Committees and Collaboration

typewritten letter on New York Institute for the Blind letterhead

Letter from VanCleve to superintendents. Read a transcription of this letter

On December 16, 1917, Edward Van Cleve, the Principal of the New York Institute for the Education of the Blind, wrote to other superintendents of schools for the blind to provide information about the disaster. He included a copy of the letter that Frederick Fraser sent him. On December 20, he forwarded suggestions about how they could help. He followed up with a letter to Fraser on January 1, 1918 and reported back to the members on February 16, 1918. 

Letters between Van Cleve, Edward E. Allen, and other members of the Committee during this time are sometimes frantic and seemed to have crossed paths in transit. They represent the planning and strategizing of the directors and superintendents. 

On December 22, 1917, Thomas M. McAloney, superintendent of the Western Pennsylvania Institution for the Blind, and president of the American Instructors for the Blind, proposed appointing a National Committee.  It was decided to form the “Joint Committee of the A.A.I.B. and A.A.W.B. appointed to Aid the Halifax Blinded” and Van Cleve was named chairman. Members included M.E. Miguel (American Foundation for the Blind, New York), Edward E. Allen (Perkins, Boston), O.H. Burritt (Overbrook, Philadelphia), and others. McAloney wrote that he selected this group “partly because they were the ones most familiar with the problems which confront Sir Frederick [Fraser] at this time, and partly because they were so situated geographically that a meeting could be called without unnecessary delay--also they are located in centers where influential assistance could easily be secured."

On December 16, “Mr. Allen called the attention of the Red Cross to the Halifax blinded” and two days later, “he was called to their headquarters in Boston for consultation.” The American Red Cross dispatched Lucy Wright and her assistant, Miss Hamburger, to Halifax and formerly offered their help on January 4, 1918

typewritten letter on American Red Cross letterhead

Letter from the American Red Cross offering support. Read a transcription of this letter.

The Red Cross appointed their own committee to manage and oversee their efforts in Halifax. They named Allen as chairman of the “American Red Cross Committee on Eye Victims of the Halifax Disaster” and Burritt and Van Cleve as “American members”. The Director-General of Civilian Relief, W. Frank Persons, charged the committee “to report very frankly and explicitly the plans that seem most desirable and to estimate the necessary expenditure therefore, and to indicate what proportion of this outlay should, in your judgment, come from the American Red Cross”. 

After receiving a telegram from Fraser on January 9 saying, “Wish you could come to Halifax soon”, Allen headed to Halifax on Thursday, January 10 with Van Cleve. They arrived in Halifax on January 12 and Allen stayed for 14 days

On April 24 through the 26th, 1918, the American Red Cross Committee met at Perkins in Watertown, Massachusetts. Together, the members proposed a budget for the ongoing support for the victims of the Explosion who lost their sight. It included funding for schooling, home teaching, sight saving classes, prevention of blindness, and other categories over a number of years. 

Blind Relief Effort & Legacy »