5. Warm Clothing for the Belgians. September 1915-April 1916

In the autumn of 1915 it was possible for the Commission to renew its appeal for aid to the destitute of the occupied regions. The tension in American and German relations had relaxed, and there was no likelihood of changes in the military situation which would seriously affect the relief problem. Government subsidies provided in general for the current food needs, but there were no funds available to furnish clothing needed by thousands of Belgians and French as the winter approached. The solicitation of gift clothing was the task set for the reorganized C.R.B. committees in the United States.

In preparation for this renewed activity Hoover returned to America and discussed Belgian relief with the Washington authorities.(435) As a result of these discussions the President publicly stated his confidence in the C.R.B. and his approval of its work. Further, at Hoover's suggestion, President Wilson asked a number of men of affairs to join the committee representing the Commission in the United States. The Presidential support and this appointment of what was known as the New York Committee greatly strengthened the Commission's position in America.

The first action of the newly constituted New York Committee of the Commission was to appeal throughout America for clothing, shoes, and blankets for Belgium. The appeal, based upon Hoover's vivid story(436) of the necessities, was launched in November 1915. Not only were the activities of the state and subcommittees revived but numerous independent committees sprang into being for this campaign. The call was for gifts of clothing primarily but the response was generous in cash donations(437) with which the Commission purchased large quantities of materials. The Rockefeller Foundation, which had played such an important part in the first months of the relief work, appropriated $200,000(438) to the Commission for clothing purchases. The success of this appeal indicated very clearly that the Commission's countrywide organization not only could be depended upon to furnish continuous support but would respond to emergency calls with enthusiasm.

The appeal for clothing ended with the spring of 1916 and the coming of warm weather, but two special efforts in the spring of 1916 resulted in generous support to the increasing number of destitute under the care of the Commission. The first of these activities was the Daughters of the American Revolution "Flag Day" collection held on King Albert's birthday. In conjunction with this the New York Committee made a direct appeal to a large number of individuals, with gratifying results. The second effort was the "Allied Bazaar" which took place in June 1916, in which the Commission was one of the participating organizations. In the same month the Commission entered into an arrangement with the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America whereby the Commission's appeal was included in the Council's War Relief appeal. This successful co-operation continued until America entered the war.



HOOVER TO C.R.B., NEW YORK, pointing out the necessity for clothing during the coming winter and proposing that a national campaign for used clothing be organized in America

LONDON, 7 September 1915


The necessity for extremely large quantity of substantial secondhand clothing and new material for remaking it, including boots, has become most imperative throughout Northern France as well as Belgium. In a general way we can see resource for food supply for a few months ahead, but we have no resources which we can apply to clothing and there are some five million people who must be clothed during the winter, of which eighty per cent are women and children. Would like your advice looking toward organizing national campaign for this purpose, it being assigned as Americans' main job for this year. I would suggest that the chairman or most active men of each of our State Committees should be asked to join Commission as members of the Advisory Committee ... and it may be that a few cables from here direct to State Committees would give a useful punch to their exertions. We do not want rubbish, and all material should be sorted and baled before shipment. Want substantial and clean stuff capable of being remade. Should like to have your local committees employ their cash funds in buying new materials such as would be normally required to remake these second-hand garments in our workshops. All such gifts will be transported into Belgium entirely free of cost to donors. I believe you would find it highly advantageous if Goode came over as sort of organizing secretary to relieve you of detail work of this campaign. Kindly let me have your views.




issued from the White House regarding the work of the Commission

3 November 1915

The President and Secretary of State this morning had brief interviews with Mr. Hoover, the Chairman of the Belgian Relief Commission, and it was learned in connection with his visit that the Administration is highly pleased with the way in which the work of the Commission has been done, and with the results accomplished. It has not only kept millions of Belgians alive but has carried its work on to the entire satisfaction of all the belligerent governments concerned and with their approval and co-operation. It has not only not been the source of international complications but has, on the contrary, been a source of international good will and disinterested service and has won the confidence of everyone with whom it had occasion to deal.



PRESIDENT WILSON TO HOOVER, enclosing letters to men whom Hoover had suggested for the Presidential Committee of the Commission in America

3 November 1915

Mr. Herbert Hoover
The New Willard, Washington, D.C.


I am taking great pleasure in sending you the enclosed letters for the several gentlemen about whom you spoke today, and take this occasion again to bid you Godspeed in the splendid work you are doing.

Cordially and sincerely yours


3 November 1915

Mr. Herbert S. Eldridge
c/o Mr. Herbert C. Hoover Washington, D.C.


Mr. Hoover, the Chairman of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, has approached me with regard to difficulties which have arisen in the conduct of that great humanitarian work, in which he feels he needs the support of an enlarged committee of gentlemen of large experience to co-operate with him in settling and conducting the administration of the branch of the Commission in the United States.

I am so much impressed with the importance of this institution, on which the lives of so many people are dependent, that I venture to say to you that I would personally be very much gratified if you could see your way to join such a Committee.

The other gentlemen with whom I am communicating in this particular are Messrs. Alexander Hemphill, Otto T. Bannard, S. R. Bertron, Oscar Straus, Melville E. Stone, and John Beaver White. Of course, you may wish to add others to your number, either from the officers of the Commission or otherwise.(440)

Cordially and sincerely yours




HOOVER TO THE NEW YORK COMMITTEE OF THE COMMISSION FOR RELIEF IN BELGIUM, recommending that the Commission ask the American people to clothe the destitute in Belgium and Northern France during the coming winter

NEW YORK, 6 November 1915

The New York Committee of the Commission for Relief in Belgium
New York



It appears to me that it is necessary for us to go frankly to the American people and ask them to clothe the destitute in the occupied areas of Belgium and Northern France during the coming winter.

