Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Bicknell, E. mss, 1897-1963, consist primarily of family letters, papers, and photographs of Ernest Percy Bicknell, 1862-1935, vice-chairman of the American Red Cross. Bicknell, born near Bicknell, Indiana, graduated from Indiana University in 1887 and worked for six years as a newspaper reporter, primarily for The Indianapolis News. From 1893-1898 he served as secretary of the Indiana State Board of Charities, then moved to become general superintendent of the Chicago Bureau of Charities. Following the April 1906 San Francisco earthquake Bicknell was commissioned to represent the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois in supervising the distribution of relief funds collected in the Chicago area. It was in this capacity that he first became associated with the American Red Cross and in 1907 was appointed as one of five delegates from the United States to the International Red Cross conference in London. The following year he began his long administrative association with the American Red Cross, first as National Director of Civilian Relief, headquartered in Washington, D.C., 1908-1917, and later as Vice Chairman for Insular and Foreign Operations which position he held until his death in 1935. Both during and following World War I Bicknell spent long periods in Europe studying the relief needs of several countries and numerous refugees. In recognition of his tireless efforts to relieve distress and suffering among various peoples of Europe he received many medals and decorations including the Order of the Crown of Belgium, Order of the Legion of Honor of France, Order of the Crown of Italy, Order of St. Anne of Russia, etc.

Bicknell married twice: first in 1886 to Cora Scott of Freelandville, Indiana, who died in 1888 leaving a son, Clarence Scott Bicknell, and second to Grace Vawter (1864-1952) of Indianapolis in 1891, with whom he had four daughters.

Most of the correspondence in the collection consists of letters from Bicknell to his daughter Constance (1897-1985) or to his wife Grace. Also present is one letter from Constance to her father when she was ten years old, an exchange between Bicknell and Christopher Bush Coleman of the Indiana Historical Bureau in 1930 regarding Bicknell biographical information for a Who's Who publication, and two letters to Constance from the National Red Cross regarding her mother's death in 1952 and acknowledging a gift of some of her father's professional papers in 1963.

Also present in the collection are several photographs of Bicknell, two of his wife, Grace, and a photo album relating to his relief expedition in Constantinople in 1920. A scrapbook and two journals documenting Bicknell's finances, travels, and family activities complete the collection.

An inventory is available.

Purchase. 1993

Collection size: 99 items

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.