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World War I in France Seen Through the Lens of Lewis Hine

A hundred years ago, France was caught in the final year of World War I. American photographer Lewis Hine traveled across the country in 1918 for the American Red Cross, documenting their work with refugees, orphans, and wounded soldiers. Lost for decades, his poignant work has recently been made public by the Library of Congress.

Lewis Hine has been acknowledged as one of America’s principal 20th-century photographers, best known for his moving portraits of immigrants on Ellis Island, child laborers in factories and mines, and steel workers balanced on high girders of the Empire State Building.

In World War I, Hine became a photographer for the Red Cross, assigned to record the devastation in Europe and document the need for relief work. In the spring and summer of 1918, he photographed hundreds of war refugees, orphaned children, hospitalized U.S. soldiers, nurses and volunteers, as well as the country’s ruins.

The photographs were intended to drum up support for the Red Cross and appeal to an American audience. Some of these pictures appeared in Red Cross publications, but most of them went into the organization’s archives, where they remained hidden for almost 100 years.

At the end of World War II, the Red Cross deposited its photograph collection — some 50,000 images — at the Library of Congress, where Hine’s work was”lost” due to an eccentric filing code that baffled historians for nearly 40 years. Author Daile Kaplan was finally able to break the code, identify Hine’s photographs, and reintroduce to the world the best of this master’s “lost” photographs, giving him his due, at last, as a true pioneer of photojournalism.

 

lewis-hine-france-ww1-american-red-cross-library-of-congressAmerican troops march through Place d’Iéna and down Avenue du Président Wilson in Paris on July 4,1918.

 

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Nurses lined up after a fire drill at 60 Rue St. Didier, Paris, where the American Red Cross makes “front parcels.”

 

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A French soldier whose face was mutilated in the war, wearing the artificial chin made by Madame Ladd of the American Red Cross.

 

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An overview of war-ravaged Lens, France, on April 11, 1919.

 

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A.F.F.W. drivers of the American Fund for French Wounded. They have assisted the American Red Cross by driving cars for the Children’s Bureau, but are now attached to the Service de Sante, under the French Government.

 

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Lying in the arms of an A.R.C. nurse underneath the crossed flags of France and America, twins only two weeks old, whose father was killed at the front four months before and who, with their mother, are now being cared for by the A.R.C.

 

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Château de Grand Val, Sucy-en-Brie. Country home for refugee children from St. Sulpice. The injured French soldier at the left of the picture is one of the best friends of the children at Grand Val playing their games. Grand Val is a large estate near Paris which has been converted into a country home for the vulnerable children among the refugees received at St. Sulpice in Paris. The American Red Cross sends doctors and nurses to care for these children whose condition improves remarkably in the healthy surroundings.

 

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One of the Afro-American troops entertaining a group of soldiers in the American Red Cross Recreation Hut in Orléans. September, 1918.

 

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Good Morning. Time to open the American Red Cross Recreation Hut for the day at American Military Hospital No. 5 in Auteuil.

 

=> Discover more photographs taken by Lewis Hine for the American Red Cross on the Library of Congress website.

  • Never forget les braves combattants de la Grande Guerre 14-18. Merci à l’Amérique pour le sacrifice de ses soldats.

    Pupille de la nation de la Première Guerre mondiale

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