There are nine million people in these areas and of these over one-third are now either wholly or partially destitute and are today receiving their food either wholly or partially without payment.

As you know we have set up economic measures based on the ability of a portion of the population to pay for its food, which, with the contributions of other countries, enable us for the present to find the bare minimum of food supplies for the whole nine million people, but we have no reserves with which to provide clothing for the destitute. We now plead for help on their behalf.

Even if these nine million people had money they could not import clothes, or the raw materials with which to manufacture them, through the blockade into an area under military occupation. While the better classes have some clothing with which they can get along, the, destitute are composed of the working classes which naturally had little reserves of clothing when the war broke out. The only additions they have received since then have been the generous contributions from America, Canada, and elsewhere. By Christmas time all the clothing which we have in our various establishments will be exhausted.

It is a certainty that the undue exposure of underclad men, women, and children to the bitter winter will greatly increase mortality. The clothing for these people can be provided only if we receive gift supplies for the purpose. We must depend upon the American people.

We have arranged that the cost of transportation of clothes from any central point in the United States to Belgium and Northern France and of the distribution will be paid for out of funds which have been especially provided so that the whole American contributions will reach the destitute without one cent of deduction.

In the matter of the character of clothing for these people, we are surrounded with a multitude of difficulties. In the first instance the drastic sanitary arrangements made by the governments through whose territory we must pass make the introduction of second-hand clothing, especially in the areas of the operating armies where the want will be greatest, practically impossible.

We therefore must ask frankly for new clothing and more particularly for unmade material. Not that the destitute in Belgium and Northern France are not intensely grateful for second-hand clothing, but as a matter of necessity, we are forced to ask only for unworn stuffs.

It must be borne in mind that those for whom we appeal are living under almost total industrial paralysis; that many millions of them are idle, and that the cry we have from them daily is, "Give us something to do, give us something to work on so that we may contribute to our own support." Therefore if we can provide them with materials they will make up their own clothing. Furthermore the poor of Belgium and Northern France can devise an extraordinary amount of clothing out of a given piece of cloth and can work in such materials to patch up their own clothing. For this reason we are anxious to secure piece goods as far as possible, or alternatively, unworn made-up clothing.

We have established workrooms in all the leading Belgian cities. The one in Brussels alone gives employment to over 15,000 people. This clothing is all distributed free through our local communal committees after they have made a careful investigation of the necessities of each recipient. There are today between thirty and forty thousand of the noblest and best Belgian and French people giving their whole services in the volunteer conduct of these local committees, endeavoring with the greatest possible devotion and under the greatest strain, to eke out to their utmost usefulness the meager supplies which we are able to furnish.

What we urgently need is woolen clothes for women and girls and boys, woolen and cotton materials for babies' clothing, shawls, stockings, jerseys, sweaters, blankets, boots and shoes, underclothing, overcoats, petticoats, suits of all descriptions, and in fact every article in the gamut of warm clothing.

It seems to us that there must be on the shelves of the stores and in the houses of the United States a large amount of remnant cloth materials and new ready-made clothing which would be contributed or could be purchased by the various committees interested in our work on terms of the greatest possible economy.

It seems to me that with the generosity of the American merchant and manufacturer our local committees from monies that may be subscribed to them for this purpose can purchase such materials at far more advantageous rates than can be obtained in any commercial transaction.

It is our hope that we may have large consignments arriving by Christmas and we do not believe that there is any manner in which the American people can better show their inherent instinct of philanthropy and kindliness than by answering this appeal from millions of helpless, destitute people.

Yours faithfully




ROCKEFELLER FOUNDATION TO THE COMMISSION, donating $200,000 for the purchase of clothing

NEW YORK, 6 December 1915

Commission for Relief in Belgium
New York


At a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Rockefeller Foundation held on December 3, it was unanimously voted to appropriate $200,000 to your Commission "for the purchase of material for clothing, the same to be imported by the Commission into Belgium and there manufactured by Belgian labor." I take pleasure in handing you herewith the check of the Rockefeller Foundation for Two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000) for expenditure under the conditions named.

In transmitting this contribution, I take the liberty of saying that your present appeal to the American public would, in my opinion, be strengthened if the basis on which the money needed for clothing was calculated to be $4,000,000. That figure may well be a conservative one in view of the enormous scale of relief operations in Belgium, but I think a circumstantial exhibit of the needs reported from the different sections, and examples showing how you arrived at the total estimate, would impress the public favorably and increase their response.

Very truly yours




QUEEN ELISABETH TO DAUGHTERS OF AMERICAN REVOLUTION, expressing appreciation of the proposed plan of commemorating King Albert's birthday in America by the collection of donations for the destitute of Belgium

30 March 1916

To the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution
Mrs. William Cumming Story, President-General New York

I am delighted with your idea of commemorating April eighth throughout the United States. Nothing could touch me more than to see the King's, my Husband's, birthday celebrated by a manifestation of charity through the distribution of ten million Belgian flags in return for an offering for the destitute in Belgium. I express my grateful appreciation to the Daughters of the American Revolution for this attention, which shows once more the generous and delicate feelings of American women.

To all who will wear the Belgian flags on April eighth and ninth I send, in the name of the Belgian mothers, my heartfelt thanks.



