Skip to main content

Miscellaneous YMCA research, planning and development records

Identifier: Y.USA.34


SCOPE AND CONTENTS OF THE COLLECTION The materials consist of reports, studies, charts, correspondence, minutes, memoranda, pamphlets and publications representing the vast array of programmatic initiatives the YMCA undertook throughout it history. While the collection is truly a miscellaneous assortment of records varying from form letters from the 1880s to documentation of the headquarters move in 1980, there are represented broad thematic areas. The majority of the materials deal with research and planning for the various national initiatives, as well as a significant series of material documenting the organization's celebration, at the international, national and local level, of its 1944 centennial. The material also documents the official stances the Y held on issues such as the needs of youth throughout the years and Y's opinion concerning the Peace Corps. Also included are publications and other records from the Association Press, the YMCA's publishing arm.

This material is best used as a supplement to research rather then as a point to begin research. Often what can be found here are specific examples of programs, studies, or policies that may be referenced elsewhere.


  • Creation: 1885 - 2018
  • Creation: Majority of material found within ( 1920-1970)


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.


HISTORY OF THE YMCA OF THE USA The YMCA of the USA is the national body of the U.S. American arm of the Young Men's Christian Association. Organized June 6, 1844 in London, England, the YMCA was initially intended to be a young businessmen's organization dedicated to evangelism, social welfare, and relief services. Originally this evangelizing took the form of libraries, lecture courses, and social activities. The first North American chapters were established in 1851 in Montreal and Boston. The idea quickly took root and by the time the first "Annual Convention of Young Men's Christian Associations of the United States and British Provinces" was held in 1854 there were fourteen American associations present.

The YMCA in America continued to grow and take on a character of its own. In America, with its large immigrant populations, the associations were focused on "the promotion of evangelical religion, the cultivation of Christian sympathy, and the improvement of the mental and spiritual condition of young men." Throughout the 1850s, local Ys would host lectures on a variety of topics to stimulate the minds of young men and would send out men to preach on street corners in order to promote Christian values. In 1856 the Brooklyn, New York Association instituted a physical education program in order to provide a more holistic approach to the development of young men. Also in 1856 the first bricks were laid for what was to become the Student YMCAs.

Throughout the years the nature of the YMCA's work grew more complex until the American Civil War (1861-1865). Many local associations did not survive this conflict and those that did experienced severe declines in membership. The YMCA, with the New York City association taking the lead, quickly rebounded. New YMCAs were established to serve specific populations, including African Americans, students, and railroad workers. YMCA colleges were founded and specific departments such as boy's work and the industrial division were formed.

Local associations have always maintained administrative and financial autonomy. Starting in 1854, annual national conventions, held under the auspices of the Executive Committee, were in charge of coordination on the national level. In 1879 the Executive Committee changed its name to the International Committee and in 1883 was incorporated as the permanent, centralized agency for the American YMCA movement. This was possible due to the many programs established and the number of associations established in the United States and Canada.

In 1912 the Canadian associations split from the International Committee and formed their own organization. In 1923 the domestic work of the International Committee was taken over by the newly formed General Board (later National Board). The International Committee continued until 1936 when it was absorbed by the National Council. In 1981, following the move of the headquarters from New York to Chicago, the organization incorporated under the name YMCA of the USA.

The various name changes reflect the complexity and growth of this national organization. Each time a new initiative was begun or an national crisis was faced the YMCA in America reflected these changes within its national structure.


40.3 Cubic Feet (41 boxes)


Reports, correspondence, publications, minutes, and other records from various YMCA of the USA departments dealing with research and planning.


ORGANIZATION/ARRANGEMENT OF THE RECORDS These documents are organized into the following sections:

  1. National Board
  2. National Council
  3. Association Press
  4. Executive Committee
  5. International Committee
  6. Miscellaneous
  7. YMCA of the USA

Physical Location

See Detailed Description section for box listing.


The archives continues to add materials to this collection.

Processing Information:

This collection was originally processed by Ryan Bean in 2005.

Accession numbers Y20220513-1, Y20220513-2, and Y20210717 were added to the YMCA of the USA series in 2022.

Catalog Record ID number: 4993101

An Inventory of Miscellaneous Records
Finding aid prepared by Ryan Bean.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area