The American public purchased millions of American Red Cross Christmas Seals in the early 20th century to help fight tuberculosis (TB). At a penny apiece, Christmas Seal sales raised more than $15 million to combat TB, at the time one of the world’s deadliest killers.
Drawing on a program in Denmark, social worker and Red Cross leader Emily Bissell designed the first American Red Cross Christmas Seal in 1907. Bissell hoped the stamps could be sold to raise funds for an experimental tuberculosis hospital in Wilmington, Del.
The stamps were a success—the first supply sold out in two days. The tradition of an annual, nationwide Red Cross campaign against tuberculosis began. Beautiful stamps were created by many of the nation’s best-known artists and illustrators.
Following 1919 the Red Cross turned the program over to the National Tuberculosis Association. Its successor, the American Lung Association, continues an annual Christmas Seals campaign to combat health concerns such as lung disease, childhood asthma and air pollution.
This holiday season, take a nostalgic tour of the Red Cross Christmas Seal exhibit.