6. The Commission's Appeal for Belgian Children. 1916-1917

Month by month in 1916 the Commission found it increasingly difficult to meet the requirements of the people in the occupied territory. The production of supplies of all sorts had diminished and the consequent necessity of broadening the program of importations, coupled with the phenomenal increase in food and transportation costs, was more than the Commission's income from all sources could bear. From time to time Hoover had succeeded in securing increased government subsidies,(441) but the Commission was rarely free from financial worries, and for this reason and because of shipping problems(442) imports fell short of the theoretical program. The fact remains that the people did not starve but the insufficiency made itself felt in a gradually increasing death rate and a greater prevalence of the diseases of undernutrition particularly among children. Investigation of this situation conducted in the spring and summer of 1916(443), led the Commission again to appeal for public support in order to provide supplementary rations for the children. Throughout 1916-1917 children's relief formed the basis of the Commission's appeal.

One of the most valuable aids in this campaign was a letter supporting the Commission's appeal sent by Pope Benedict XV to Cardinal Gibbons asking the co-operation of the bishops and clergy of the Catholic Church in America.(444)



POPE BENEDICT XV TO CARDINAL GIBBONS, approving the Commission's appeal for Belgian children

THE VATICAN, 28 October 1916

To His Eminence
James Cardinal Gibbons
Archbishop of Baltimore


Profound compassion of a father has again moved Our heart, when We read an important letter recently sent to Us by the distinguished Chairman of the praiseworthy "Commission for Relief in Belgium," describing in few words, yet showing proof of most terrible reality, the pitiable situation of numerous Belgian children who, during two sad years, have been suffering from the lack of that proper nourishment necessary to sustain the tender existence of budding childhood.

In most moving terms the Chairman has described how so many desolate families, after having given everything humanly possible to give, now find themselves with nothing left with which to appease the hunger of their little ones.

He has made Us see, almost as if they were passing before these very eyes, dimmed with tears, the long file, continuously increasing, of Belgian infants waiting for their daily distribution of bread; unhappy little ones whose bodies, emaciated by lack of proper nutrition, bear not infrequently the impress of some deadly sickness brought about by their failure to receive the food which children of their age require.

In his letter the Chairman has told Us how, in order to ward off so much illness, his Commission, displaying the very best of good will and stopping at no sacrifice, has arranged for the distribution to the children of a daily supplementary meal. He sorrowfully adds, however, that unhappily owing to insufficient means, the Commission has found itself unable to prepare and supply such extra food to all the babies who have need of it.

In this emergency the most worthy Chairman has turned his thought and his heart to the millions of children of your happy, noble America, who, in the abundance with which they are now surrounded, could they be given an exact idea of the pitiable and unfortunate condition of their little fellow-creatures in Belgium---more especially if an appealing and encouraging word might reach them from Us---would not hesitate a moment to co-operate heartily, in accordance with some prearranged plan, to come promptly to the relief of these needy Belgian babies.

In view of this condition of affairs, We have considered the work indicated so humanitarian and so holy that, in prompt compliance with the appeal addressed to Us by those who are directing the work of the Commission, We have decided to approve and recommend it, as We hereby do endorse it most heartily by these words to you, My Lord Cardinal, and through you, to the illustrious members of the American Episcopate, to the Clergy, and to every generous heart; but particularly to those children of America upon whom is based every hope of success for the plan devised by this beneficent institution.

Neither do We doubt, in truth, but that the happy children of America, without distinction of faith or of class, at this approach of another winter which it is announced will be even more severe and painful than the, two preceding years, will vie, in their innocent pride, with each other to be able to extend to their little brothers and sisters of the Belgian nation, even though across the immense ocean, the helping hand and the offerings of that charity which knows no distance.

The words of our Divine Redeemer: "As long as you did it to one of these My least brethren, you did it to Me" (Matthew xxv: 40), so appropriately brought to mind in these circumstances, are a sure pledge of heavenly pleasure and reward; while We feel likewise, how greatly, in this period of atrocious fratricidal carnage, even in the eyes of the world, are ennobled the people of more fortunate lands by the performance of true and loving deeds and by the pouring of a little balm upon the wounds of those less fortunate.

In the full faith that Your Eminence, efficaciously aided by all, according to their means and strength, will do as much as may be in your power to favor this initiative, in proof of the loving interest which We have for its successful outcome, We send to you enclosed Our contribution of Ten Thousand Lire, which gift, if it be inadequate to the needs of the occasion and appears slight in itself, is not, however, such, when one considers the condition of this Apostolic See in the present unhappy moment.

At the same time, while being particularly happy to represent upon this earth that Jesus who was the Divine Friend of little children, We invoke from Our heart upon all those who shall second and aid this noble and delicate undertaking an abundance of blessings and heavenly rewards, of which is a pledge the Apostolic Benediction, which, with very special affection, We impart to you, My Lord Cardinal, to your two Colleagues in the Sacred College, to the Bishops, Clergy, and to all the Faithful of the United States.





CARDINAL GIBBONS TO THE CATHOLIC CLERGY IN THE UNITED STATES, enclosing the Pope's letter and offering to forward the proceeds of collections to the Commission

4 December 1916


I am sending you, herewith enclosed, a translation of an autograph letter addressed to me by His Holiness the Pope, through which He makes a most earnest appeal for the little suffering children of Belgium.

The Holy Father has written this letter at the solicitation of Mr. Herbert C. Hoover, Chairman of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, which is the only regular channel by which relief can enter Belgium, and which enjoys the full confidence of His Holiness.

