American Red Cross Canteen
The Huntington American Red Cross Canteen provided soldiers with supplies, food, and medical support during World War I. Huntington, West Virginia, was named the Red Cross Headquarters for the state of West Virginia in 1917. In August 1918, the Huntington Red Cross Canteen was established at the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Railroad station. Huntington was one of the last West Virginian cities with railroad industry to have a canteen. The purpose of the canteen was to provide traveling troops with supplies and food during World War I. The Huntington Red Cross Canteen received monetary and volunteer support from the Huntington community.
Backstory and Context
The American Red Cross, a humanitarian organization to assist the needs of people throughout the United States, was founded on May 21, 1881 in Washington, D.C., by Clara Barton. The Buford Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution established the Huntington Cabell County Chapter of the American Red Cross in 1917. This chapter of the Red Cross held war fund drives, promoted membership campaigns, and provided a surgical dressing’s class that met regularly at Marshall College in 1918. The Junior Red Cross was introduced in the county’s public and private schools in March of 1918, while the Huntington Canteen opened on September 9, 1918 in a building at the C & O Railway Station.
Before World War I, the American Red Cross focused on public health nursing programs, water safety, and first aid programs. After the start of World War I, the organization saw an enormous increase in membership and number of chapters. Local chapters established canteen services in response to the influx of soldiers in transition during the war. The Huntington Red Cross often requested donations of food supplies, including jams and jellies, and expected the canteen to be a community affair, with all residents providing some type of support during the war effort. Patriotism and nationalism served as the main motivation for getting volunteer support. As the influenza pandemic surged through Huntington in the fall and winter of 1918, the canteen also generated reports and completed illness cards concerning the flu-infected soldiers who passed through the C&O Railroad depot. The Huntington Red Cross Canteen closed in 1919, one year to the day after it opened.
The Huntington Cabell County Chapter of the American Red Cross helped in flood relief efforts all through the Ohio River Valley during and after the Huntington flood of 1937. During World War II, the chapter once again raised war fund drives, collected supplies, and even sent services over seas. On December 7, 1943 the Huntington chapter purchased the property at 724 10th Avenue for a new chapter house, and also purchased its first mobile unit for $945. The Huntington chapter participated in their first blood drive in 1943, and established a blood donation center that opened in 1951.
The Huntington chapter of the American Red Cross stayed on a continual 20 hour duty after the Marshall University football plane crash in 1970. After continual growth and development of the chapter, it was decided that a new building would be created. On April 21, 1978, the new Red Cross Center at 1111 Veterans Memorial Boulevard was dedicated and opened. The Huntington Cabell County Chapter of the American Red Cross still helps the community today, and has multiple blood drives each year.