World War I Centennial Series – The American Ambulance Hospital in Neuilly

The American Ambulance Hospital in Neuilly (Copyright American Hospital Archives)

The American Ambulance Hospital in Neuilly established & operated from Lycée Pasteur

On August 9, 1914, the American Ambulance Hospital in Neuilly was established, a private hospital funded and staffed by U.S. volunteers to treat wounded soldiers from both sides of the conflict. Championed by Ambassador Myron T. Herrick, the American Ambulance Hospital was quickly accepted by the Government of France as a military hospital, though it retained its independence.
The institution was not without precedent. In 1870, a private ambulance was established by an American, George B. McFarland, and his wife to convey battlefield wounded to Parisian-area hospitals for care during the Franco-Prussian War. At the time, U.S. Minister to France Elihu Washburn helped solicit funds and support for this ambulance, which was credited with saving hundreds of lives, French and German.
Carolyn Herrick was an equally prominent, supportive proponent of the fledgling American Ambulance Hospital in August 1914. As President of American Ambulance’s Women’s Committee, she smoothed over differences of opinion among committee members, kept the group on-track, and ensured the organization’s potency. Carolyn utilized her friendships with French and American women to raise funds and secure volunteers. Her work was facilitated by Mrs. Hermann Harjes (Treasurer), Mrs. Laurence Benet (Secretary), Ellie Sherman Thackara (wife of Consul-General at Paris Alexander M. Thackara), Mildred Barnes Bliss (wife of Embassy Secretary Robert Woods Bliss), and other women from the U.S. diplomatic and expatriate communities in Paris. American men also played crucial roles to ensure the American Ambulance’s success, such as former U.S. Ambassador to France Robert Bacon and members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Paris.
The American Ambulance Hospital was given the Lycée Pasteur in Neuilly, a building so new that it lacked doors and windows. Several American architects from the École des Beaux Arts volunteered their time and expertise to convert the unfinished Lycée Pasteur into a first-rate modern hospital. By September 1, the American Ambulance Hospital was ready for service. Within weeks of receiving its first patient, Ambassador Herrick recognized the hospital’s utility. He speculated—perhaps correctly—that the American Ambulance Hospital did more than anyone could fathom to strengthen Franco-American relations.

[Photo] The American Ambulance Hospital in Neuilly (Copyright American Hospital Archives)