I have no doubt that the extraordinary and touching appeal of His Holiness will be honored by generous contributions, which will cheer His paternal heart and bring seasonable joy and comfort to the little sufferers of Belgium.

Arrangements have been made by which the money collected or its value in food will be distributed by the Commission for Relief in Belgium.

If I may presume to make a suggestion, I respectfully propose that the most efficient and prompt way to relieve the afflicted little ones would be obtained by a general collection in your jurisdiction or by any other means your prudence would suggest.

I will be most happy to forward to the proper authorities the offerings of your Diocese sent to me, and later on, to have published a list of such donations.

With sentiments of the highest esteem, I am

Faithfully Yours in Xto.,

Archbishop of Baltimore


An extremely effective method of appeal for children was the communal support plan, whereby the Commission asked communities, committees, and individuals in America to assume responsibility for children's aid in specific communes in Belgium. This campaign, which was greatly aide by an interesting map prepared and circulated by the Commission, was first started in New York(445) and vicinity, but other sections of the country(446) soon "adopted" the children of areas in Belgium.

Early in 1917 Mr. R. J. Cuddihy started the second Literary Digest campaign for Belgian relief on behalf, in this instance, of the children of Belgium. The appeal was carried in each number of the Literary Digest for several months, and as a result, newspapers opened their column for subscriptions and various committees were formed all over the United States. The total of over $500,000 of direct receipts does not represent the full services of the Literary Digest in this second appeal, for that publication conducted an energetic campaign of national publicity which was of great value to all the C.R.B. committees in every state.

Two institutions with which Hoover was personally connected employed interesting methods of increasing their donations. The American Institute of Mining Engineer organized a campaign to sell shares in "Belgian Kiddies, Ltd."(447) The entire amount of "preferred stock" $120,000 was soon pledged. Under the leadership of John Hays Hammond and W. B. Thompson, the Rocky Mountain Club, composed largely of mining engineers, set up the "Rocky Mountain Club-Hoover Fund for Belgian Relief" and in view of the need in Belgium deferred the erection of a clubhouse for which plans were well advanced. At a complimentary dinner to Hoover on the 20th January 1917 the Fund was open with an anonymous $100,000 donation. Former President Roosevelt acted as Honorary Chairman of the Fund and his characteristic letter to the club members and to men and women of the West(448) was given wide publicity. The New York Chamber of Commerce carried out among its membership a successful campaign which was launched with an address and an appeal made by Hoover on the 1st February 1917.

The "Dollar Christmas Fund"(449) entered wholeheartedly into this 1916 campaign as it did on every other occasion when the Commission asked its help. This was of the nature of a special fund which the Commission applied according to the wishes of the committee. Of like character was the "Forbes Fund"(450) begun in 1916 and continued to the end of relief work and applied by the Commission to the relief of special cases of distress not accessible through general donations.

In the latter part of 1916 and the beginning of 1917, a number of Allied Bazaars were held in Chicago, Boston, and Baltimore patterned after the New York Bazaar held earlier in the year. The Commission's head office and local committees co-operated and received a proportion of the proceeds. At this time, in addition to these special events and to the continued efforts of the country-wide C.R.B. organization, the Commission was recipient of large individual donations. Early in 1917 an anonymous donor gave $60,000. There were many donations of $5,000 and $10,000. Edward S. Harkness gave $100,000 in his own name and $200,000 in his mother's name, adding later $20,000 in both names.

During the same period the appeals of the National Committee for Relief in Belgium to the British Empire had objectives similar to those in the United States. In 1916 the call was for funds to enable the Commission to supply a supplementary meal for school children, and the public responded most generously. During the life of the National Committee an average of almost $500,000 each month was turned over to the Commission for the care of the destitute, and contributions came "from collections of loyal and willing helpers from parts of the Empire so far separated as Birmingham and Auckland, the Seychelles and British Honduras, Wei-hai-wei and Montreal."(451)



from Prospectus of Belgian Kiddies, Ltd.

[NEW YORK, 9 December 1916]

I. The object of this stock issue is to provide one meal per day for ten thousand Belgian children for the year 1917. Each share sold means 365 square meals for one child.

II. Our business is constantly growing and no estimate can be made of the requirements of 1918.

III. Security of the principal is absolutely assured by the personal management of H. C. Hoover and associates.

IV. That no cash dividends will ever be paid is absolutely guaranteed.

V. The stock is probably only part paid and is fully assessable.

VI. The stock is preferred as to holders, the subscribers being preferably taken from the members of the mining and metallurgical professions, and their wives and sisters.

VII. The demand value of the shares shall be $12, preferably payable in advance, but installments will be welcome if more convenient to the subscriber.

The legality of this issue has been passed upon by no one, but the committee can convince anyone of its necessity.




12 March 1917


The action of the Rocky Mountain Club in devoting its energies to the relief of the suffering children of Belgium rang true to the Western spirit, as all of us who have lived in the mountains and the plains have come to know that spirit. I have gladly joined in the movement to do what I can for a gallant little nation which has been cruelly trampled under foot, for no fault of its own, and now lies prostrate, threatened with the loss of its spiritual as well as its physical being. It is the literal truth that rarely since the days of Herod has child life been so menaced as today in Belgium.

I shall not deal with the material side of this question, or tell how 1,250,000 children are compelled to go hungry, and are threatened with disease and slow starvation. All this is being told in the West in speeches, in letters, in literature, in cartoons and in personal pleas. Suffice it to say that Belgium today stands in mortal danger of losing both its bodily life and its soul.

