University Archives


Clara Barton Receives Access to the Reading Room at the British Museum

In 1869, Clara Barton suffered from ill health and traveled to Europe to recuperate. While there she learned of the Red Cross and aided soldiers and civilians in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. After a visit to Italy in the spring of 1872, she returned to England in the summer. In July 1872, Barton visited the British Museum to copy the stanzas of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" from Julia Ward Howe's Later Lyrics, which Howe published in 1866. This reader's ticket permitted Clara Barton to examine books and manuscripts in the Reading Room of the British Museum. In October 1873, Barton returned to the United States, but her nervous strain continued to hinder her. In 1876, she moved to a sanitarium in Dansville, New York, to regain her health.

CLARA BARTON, Ticket to Reading Room of the British Museum, Printed Card Signed, July 19, 1872, London, England. 2 pp., 3.625" x 2". With envelope, 5.625" x 3.625". Envelope torn on opening; card very good.

Complete Transcript:
3189 / No 232
Not Transferable.
This ticket admits Miss Clara Barton 5 Hewson at Walworth to the Reading Room of the British Museum, for the Term of Six months From the 19th day of July 1872
This Ticket should not be allowed to go out of the Reader's possession; it must be produced if asked for at the Museum; and should be preserved for renewal, or returned if no longer required.
N.B. Readers are not, under any circumstances, to take a Book or MS, out of the Reading Room.
Reader's Signature Clara Barton

[Envelope:] Ticket admitting Clara Barton to the Reading Room of The British Museum 19 July, 1872.
(Was she the earliest American woman to ask for and receive a card?)

Clara Barton (1821-1912) was born in Massachusetts and received a good education though she was painfully shy. Her parents persuaded her to become a schoolteacher and she received her teacher's certificate in 1839. After working as a teacher for a dozen years, she attended the Clinton Liberal Institute in New York to continue her education. In 1852, she successfully opened a free school in Bordentown, the first free school in New Jersey. Demoted after the town built a new school building and hired a male principal, Barton quit. In 1855, she moved to Washington, D.C., and began work as a clerk in the Patent Office, the first woman to receive a substantial clerkship and equal pay with a man. After three years, the administration of James Buchanan fired her because of her "Black Republican" political views. After living with friends in Massachusetts for three years, she returned to Washington and took a position as temporary copyist in the Patent Office. After the Baltimore Riot of April 1861 against Massachusetts troops, Barton nursed forty of the victims back to health and learned valuable lessons about aiding soldiers. She began collecting medical supplies and distributing them to soldiers. In August 1862, she received permission from Quartermaster Daniel Rucker to work on the front lines. Throughout the war, she distributed medicine and food to wounded soldiers in close proximity to the battles of Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. In 1864, General Benjamin Butler placed her in charge of hospitals at the front of the Army of the James. For her Civil War service, Barton became known as the "Angel of the Battlefield" and the "Florence Nightingale of America." After the war, she ran the Office of Missing Soldiers in Washington, helping to locate the remains of more than 22,000 missing soldiers. She also lectured about her experiences and became associated with the women's suffrage movement and the civil rights movement for African Americans. In 1869, she became acquainted with the Red Cross in Switzerland and aided military hospitals during the Franco-Prussian War. In 1881, she founded the American Red Cross and became its first president. She continued to work in the field in response to natural disasters and wars as late as 1900.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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