Emily Bissell

Christmas Seal designer
Born: 1861
Birthplace: Wilmington, Del.

Born into a prosperous family, Bissell became a social worker in 1876. She was instrumental in establishing the first settlement house in Wilmington, and her experiences lead Bissell to push for a child labor law.

In 1907 a cousin who was a doctor asked Bissell if she could help a local tuberculosis hospital raise money. Copying a similar effort in Denmark, Bissell designed a seal depicting a holly wreath and saying “Merry Christmas,” which would be sold at Christmas to raise money for the hospital. The Red Cross allowed its emblem to be used on the seal. Christmas Seals were an instant success. In two days 30,000 were sold, raising $3,000. The words “Happy New Year” were added in subsequent printings, since the printers could not have them ready before Christmas. For the rest of her life, Bissell was a leading proponent of Christmas Seals. In 1986 Bissell was honored with a U.S. postage stamp.

Died: 1948
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