But what of us? What of our soul if like the Levite and the Priest we pass on our business with averted eyes? The nation that turns a deaf ear to the sufferings of ten million people, including a million and a quarter children, is committing moral suicide. Diseases born of want and hunger are spreading with dreadful rapidity among these 1,250,000 children of Belgium. Shall we look idly on while these children die? Other nations do not sit idle. War-torn England and France have given largely. Brave little Holland has cared within her own borders for hundreds of thousands of refugees. The rest of the world has spent $250,000,000 for Belgium. We have contributed only nine millions. Is this enough to make us think that we have done our duty? We say with unctuous self-satisfaction that we have been "kept out of war." We chuckle because in 1916 we sold five billions' worth of products to Europe. Are our souls rotted? Can we see only the dollar sign in the sky? What of our souls if we continue deaf to the crying need of a gallant nation, threatened with extinction through the loss of its first born? Can any man of high and generous nature, having been told the facts, continue to be indifferent?

The West has done much, but it has not done enough. I appeal to the men of the West to follow the Rocky Mountain Club. I appeal to the women of the West to take the thought of wrecked and tormented Belgium to their hearts.

I should like to see every school house in the West a collection agency for the Rocky Mountain Club-Hoover Fund.

I should like to see every Sunday School interested.

I should like to know that every pulpit in the West was ringing with the story.

I should like to see in every city and village a central agency collecting and forwarding relief to Mr. William B. Thompson, the treasurer of the fund, No. 65 West 44th Street.

I should like to see every cattle range a Rocky Mountain Club Fund.

I should like to know that every mining superintendent had addressed his men telling them the story and asking them to contribute each pay day a regular sum, following the example of the miners in South Africa, who are giving ten per cent of their wages.

I should like to see every newspaper open its columns to the cause.

I should like to see every social gathering wind up with a Belgian collection.

I should like to see the West on fire over Belgium's wrongs and Belgium's needs.

I cannot say more. I should be ashamed to say less.




ROCKEFELLER FOUNDATION TO THE COMMISSION, donating the sum of $100,000 toward providing an extra ration for Belgian children

NEW YORK, 4 April 1917

Mr. W. L. Honnold
Director in America of the Commission for Relief in Belgium
New York City


The Executive Committee of the Rockefeller Foundation appropriated yesterday the sum of $100,000 to be made immediately available for the work of the Commission for Relief in Belgium.

The Foundation has complete confidence in the efficiency of the work which you are doing and is impressed with its vital importance. To provide an extra ration for Belgian children is so important a work that it cannot fail to appeal to the American public.

While our committee took no formal action yesterday, it was understood that from month to month you will report your success in securing funds and that in the light of the results which are obtained, the Foundation will consider additional contributions to the Commission.

At a time when so few agencies can guarantee the distribution of aid to war sufferers, the American public will undoubtedly appreciate the opportunity which your organization offers for the expression of sympathy and the giving of assistance.

Yours sincerely



7. Clothing and Special Charities. 1917-1918

Hoover's presence in America in the early months of 1917 added as has been shown, a considerable impetus to the campaign for children's relief. The primary object of his trip, however, was to complete the details of a proposed relief loan to the Commission to be floated in America, the preliminaries having been already arranged with bankers in New York by cable from London.(452), Before the project could be put into effect the German declaration of unrestricted submarine warfare blocked temporarily the movement of the Commission's ships and put a complete stop to all endeavors except the major one of securing a "safe lane for relief cargoes."(453) Since relief supplies could not be moved, Allied subsidies to the Commission, though inadequate to finance the Commission's theoretical program of imports, were more than sufficient to fill the ships which were then available. By the time relief vessels began to move again, important events had occurred directly affecting the Commission.

On the 3d February the United States broke off diplomatic relations with Germany, and on the 6th April declared war. As has been described elsewhere(454) the end of American neutrality did not, as had been anticipated, necessitate a withdrawal of Americans from further participation in the direction of Belgian relief. Outside of occupied regions the Commission's organization remained much the same, but there were important changes in financing relief. America became the source of Allied finance and in the large credits established in favor of the Powers at war with Germany specific provision was made for Belgian and French relief. Each month the Commission received from the United States Treasury $7,500,000 for Belgian and $5,000,000 for French relief. The assumption by the Government of the financial responsibility, which, as Hoover pointed out in his letter of 14th May 1917(455) to his associates, was in no inconsiderable measure due to the campaigns conducted in behalf of the Belgian and French people, made it no longer necessary to appeal for general public support. The majority of collecting committees in America settled their accounts and disbanded after Hoover's announcement in May 1917. A few committees,(456) however, remained inactive for a short time and then resumed their work in the interest of special charities in Belgium.

