Christmas Seal organizer is topic of Paris Hill talk

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PARIS – The Paris Historical Society and a historian from Delaware will present a program on Emily P. Bissell, a social activist who organized the Christmas Seal campaign in the United States.

Although Bissell was born in Wilmington, Del., local historian Wini Mott said she decided to buy a house on Paris Hill in the 1920s, and later purchased several properties in the area.

“She spent many, many summers up here,” Mott said.

Constance Cooper, director of the library and archives of the Delaware Historical Society in Wilmington, will speak on Bissell’s life at 7 p.m. Monday in Cummings Hall at the First Baptist Church of Paris on Paris Hill Road.

The Christmas Seal campaign began in Denmark in 1904, with a goal of ending tuberculosis. Bissell, who was born in 1861, found out about the campaign, which involved the sale of special stamps, in 1907 through journalist Jacob Riis. She started the American campaign in order to raise $300 to save a tuberculosis clinic in Delaware.

The first campaign raised $3,000, 10 times the amount needed to support the hospital, and the amount of money raised increased astronomically through the years. In 1908, the Christmas Seals raised $135,000, and in 1920 they brought in $3,662,312.

Proceeds from the drives went toward the American Red Cross and National Tuberculosis Association. Eventually, the latter organization, now the American Lung Association, assumed sole sponsorship of the drive. Christmas Seals still serve as a fundraiser for the organization.

Mott said Cooper is visiting the area for more information on Bissell’s ties here, and feels she will be valuable in giving the historical society more information on the social activist’s life.

The Paris Hill Historical Society will continue to display information on Bissell throughout the summer. The society is open from 1 to 4 p.m. until Sept. 5, and will also be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Founder’s Day, July 21.

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