The Poppy Story


National Poppy Program

The first step necessary to ensure success of Poppy month is the appointment of a capable, enthusiastic chairman and committee.   In selecting a chairman, consideration should be given to her ability to organize within the Unit and her ability to secure the greatest possible cooperation from the community.

Since the Unit's Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation and Children and Youth funds are derived from the annual Poppy distribution, it is essential that it be a success.  Pin the first poppy on the Mayor and ask the Mayor to issue a proclamation setting aside a day as Poppy Day, with an appeal to all citizens to observe the day by wearing a poppy.

Volunteer Guide to a Successful Poppy promotion : A special booklet giving detailed directions for the organization and promotion of a successful Poppy Day has been prepared by National Headquarters.  The booklet outlines the steps necessary to organize the work force, secure newspaper publicity, win community cooperation, and handle the actual work on Poppy Day.
(Copies can be purchased from The American Legion National Emblem Sales).

Publicity for Poppy Day
Because our poppy is an emblem of sacrifice, those who love it must make every effort to teach the public the true meaning of the flower.  The success of the poppy distribution depends upon the advance publicity. If, in the season of Memorial Day, the poppy can make the indifferent public recall the sacrifices which have been made by the men and women who gave their lives that our country might be saved, the first and greatest mission of the poppy has been fulfilled.

The second mission is to win the confidence of the public through knowledge of the purposes to which the American Legion and American legion Auxiliary expend the money derived from the poppy distribution.  By means of publicity on the expenditure of the poppy proceeds, public confidence can be won.  The public has the right to this information. Every Post ad Unit should see that the poppy proceeds are so spent that publicity will bring honor and reward to our organization.

The public should also be reminded that the disabled men and women in hospitals, and their families are assisted by our poppy funds.  The public will then know that The American Legion and The American Legion Auxiliary are continuing to keep faith with those who gave their all for our freedom.

Each year suggested publicity stories are prepared by National Headquarters and supplied without charge in sufficient quantity to Departments for distribution to each Unit.  The stories are designed to be localized by the insertion of local names or to be rewritten from a local angle.  This publication is entitled " Poppy Preview."

Suggested Activities
The following is a suggested outline of activities to precede Poppy Day: Start a campaign of newspaper publicity which will educate the public about the significance of the poppy and the purpose for which the money is spent: organize a Poppy Speakers Bureau through which speakers will be available for meetings of all community organizations to acquaint them with the value of the poppy program, both from the standpoint of therapeutic value to the maker of the poppy and to the community itself.

Supplies for Poppy Day
Conduct a Poppy Poster Contest in the local schools and give attractive prizes to the winners.  Feature a poppy window display. Window cards, windshield stickers, poppy stamps, poppy lapel streamers to identify American Legion and Auxiliary workers. "Thank You for Caring" poppy leaflets, and offset printing repro sheets can be purchased through The American Legion National Emblem Sales.  A list of available supplies is furnished by national Headquarters to every Department each fall.

(It is suggested that all poppy workers memorize these facts.)

That in the spring of 1919, amidst complete devastation, the poppies bloomed in abundance on the battlefields of France where so many of our men had fallen in battle, and that a replica of this poppy has become the Memorial Flower of the American Legion Auxiliary?

That The American Legion was the first national organization to adopt the poppy as its Memorial Flower, having taken this action at the national Convention in Cleveland, September 27-29, 1920?

That the American Legion Auxiliary adopted the poppy as its Memorial Flower at its organizing convention held in Kansas City, in October 1921?

That at the time the American Legion Auxiliary adopted the poppy, it pledged 100% of the profits from the poppy distribution to welfare relied for servicemen and servicewomen and their families, thus fulfilling the true meaning of the poppy, and emblem of faith; faith which is being kept with all who died through service to the living?

That the American Legion Auxiliary, in order to protect the memorial poppy from the inroads of commercialism, adopted a national poppy program at the St. Paul Convection in 1924 which eliminated the commercial poppy?

That the memorial poppies are made of red crepe paper, by hand, by disabled veterans in hospitals and poppy workrooms in forty states, and that the workers receive pay for each poppy made, the material being furnished free by the Department in the state in which the hospital is located?

That the more than 25,000,000 poppies made by disabled veterans are distributed on the streets under the supervision of the American Legion Auxiliary by approximately 125,000 volunteer workers who receive no compensation?

That through the American Legion Auxiliary poppy program, more than $300,000 is paid annually to needy and disabled service men and service women for making the poppies?

That proceeds from the distribution of over 25,000,000 poppies annually under the guidance of the American Legion Auxiliary amount to more than $2,000,000, every penny of which is devoted to Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation work by both The American Legion and Auxiliary, which includes aid to needy veterans and their families?  The method of distribution varies in each Department, depending upon the nature of the demands for help.  Each of our 10,500 Units in communities scattered all over the United States , its territorial possessions, and in foreign countries where veterans reside, maintains a Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Committee working under a chairman, and a Children and Youth Committee with its chairman.  These Unit chairmen are assisted by Department chairmen of similar committees, who in turn, work under the guidance of a National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Chairman and a National Children and Youth Chairman.

That the public is given an opportunity each year to help in the significant work of The American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary, as well as an opportunity to pay tribute to all who died in service, by wearing a poppy on Poppy Day?


The American Legion Auxiliary's Volunteer Guide to A Successful Poppy Program
This booklet gives a history of the Poppy Program, answers to questions most often asked, tips on organizing, planning, organizing and concluding Poppy Days.  It includes speeches for Poppy Day and describes some of the promotional aids that are available.  It is a must for every Poppy Chairman and it is available though your Department Headquarters.

Poppy Preview
This pamphlet provides information on how to promote Poppy Days throughout the community. It provides sample news releases, public service announcements and proclamations.  It is available through your Department Headquarters.

Thank You for Caring
This leaflet can be distributed with poppies to the public.  In addition to synopsis of the Poppy story it is a membership tool as it lists eligibility dates on the back.

There are many other articles available through National Emblem Sales promoting the Poppy Program.  Check your National News Magazine for special promotional items and Emblem Sales Catalog for their purchase.

This Memorial Poppy of the American Legion Auxiliary is made by veterans.  It is distributed to the public near Memorial Day and all donations received are used only to benefit America's veterans.

Symbolism of the Poppy
The red petals stand for the vast outpouring of blood; the yellow and black center, the mud and desolation of all battlefields.

The green of the stem is symbolic of the forests, meadows and fields where generations of Americans have perished to make this land free.

The stem represents the courage and determination of our fallen warriors.

The assembled product, a flower, is a symbol of resurrection, which is sure to follow.

John McCrea