During the last year of the war the only appeals by the Commission were for used clothing.(457) Two country-wide drives in which the American Red Cross loaned its organization took place, the first during the week of the 18th to 25th March and the second on the 23rd to 30th September 1918. Red Cross chapters everywhere took up the work of collecting, working with the C.R.B. committees where they still existed. Clothing poured into the C.R.B. warehouses where it was unpacked, sorted, and baled for shipment. This campaign in America was accompanied by a similar activity in the United Kingdom under the auspices of the National Committee for Relief in Belgium, whose organization was revived for this purpose. The appeal was for clothing only, but as usual there were large contributions in cash for the purchase of new cloth and shoes. The results of these clothing appeals were beyond expectations. Of gift clothing alone in 1918 the Commission shipped 2,300 tons and in the first few months after the Armistice an additional 7,600 tons.(458)

Except for used clothing and special funds the Commission's appeals for gifts described in this chapter were for the relief of destitution in occupied Belgium only. The Commission shouldered the responsibility of provisioning the people in invaded Northern France(459) five months after the Belgian relief had started, and when it was assured of sufficient government funds to supply each individual regardless of his means with food. Government subsidies, however, were insufficient to meet the increasing demand for warm clothing, and as the years passed the Commission found that the requirements of special relief in the devastated areas, primarily among the children, demanded attention. The people of Northern France participated in the distribution of used clothing secured by the various appeals, and in the last years of the war at Hoover's suggestion generous donors made it possible for the Commission to provide extra meals for French children and to establish child clinics.



HOOVER TO His ASSOCIATES OF THE COMMISSION FOR RELIEF IN BELGIUM, stating that the relief work had now become a responsibility of the whole American nation through subsidies from the American Government, and advising that thereafter no appeals for contributions for general relief would be made

NEW YORK, 14 May 1917


We are sure that the whole American people will be glad to know that through the sympathetic arrangements made by the President and the Secretary of Treasury, the cost of the Belgian and Northern France relief, so far as it is feasible under present shipping conditions, will be borne for the next six months by the American Government. This has been made possible by a loan of $75,000,000 from the United States to the Governments of Belgium and France. The money will be advanced by the Treasury in installments of $12,500,000 per month, of which $7,500,000 will be available for Belgian relief and $5,000,000 for the relief in Northern France. The way is open so that at the termination of the six months thus provided for, application may be made to the Government for further loans. We desire to state that although the Commission has endeavored for many months to secure this gratifying result, we feel that the appeals that have been made by you have largely influenced the Government in finally granting the request of the Belgian and French Governments. Therefore the time, energy, and money expended in your campaign have done more than to bring in immediate contributions; they have helped to insure the relief of Belgium and Northern France throughout the war.

The Commission has long desired Government recognition in order that its work should be more firmly established as a distinctly American undertaking, and we feel that you will join with us in intense satisfaction that the work has now become a responsibility and a duty shared by the whole American nation.

Realizing that each committee and community has adopted its own method of making appeals and collecting funds, we do not purpose suggesting the specific action which you will take in meeting the changed conditions resulting from this gratifying action of our Government, but we outline below, in a few paragraphs, answers to certain general questions that may arise.

1. It will be noted that $12,500,000 per month is much less than the amount which we have stated as necessary to supply the imports required for the limited ration we have endeavored to provide. The explanation lies in that this amount will now cover all of the foodstuffs that we can hope to ship owing to the recent swiftly developed shortage of the world's shipping. Our statements in regard to the amount necessary have been correct and the balance between the $12,500,000 and the former estimate required to give the limited ration will now of necessity be supplied by encroaching upon the country's stock of milk cattle which had been reserved to maintain a supply of fresh milk for the children and to serve as a nucleus from which to restock the country after the war. The importation of meat, particularly fats, has always been one of the most expensive items in our program.

2. It must be clearly understood that the Commission for Relief in Belgium will continue to assume the entire charge of purchasing and transporting all food into Belgium and Northern France. The Commission also will continue to be the only fully regularized vehicle by which money, food, and clothing can be sent into Belgium.

3. The Commercial Exchange Department will continue as heretofore to effect transfers of money into Belgium. By depositing dollars in our New York office or pounds sterling in London, the equivalent in francs will be paid to any person in Belgium provided the name and correct address be supplied. This service extends over practically all of Belgium except for a small restricted portion under military control. Individuals or Committees outside of Belgium can send money to relatives or friends, or support by direct money contributions any of the specially deserving internal charities which use local currency to advantage in payment of wages or in purchasing home-grown products. Over $5,000,000 has been transferred in this way since the belligerent governments gave their official sanction to the operations of this department.

4. The Government payments will commence on June 1st; and we shall be glad to have remittances up to that date, but we make no appeal for contributions thereafter.

5. We suggest that you offer to cancel all pledges made to you for future payments and offer to return any moneys which have been paid in advance on account of maturing pledges.

6. The children of Belgium will have the first call upon all food which is imported, and every effort will be made to maintain the supplementary meal which has been so important a factor up to the present in sustaining the health of millions of children.

7. Naturally, having built up such an effective organization you will desire to keep it alive as far as possible, and we venture to suggest that, although the general relief of the countries involved will now be met by the Government appropriations, emergencies and special conditions may arise which could only be met by private donations. In such circumstances your organization will afford a ready means of meeting the demands of the situation, whatever they may be. Should any of your contributors desire to continue their gifts, notwithstanding the present position, they may be assured that their contributions will be expended sooner or later to great advantage, since in any event relief in many forms will doubtless be required after the war.

8. Finally I wish for myself and my colleagues of the Administration of the Commission to express my sincere appreciation of all the untiring, faithful, and truly beautiful work you have done as organizers and managers, and of the generous response which your long lists of donors have made. My association with you has been to me an inspiring revelation of the great heart of America.

To you as individuals and as organized groups I express my heartfelt thanks.

Chairman, Commission for Relief in Belgium

The Commission suggests that you give the above letter from Mr. Hoover as wide publicity as possible.



