Skip to main content

YMCA industrial work records

Identifier: Y.USA.10


The records include department reports detailing the work of the national secretary, conventions he attended, staff development and expansion of the work. Industrial committee minutes record actions of the committee relating to budgets, strategies for carrying out the work and targeting specific opportunities for it.

Department materials consist of pamphlets and handbills used for publicity purposes. They describe the work with anecdotes, statistics, photos and statements by workers and managers. Also included are articles about industrial work from national publications, and pamphlets from the 1920s relating to the Industrial Department's use of films to promote National Thrift Week. Publications of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company are included, which mention YMCA work at that company. An extensive series of conference-related material includes records of the department's Human Relations in Industry Conference, held annually at the YMCA's Silver Bay Conference Center in Lake George, New York, beginning in 1917.

Records relating to industrial work with immigrants include minutes of the General Ellis Island Committee for Protestant Work. This committee consisted of representatives of a number of social welfare organizations, including the YMCA. The minutes detail the coordinating efforts of these organizations to provide services to immigrants on Ellis Island. Two reports on immigration affairs are included, one by Towson on New York City and one by Rindge concerning conditions in Europe. Pamphlets explain services provided to immigrants, as well as topics such as Americanization and citizenship. English language teaching materials are also included.

Materials on the International Management Council and its predecessors, including the National Council of Management Clubs can also be found in the collection. These records include executive committee minutes, constitutions, historical sketches, training publications, newsletters and studies. Most of these materials relate to improving foreman and manager skills.

A small series of records from the Industrial Section of the Association of Secretaries, a professional association for YMCA executives, is also found in the collection.

The collection also includes annual reports, promotional materials, and other records of the The Wells Memorial Institute for Workingmen, an organization unaffiliated with the YMCA, but which provided similar services to working men during the late 1800s.


  • 1882-1980.


Language of Materials


Use of Materials:

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.


The YMCA's Industrial Work Department, first established under the direction of C. C. Michener in 1903, administered programs similar to those used by other YMCA departments: Bible study, religious meetings, educational classes, recreational activities and social gatherings. Whereas the earlier programs had targeted primarily middle-class, white collar men, the YMCA's Industrial Department was an attempt to address the needs of the working class. As historian Thomas Winter explains, "the YMCA combined concerns for the physical and moral well-being of workers with grave apprehensions about the potential political radicalism of workingmen" (Winter, 3). In an era of heightened labor unrest, YMCA saw a role for itself as a benevolent force in industrial relations by providing wholesome and educational activities to the working class. During the three years Michener was secretary, the department was devoted to the study and extension of evangelism and work among miners and lumber crews. Later, these programs were taken to workers in steel production, textile milling, and other industries.

Michener was succeeded by C. R. Towson in 1907. It was under Towson, with the help of Marcellus Dodge, who was the chairman of the Industrial Subcommittee of the International Committee that the Industrial Department gained strength. The YMCA worked to secure the cooperation and financial support of management in industry, believing that labor conflicts could be overcome and working men's allegiance to the company built by improving the workers through activities such as shop Bible classes, English and citizenship classes for immigrants, thrift classes, or interfactory athletic leagues (Winter, 4). Facilities were often set-up within company buildings or constructed on company land. In 1916, Towson reported that there were 200 secretaries working for the Industrial Department and a total of 99 buildings given by industry; by 1920, 246 secretaries were employed at 154 buildings, with a total investment of over $6.6 million of both industry and membership funds.

In response to increased labor tension in the country after World War I, the Industrial Department instituted annual human relations conferences at Silver Bay, New York in 1919, and later in Blue Ridge, North Carolina, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and Estes Park, Colorado. The conferences drew steadily increasing interest, but ultimately the conferences in Lake Geneva and Estes Park fell victim to the Depression. In 1922 Towson retired and his post was assumed by Fred Rindge. Rindge promoted the growth of Americanization classes and the development of educational programs for labor unions.

Unfortunately, the impact of the Depression on the Industrial Department was not limited to the demise of the conferences in Lake Geneva and Estes Park. As the 1920s drew to a close, funding from the YMCA International Committee decreased and by 1930 there was no staff. In 1931, E. C. Worman took over as senior secretary for the department and set about reviving the program by promoting the Silver Bay conference and widening the scope of the department to include industrial foremen, as well as workers.

The National Council of Foremen's Clubs was established in 1934, and administered by a national secretary. In 1948 the organization's name was changed to the National Council of Industrial Management Clubs to reflect the growing managerial duties of foremen. The name was changed once again in 1971 to the International Management Council.

By the 1950s a formal Industrial Department no longer existed, but the National Board included a secretary for industrial programs under the Program Services Department. This administrative arrangement continued until the mid-1960s, after which time the Industrial Management Council continued the work of the national secretary position.


Winter, Thomas. Making Men, Making Class: The YMCA and Workingmen, 1877-1920.Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.


12.2 Cubic Feet (14 boxes)


Reports, correspondence, publications, teaching materials, and manuals of the YMCA's Industrial Work Department, International Management Council, and related programs and organizations.


These documents are organized into the following sections:
  1. Administrative Files
  2. Immigration Work
  3. National Council of Formen's Clubs
  4. National Council of Industrial Management Clubs
  5. Industrial Management Council
  6. Conferences
  7. Print Materials
  8. Association of Secretaries, Industrial Section
  9. Wells Memorial Institute for Workingmen

Physical Location

See Detailed Description section for box listing.


Additional materials documenting the YMCA's industrial conferences can be found in the YMCA Education Work records (Y.USA.11), separately cataloged in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.

Processing Information:

Processed by: David Carmichael; Additional descriptive data added by: Chan Harries and Lara Friedman~Shedlov, April 2004.

A portion of the materials from the Silver Bay Human Relations in Industry Conference were moved from the Educational Work Records (Y.USA.11).

Processing Information

Catalog Record ID number: 4417421
An Inventory of Its Records
Finding aid prepared by David Carmichael, Chan Harries, and Lara Friedman~Shedlov.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area