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"The Sanitary Fair in 1864"

In July 1861, the Union government established the U. S. Sanitary Commission. It was headed by men, but staffed mostly by women, and provided services for the soldiers, including setting up hospitals, hiring nurses, teaching troops how to cook food properly to avoid disease, and raising funds for supplies. A significant way that women worked to raise funds was by organizing "Sanitary Fairs" in major cities around the country. People donated items to sell at the first fair in Chicago in 1863, which raised nearly $100,000. In New York, a huge fair was organized in 1864 that raised more than two million dollars.

Initially, a joint Sanitary Fair between Brooklyn and New York was planned. However, Brooklyn women decided that they should hold their own fair, since they had a strong women's organization capable of organizing such an event. Much of the success of the Brooklyn and Long Island Sanitary Fair must be attributed to Mrs. J. S. Stranahan, president of the Woman's Relief Association. Her energy and great organizing skills were put to work. The Fair was to be held in the Brooklyn Academy of Music building then on Montague St. near Court St., as well as in two buildings to be built just for the Fair. Dances, parades, a daily newspaper, museums, merchandise sales, and auctions and even a cattle show were part of the Fair. The Woman's Relief Association Depot prepared and packaged goods for the soldiers and for hospital use. The Hall of Manufacturers featured new and old wares presented by the leading manufacturers and businessmen of Brooklyn and Long Island. February 22, 1864 was the glorious opening of the Brooklyn and Long Island Sanitary Fair, which was to last for two weeks. By March 8, 1864, the closing day of the Fair, it was announced that the Fair had raised $400,000, which was more money than any other previous fair. It was a great achievement for Brooklyn and Long Island.

For more about the Brooklyn and Long Island Sanitary Fair, see Documents 65, 66, 67, and 68.

Citation - Document 64
The Eagle and Brooklyn, Vol. 1
February 22, 1864
Brooklyn Public Library – Brooklyn Collection

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