HOOVER To NATIONAL COMMITTEE FOR RELIEF IN BELGIUM, expressing appreciation of the work of the Committee in support of the Commission throughout the British Empire

WASHINGTON, 9 June 1917

National Committee for Relief in Belgium London

I should like to express not only my appreciation of the magnificent work of the National Committee during those years of our intimate association but also my gratitude for their resolute and continuous personal support to myself and colleagues of the C.R.B. The vision of great Englishmen in their fidelity to the succor of the people of Belgium in their dreadful suffering and peril has been daily proof to the American people of the rightness of the Allied cause and has contributed in no mean measure to the final conviction of our people that we must enter the struggle to defend civilization from military domination, the character of which the Germans have so effectively demonstrated in Belgium.




SECRETARY NEWTON D. BAKER TO HOOVER, agreeing to Hoover's proposal that the newly drafted men at cantonments be given an opportunity to turn over their discarded civilian clothing for Belgium

WASHINGTON, 4 October 1917

Mr. Herbert C. Hoover
United States Food Administration Washington, D.C.


I am just in receipt of your letter of October 3rd on the subject of securing the cast-off civilian clothing of the drafted men now entering the Cantonments for use by the Commission for Relief in Belgium in response to a pathetic appeal from Belgium for clothing which that Commission has received.

I think that your suggestion is a most excellent one and shall do all that I can to assist you in carrying it out. I enclose herewith copy of a telegram which I have directed to be sent to all commanding generals of the National Army Cantonments.

Very sincerely yours

Secretary of War



HOOVER TO HENRY P. DAVISON, describing the exhaustion of clothing in occupied Belgium and Northern France and asking for the cooperation of the American Red Cross in the collection of used clothing

WASHINGTON, 1 March 1918

Henry P. Davison, Esquire
Chairman of the Red Cross War Council
The American Red Cross, Washington, D.C.


The practical entire exhaustion of cloths, clothing, shoes, and leather in occupied Belgium and Northern France, and the shortage of these necessities in the world's markets, are making it increasingly difficult for the Commission for Relief in Belgium to keep clothed and shod the unfortunate people of these occupied territories. In addition to new material we need gifts of used and surplus clothing and shoes, blankets, flannel, cloth, etc., in large quantities from the people of the United States.

As the Commission has allowed most of its local committees scattered over the United States to disband because of the financial arrangement made last June with our Government, it occurs to me that the Red Cross, with its existing elaborate system of local organizations, would be in excellent situation to conduct this clothing campaign for us. Will you lend the machinery of this organization to collect for the Commission from the people of the country the articles needed by it in its relief work?

Where our own local committees are still intact, we should prefer to give them the choice of carrying on the campaign in their own localities, or of working in co-operation with the Red Cross, or of turning it over entirely to the Red Cross.

From your repeated cordial offers of the co-operation of the American Red Cross in any of the charitable work of our Commission, I have no doubt of the answer you will make to our present request.

Faithfully yours




DAVISON To HOOVER, in answer to the preceding

WASHINGTON, 4 March 1918

Mr. Herbert Hoover
The Commission for Belief in Belgium


In response to your request on behalf of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, the Red Cross will be glad to undertake the collection of used and surplus clothing and other articles for the use of the Commission in its relief work in occupied territories in France and Belgium.

We have set aside the week of March 18th to March 25th for a special campaign for this purpose. We feel certain that the people of the United States will respond generously, and that we will be able to collect for the Commission such quantities of clothing and other articles as it requires to satisfactorily carry on its work of relief. We will send out your appeal to all our Chapters through our Divisional organization. Where your local committees still exist, we trust that this work may be done by such committees in co-operation with our local Chapters in order that the Chapters may feel that they too have a part in this great work.

Cordially yours

(Signed) H. P. DAVISON
Chairman, Red Cross War Council



W. B. POLAND TO SIR WILLIAM GOODE, Proposing that the National Committee's organization take charge of the proposed campaign for used clothing in the United Kingdom

LONDON, 7 March 1918

The Honorary Secretary
The National Committee for Relief in Belgium


The National Committee is undoubtedly aware of the very distressing need for clothing in the occupied territories of Belgium and Northern France. Whatever clothing these countries have received since the beginning of the war has been sent in under the auspices of the Commission for Relief in Belgium and has been entirely inadequate to supply the population. They have been forced to rely almost entirely upon their personal possessions at the beginning of the war, which have now been exhausted. It has been found impossible to obtain the necessary money for the purchase of the new clothing needed and world conditions make it impossible for us to secure this new clothing, even were the money available. We have therefore organized an old-clothing campaign and are appealing to the people in the United States on behalf of the people of the occupied territories. We are anxious that a similar appeal be made in the United Kingdom. The necessary authority has been received from the British Government and we should like the National Committee, through its organization, to take charge of such a campaign. We wish to appeal for old clothing for men, women, and children.

Will you be kind enough to bring this subject before your Executive Committee and advise us whether you are willing to undertake this benevolent work on behalf of the Commission for Relief in Belgium.

Faithfully yours

(Signed) W. B. POLAND
Director for Europe


In the summer of 1918 requests came to the Commission for further aid to the special charities in Belgium, and Hoover sent out one more appeal for this purpose in July of that year. The response to Hoover's letter was particularly gratifying. Not only did a number of committees take upon themselves the responsibility of supporting special charities but many individuals made gifts(462) of generous amounts.



