Dr. George Sterling Ryerson Medical Kit

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Object Type
International Humanitarianism and Presence

This medical kit once belonged to Dr. George Sterling Ryerson, a respected surgeon and prominent Torontonian at the end of the 19th century. Like many Canadian men of his social class at that time, Ryerson also belonged to a prestigious local militia unit. His experiences as a military surgeon led him to spearhead the creation of the Canadian Red Cross in 1896.

The imperfect medical arrangements Ryerson and others experienced during the 1885 North West Rebellion highlighted a real need to reform Canada’s military medical service. However, after the conclusion of hostilities the government turned its attention to more pressing matters such as building railways and settling European immigrants on the newly-secured prairies.

With internal reform going nowhere, Ryerson and some of his military and medical colleagues in Toronto tried a series of voluntary organizations as possible alternatives. During a trip to Europe in 1896, Ryerson met with the leaders of the British National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War (an early version of the British Red Cross) to discuss creating a branch of that society in Canada. They agreed to his request.

Equipped with some basic guidelines from the British executive, Ryerson hosted an organizational meeting in his home later that year.  It was at this meeting that the Canadian Red Cross Society was officially born.

The First Geneva Convention (1864), an international treaty concerned with the sick and wounded in war, empowered signatory states to organize volunteer societies that would provide neutral medical assistance on the battlefield. These authorized volunteers would be identified by the red cross emblem, and each country or empire could have only one internationally-recognized “red cross” society of this kind. In 1896 Canada was still a colony within the Britain Empire, so the new Canadian Red Cross became the first colonial branch of the British Red Cross – a status it would retain until 1927.

Dr. George Sterling Ryerson Medical Kit

Medical Kit
Pocket Diary
Dr. Ryerson's pocket diary
Major General Dr. George Ansel Sterling Ryerson
Major General Dr. George Ansel Sterling Ryerson, soldier, regimental surgeon, later Colonel-in-Chief of the Canadian Army Medical Corps, founder of the Red Cross movement in Canada.

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