Brooklyn Sanitary Fair 1864

One of the little known organizations of the Civil War was the United States Sanitary Commission. This organization was the forerunner of the Red Cross. The Sanitary Commission raised money (25 million dollars), collected donations, worked as nurses, ran kitchens in Army camps, administered hospital ships and organized Sanitary Fairs to support the Federal Army with funds and supplies. These fairs were social events that combined entertainment, education and philanthropy. One of the largest of these fairs was the Brooklyn Sanitary Fair of 1864.There is an on-going exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum about this fair and its artifacts. The Brooklyn Fair was enormously successful and raised $400,000 (the equivalent of 4 million dollars by today’s standards). One of the attractions was the New England Kitchen which showed the kinds of activities done by women in the years before the American Revolution. One of the artifacts for sale was a doll along with an elaborate trousseau which was made by Eliza Lefferts.

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