Update, November 8, 2018: Thanks to the research efforts of my brilliant readers, I’m able to update this post with information about the group above. The following quotes in italics are from a web page, Friends War Victims Relief Committee in the Franco-Prussian War, on the site quakersintheworld.org:
The first official Friends War Victims Relief Committee (FWVRC) was set up in 1870, following the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War – seven years after the founding of the Red Cross and six years after the signing of the Geneva Convention.
Through the agency of 41 commissioners (33 men and 8 women), the FWVRC undertook relief work among the civilian population of towns and villages devastated by the war. Many of the commissioners already knew the countryside well – some as scholars, some as members of the Alpine Club – and spoke French or German or both. They set out to help French and Germans equally – the first occasion this policy of “no discrimination” was formally adopted.
As soon as the first commissioners – William Jones and Henry Allen – began work, it became clear that a recognisable symbol was needed to identify the commissioners, their transport and the goods they carried. The now familiar red and black star of the Quaker relief worker was in fact the symbol of the London Daily News, which was then also funding relief work.
This was also the first occasion that women worked alongside men, as opposed to having their own, parallel relief organisations – though that seems to have happened almost by accident, in response to an urgent need to simply roll up their sleeves and get working.
Their work fell into three phases. Firstly, following the siege of the town of Metz, they provided emergency famine relief, and later experimented with the new-fangled steam ploughing in order to provide urgently needed help with planting the next harvest.
Update, April 2019: I purchased a copy of the booklet They Chose The Star: Quaker War Relief Work in France 1870-1875, by William K. Sessions, 2nd ed. (1991). It contains photographs of many of the commissioners, which have helped me to identify several sitters in the photograph above. The man in back at far left is John Dunning (1826-1885) of Middlesbrough. The young woman sitting next to him is Ellen Jackson. The man at left in front is Dr. Thomas D. Nicholson of Birkenhead. The man at right in front may be Charles Wing Gray (1845-1920) of Halstead, Essex. The man at right in back may be Samuel James Capper (1840-1904) of Liverpool.
Sessions writes on page 22 of They Chose The Star:
Nearly six months after the first commissioners entered Metz, the depot was finally closed by Thomas D. Nicholson and Charles W. Gray, who returned to England on 10th April, 1871.
Multiple sources mention that John Dunning first went to Metz in December 1870, then returned to England, then went back to Metz for about a month in the spring of 1871. If all the commissioners left Metz by April 10, we can assume the photo was taken in March or early April 1871.
The carte-de-visite was made at the studio of L. Krier & Cie (company). Metz is in northeastern France, near the border with Luxembourg to the north and Germany to the east.
The J. Paul Getty Museum has one CDV by L. Krier in its collection, but the photo isn’t displayed on the museum’s website.
Page last updated April 18, 2019.