History Bytes: American Ambulance Hospital

September 4, 2018

The American Ambulance Hospital in Paris was established in 1906 at the Lycée Pasteur, Neuilly-sur-Seine, with offices at 14 Wall Street in New York. During the outbreak of World War I in 1914, even though United States had not entered the war yet, Americans contributed substantial financial support towards the purchase of vehicles and improvements to the palatial facility in central Paris. Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt, Miss Maude Wetmore, Mrs. Henry Payne Whitney and other Newport summer residents played important roles.

Bertram Lippincott (1897-1985), a birthright Quaker from Philadelphia and Jamestown, Rhode Island was one of many volunteer ambulance drivers in France who served his country without engaging in combat which was contrary to the pacifist teachings of the Society of Friends. He transported wounded soldiers from combat zones to the Ambulance Hospital on a daily basis in 1917 and 1918, often spending nights at local YMCAs. While driving ambulances unarmed, Quaker volunteers were subjected to the same perils of live ammunition, artillery fire and mustard gas.

Image (top): “The American Hospital in France; and exterior view of the Lycee Pasteur at Neuilly on the Seine,” ca. 1917, from the American National Red Cross photograph collection in the Library of Congress.

Image (below): Bertram Lippincott’s letter of introduction from William Hereford, Executive Secretary of the American Committee of the American Ambulance Hospital in Paris, June 7, 1917.