HOOVER TO His ASSOCIATES OF THE COMMISSION FOR RELIEF IN BELGIUM, requesting continued contributions for special charities in Belgium not provided for under general relief

NEW YORK, 8 July 1918


On May 14th, 1917, 1 advised you of the financial arrangement with the United States Government whereby funds were provided for the general rationing of the civilian population of Belgium and occupied France. At the end of six months, because of the further exhaustion of the Belgian and French people and the heightened cost of food and shipping, we were obliged to request an increase in the loans.

In my circular I stated my hope that the various committees of the Commission for Relief in Belgium that had already accomplished so much would hold together despite the new financial arrangement in order to support certain needed special charities and be in position to meet any large emergency. We have had many concrete evidences through such support of the continued interest of our committees in the welfare of the civilian population in the occupied regions; and, over and above the general rationing of these people, the Commission itself has helped to maintain certain internal charities, such as The Little Bees (children's canteens), Assistance to Young Mothers, Discreet Assistance (aid to impoverished persons and families of certain character), Assistance to Artists, War Orphans, Old-Clothing Workshops, Lace Workers, Anti-Tuberculosis League, etc.

In this way these special charities have been maintained, without making a general public appeal for their support, the miscellaneous gifts of money being remitted directly to the charities through our Commercial Exchange Department. The managers of these charities have been in this way supplied with funds for the purchase of local products and to meet special needs. All our information from the "inside" shows how urgently these gifts have been needed and how greatly they have been appreciated. I may quote a few sentences from a late letter from Brussels to our London Office:

Please do not forget when you write to New York to beg all our devoted friends on the other side to continue their campaign to get money for our charity funds. You cannot imagine the good that we are doing. I have told you so several times already but I want to repeat it over and over again. For the moment we are well provided, but in two or three months many of our important gifts will be exhausted, and if by that time we do not get more we will have to give up lots of families who look upon us as their only hope.

It can be readily understood that in providing a general ration for an entire nation the rigorous system necessary to handle such a great project can make little provision for special cases and special needs. These cases, running into hundreds of thousands, of sick and defective children, of infirm old men and women, of the many and increasing victims of tuberculosis, and the host of other individuals requiring special food and care, cannot be taken care of by the general funds. Nor can these general funds be used to provide the small pittances which might justifiably be given to various people in order to keep them off of the soup-lines and allow them to maintain the last shreds of home life and self-respect.

It is for all these cases that the funds provided for the special charities named and others like them are used. There is an increasing need for funds for these cases. The gifts are running low, and our last reports show that the soup-lines of Belgium have increased from one and a half to two and a half million persons. This means that more and more unfortunates have had to give up their last bit of independence.

For three and a half years, these special charities have been maintained by the voluntary services of thousands of splendid men and women in Belgium, who have given unsparingly of their time and energy to carry them on. In all this time they have always looked to the Commission for Relief in Belgium as a definite source of financial aid in times of emergency. We have never refused this aid and cannot now. I should like to see these special charities not only continued, but enabled to expand their usefulness.

Through this memorandum, therefore, I wish not only to convey my appreciation of the assistance already given by the many generous people of America, but to express the hope that this assistance will be continued and increased. I wish particularly to remove any doubt as to the acceptability of contributions to the Commission for Relief in Belgium for the special purposes above indicated.

I, therefore, again announce that any funds donated for these special charities will be gladly received by the C.R.B. and promptly transmitted by it directly to Belgium. This transmission of money is absolutely safeguarded by virtue of an agreement between the belligerent governments, the C.R.B., and the neutral (Spanish and Dutch) protecting Ministers in Brussels.

Chairman, The Commission for Relief in Belgium


The following telegram dispatched to all committees and friends of the Commission terminated the Commission's appeals for financial aid in America and in April 1919 the charitable accounts of the Commission were closed.



COMMISSION TO ITS SUBSCRIBERS, quoting Hoover's report on the conditions in Belgium and Northern France and terminating benevolent financial assistance

NEW YORK, 20 December 1918

Mr. Hoover has cabled that together with Mr. Poland, Director for Europe, a survey of the entire Belgian situation has now been completed. It is a matter of great satisfaction to know that the work of the C.R.B. during the past four years in supplying general sustenance to the entire population and in granting financial aid to various internal charities with the additional assistance rendered since the evacuation has prevented actual starvation in Belgium. It can be positively stated that the whole population has passed through this ordeal without irreparable damage to the national health except for certain classes where there has been undernutrition and where tuberculosis has developed. The Belgians are now prepared to remedy these conditions themselves. The most cheering factor in the condition of the population is the health of the two million Belgian children who have been the object of our utmost solicitude during the past four years of occupation. It can be said without reserve that the health of the children in Belgium today is perhaps even better than under normal conditions as the result of the special measures in feeding applied to them through your generosity. The Belgians have naturally been anxious that external charity should cease the moment their own Government and their private resources were restored and they themselves placed in a position to handle the situation. Mr. Hoover now informs us that this fortunate condition for which we have long been working has arrived and the Belgians would be embarrassed by adding further to the obligations for which they are already deeply grateful. He assures us that all Belgian officials and heads of committees are in agreement that Belgium does not desire further charity from the world except immediate supplies of second-hand clothing. In view of this direct and positive assurance that no further benevolent financial assistance is required we desire to advise you that we cannot solicit further funds for Belgium. We propose to issue Mr. Hoover's message to the press within the next few days but are anxious that you should have this advice before information is given to the public. We shall of course, continue to ship food and clothing as heretofore, purchased with funds provided by the Belgian and French Governments, and we shall solicit used clothing in large amounts.

Acting Chairman, Commission for Relief in Belgium

Chapter 15, continued

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