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New York YMCA human resources files

Identifier: Y.GNY.74

Scope and Contents

The YMCA of Greater New York Human Resources Files collection provides information about the experience of YMCA employees in New York City. Included is material about salary and benefits, how to request a leave of absence, orientation and training, and other aspects of employment with the YMCA. In addition, the collection includes reports and studies, policies, information about health and unemployment insurance, newsletters and other publications, material about affirmative action, description of employee financial assistance programs, and material on retirement. The collection also contains membership forms from national employee associations, especially the Employee Alliance.

There are materials reflecting staff involvement in the American Personnel and Guidance Association (APGA) as well as files on deceased employees. Finally, the collection contains personnel files, information about position vacancies and payment records.


  • 1880-1989
  • Majority of material found within 1960-1989


Conditions Governing Access

Personnel and salary records created after 1949 are restricted for 70 years after creation date.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright, ownership, and to obtain all the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.

Biographical / Historical

The YMCA in New York City began in 1852 as a voluntary organization, with active boards and committees that carried out the work. The first paid staff member, Robert Ross McBurney, became the janitor-librarian of the 10-year-old organization in 1862, earning $5 a week for his work. McBurney is frequently credited for saving the YMCA in New York as the city and country weathered the declining membership and growing debt caused by the Civil War.

By 1867 the organization’s bylaws authorized the board to employ a librarian and any other agents deemed necessary. In addition to paying McBurney, the board that year was paying teachers and providers of musical services, although it is unlikely that these individuals were actual employees. The rapid growth of the organization in the McBurney years required the organization to take on many more employees – the Y could no longer provide its services using only volunteers. This was the case across the United States, especially as local associations embarked on building programs that attracted new members.

In 1880, there were 111 paid secretaries, 13 state executives, nine international secretaries and 45 other employees in the United States and Canada. Most of these employees were poorly paid; one source suggested that most secretaries were, like McBurney, paid a janitorial salary. This gradually improved, in part because the YMCA had difficulty attracting suitable candidates for the position, which required a man to be caretaker, librarian, preacher, corresponding secretary, counselor, manager and fund-raiser. Many men, including McBurney, literally worked themselves to death because of the demands of the job.

In part to professionalize the position of secretary and make employment more attractive, several national organizations were established for men working at the YMCA. These included the Association of General Secretaries (founded in 1871 and later renamed the Association of Employed Officers and even later the Association of YMCA Professionals), Employed Officers Relief Fund (1909), and Employed Officers Retirement Fund (1922). Organizations such as these have made YMCA employment attractive and have encouraged many employees to make lifelong careers in YMCA work.

By 1900, New York’s West Side branch alone was spending more than $16,000 on salaries. By 1920, there were 967 paid employees working at the YMCA in New York City. However, in the years that followed, personnel costs were incorporated into program costs, and the word employee became more elastic. These two factors make it difficult to track changes in staff numbers and the cost of compensation of YMCA employees through the annual reports of the organization alone.

However, listings of tax exempt organizations show that in 2013 the YMCA of Greater New York had 6,309 employees. The face of the organization had changed considerably since the days of McBurney’s entry into YMCA service at $5.00 per week.

Taken from The YMCA at 150 by Pamela Baylis (2002), History of the YMCA in North America by C. Howard Hopins (1951) and from websites.


18.3 Cubic Feet (27 boxes)

Language of Materials



The collection contains correspondence, position announcements, personnel files, newsletters and other publications, subject files related to human resources, brochures, policy manuals, reports and training material involving human resources activities at the YMCA of Greater New York. Also includes files of national YMCA employee organizations such as Employee Alliance and Employed Officers Relief Fund.

Processing Information

Material is minimally processed.

Catalog Record ID number: 9974761596201701

An Inventory
Louise Merriam
August 2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area