle Memorial Building.


Hurricane Iwa hits Kauaʻi. It does $94 million in damages. The Hawaiʻi Red Cross provides emergency services for communities hard hit by the winds and high surf.


September 11, 1992 – Hurricane Iniki slams Kauaʻi and Leeward Oʻahu, the strongest and most powerful storm to hit Hawaiʻi. Six people are killed and more than 1,000 injured.

The Red Cross spends $13 million in relief efforts, $4 million of that raised in Hawaiʻi. The Chapter provides thousands of people assistance.


Hawaii Chapter volunteers and paid staff respond to the Korean Airlines Flight 801 crash on Guam, which kills 228 people. The Chapter provides mental health and support services to survivors and families.


May 10, 1999 – Thirty Hawaiʻi Red Cross volunteers respond to the tragic death of seven people during a landslide at Sacred Falls on the Windward side of Oʻahu on Mother’s Day. The volunteers, mostly mental health workers, go to the scene of landslide, as well as to various hospitals to support hospital staff.

September 25, 1999 – Hawaiʻi Red Cross responds to Big Island Air Flight 58 crash on northeast slope of Mauna Loa volcano that kills 10 people. The chapter provides family assistance and support. More than 35 volunteers set up a family assistance center in a Big Island hotel.

November 2, 1999 – Hawaiʻi Red Cross volunteers respond to the murder of seven people at a Xerox office on Nimitz Highway. It is the worst mass murder in Hawaiʻi history.

Red Cross disaster mental health workers provide emotional support and comfort to families and friends of Xerox workers. More than 50 volunteers help the survivors and families deal with the trauma of the tragic event.


February 9, 2001 – In an incident that becomes international news, Pearl Harbor submarine USS Greenville, practicing an emergency surfacing maneuver south of Oʻahu, collides with the Japanese high school training ship Ehime Maru. Nine of the ship’s crewmembers die, including four high school students.

Hawaiʻi Red Cross responds at the request of the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy with translators and mental health workers. More than 20 volunteers work for more than a week providing support to the Japanese Consulate and family members.

March 12, 2001 – Hawaiʻi Red Cross responds to a mercury contamination incident at a Halawa public housing complex that sends 50 people, most of them children, to the hospital.

Thirty volunteers and eight staff members set up an emergency shelter at Halawa District Park for residents who can not return to the contaminated housing complex. The shelter remains open for five nights, housing about 70 residents. The Chapter provides more than 3,500 meals to shelter residents and cleanup operation personnel. Crisis counselors and health nurses are also on hand to provide services to the victims.

September 11, 2001 – Hawaiʻi Red Cross volunteers are on the front lines of the largest disaster response in the history of the American Red Cross: The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Nearly 40 Hawaiʻi volunteers deploy to assist with relief efforts including providing crisis counseling, serving meals to the rescue and recovery workers and assisting victims who lost loved ones.


December 8, 2002 – Super Typhoon Pongsana hits Guam. Hawaiʻi Red Cross sends 10 volunteers to Guam to assist with response and recovery.


August 25, 2005 – Hurricane Katrina, one of the costliest hurricanes in the country’s history, comes out of the Gulf of Mexico and hits Louisiana and other southern states. It does $100 billion in damage. Hawaiʻi Red Cross raises $5 million to provide assistance to families fleeing the Gulf area.


March 2006 – Forty-four days of rain hit Hawaiʻi causing wide-spread damage. Kaloko reservoir on Kauaʻi’s North Shore is breached, resulting in the death of seven people. Hawaiʻi Red Cross assists 129 families at a cost of $75,000.

October 15, 2006 – Earthquake off the Big Island rattles Hawaiʻi, causing power outages and some landslides. Hawaiʻi Red Cross responds, helping 524 people and serving 622 meals. More than 100 volunteers participate in the disaster relief operation.


December 11, 2008 – Heavy rains drench Oʻahu and Kauaʻi, lasting through the new year. The storms cause major flooding across the state. Fourteen homes on Kauaʻi are destroyed and another 172 homes are damaged. Red Cross opens shelters for those affected and provides more than 1,000 meals.


March 2011 – Earthquake in Chile generates a devastating tsunami in Japan and some damage in Hawaiʻi.

As soon as the earthquake occurs in Chile, the Hawaiʻi Red Cross works throughout the night to alert 600 Hawaiʻi disaster volunteers to pre-position supplies and open shelters in case of a tsunami.

At least 47 homes in Kona, Maui and Molokai are affected by the tsunami; 21 are destroyed or have major damage. Red Cross volunteers go out on Coast Guard cutters to get meals to 25 stranded boaters off Keʻehi Lagoon who had gone out to sea to ride out the storm and couldn’t return because the harbors were damaged.

As soon as the “all clear” is signaled in Hawaiʻi, Red Cross begins to organize to assist victims of the tsunami in Japan and send volunteers to provide support on the ground. Hawaiʻi Red Cross receives $4.6 million in donations toward Japan relief.


October 31, 2012 – Hawaiʻi Red Cross volunteers are deployed to New York to assist in relief efforts after Superstorm Sandy hits New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.


August 2014 – Hurricane Iselle hits Hawaiʻi. Hawaiʻi Red Cross opens 32 shelters and an evacuation center, housing 2,041 people in one night. The Big Island is particularly hit hard. The storms cause disruptions of power and water service. KHON2 TV hosts first Hawaiʻi Red Cross telethon for Hawaiʻi disaster relief. A total of $116,605 is raised from the telethon.


October 2016 – Hurricane Matthew slams into the Southeast Coast, leaving entire communities underwater and uprooting thousands of lives. U.S. officials reported damage of at least $10 billion, making Matthew the costliest hurricane since Sandy in 2012. Matthew dumped 13.6 trillion gallons of water on the U.S. The American Red Cross was there to provide shelter, food, relief supplies and hope as the emergency unfolded. At total of 15 Hawaii Red Cross volunteers were deployed to either South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia or Florida, in response to this event.