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Records of local Young Men's Christian Associations

Identifier: Y.USA.66


Constitutions and by-laws, histories, minutes, reports, correspondence, photographs, papers, book drafts, newspapers, journals, articles, publicity, blueprints, building plans, surveys, studies, handbooks, manuals, census material, statistics reports, association closing cards, staff and attendance lists, building opening and dedication pamphlets, street maps and city guides, monthly bulletins and other material associated with the operation and functions of local YMCA associations as well as their connection to the national board of the North American YMCA.

The collection includes records of both short-lived associations and associations that functioned for over 100 years and range from small town associations to large city associations scattered across the U.S.. The records consist of the sort of information collected at a national level concerning local and individual YMCAs and are by no means comprehensive collections documenting these associations. Major subjects include building projects, ladies auxiliaries, program material and training, articles concerning local issues, localized board of director minutes and reports, studies of local problems and future needs facing YMCAs.

The Chicago, Illinois YMCA branches make up a major portion of this collection, especially individual branch program material and studies, as well as financial reports, annual reports, state conventions, anniversary celebrations and YMCA training college class lists and schedules. The Chicago YMCA’s hotel is a major topic of this material, which includes images, building plans, advertising, anniversaries, reports, and histories. In addition, the Chicago YMCA program material documents the organization’s work on race relations, urban development and expansion, urban specific programming, work with the jobless, senior service programs and high school programs such as the Hi-Y and the Tri-Hi-Y. Studies and surveys in the records focus on city boys’ work, attitudes towards individual city departments of the YMCA, as well as attitudes, beliefs, ideas and problems concerning Chicago YMCAs.

Hawaii associations, especially the Honolulu association, form another large portion of this collection, primarily for the period between the 1900s and the 1960s. Much of this material is related to building projects, Army and Navy work, wartime services of the YMCA, Japanese and Korean relations, Hawaii statehood, Pacific Area conferences, reports of presidents and boards of directors of the Hawaiian YMCA, capital fund campaigns, memorials, and camp projects. Long range program planning and historical documents of Hawaiian YMCAs are also featured throughout this information.


  • Creation: 1854-2009


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 movement in North America was organized initially in the city of Boston and almost simultaneously in Montreal, Canada in late 1851. Based on the examples of Young Men’s Christian Associations springing up in prominent cities along the east coast, YMCAs were soon established in various locations throughout the country. While a central governing body was formed in order to schedule conventions for the purpose of communication and advice between associations as well as to set up a generalized set of standards that each association was expected to adhere to, these local associations remained primarily autonomous. The movement recognized early on that local associations required individualized structures and programs in order to assist their populations in a manner that best suited their own unique needs. This was facilitated through the use of studies and reports attempting to classify problems common to individual areas.

Local associations remained generally community-based and independent. They interacted with the national council of YMCAs primarily for the purpose of maintaining common goals and structures. They also received policy and program ideas through the national council and other local associations by attending YMCA national conferences. Many popular programs such as Y-Indian Guides began on a local level and then spread to other local associations before becoming national programs. Annual dues were paid to the central national body of the YMCA and the individual associations were required to adhere to and support the central YMCA's primary mission, guidelines and membership basis as determined by the Executive Committee, later the National Council of YMCAs of the USA. The national body of the YMCA of the USA also was consulted by individual associations when they became involved with national and international programs such as war work and disaster relief.

Local associations formed research committees that performed studies and surveys on subjects such as future policy, local public opinion on the YMCA and/or specific issues such as joblessness, race relations or urban expansion. Reports were then presented to local boards of directors and presidents, detailing specific areas that could be impacted by YMCA efforts as well as how these efforts might progress into programs and regulations of individual YMCAs. Many decisions concerning local policy and program development were defined based upon these studies. The founding of associations and establishment of building projects were also accomplished primarily at local levels through the use of funding drives, sale of other lesser used buildings and the creation of local development services offices. These offices organized area studies, determining where new associations would prosper and where they were needed.

Physical education programing and popular sports that were established at local associations also spread throughout the country to many other YMCA locations and beyond. The inventions of Basketball by James Naismith instructor at Springfield College and Racquetball by YMCA volunteer Joe Sobek in Greenwich, Connecticut influenced the physical education programs of many other local associations as well as the country as a whole. Local YMCA programing and invention influenced the YMCA on a national and international level. Outside educational and aid based organizations were also influenced through various examples of community studies and support established by YMCA over the years. Civil rights were also fought for on an local level initially, with many African American YMCAs as rallying points, until 1967, when racial discrimination was banned in all YMCAs at the national level.


17 Cubic Feet (26 boxes)


Scattered constitutions and by-laws, histories, minutes, reports, correspondence, photographs, newspapers, journals, articles, publicity, building records, surveys, studies, handbooks, and other material associated with the operation and functions of local YMCA associations in North American, particularly Hawaii and Chicago, Illinois, as well as their connection to the national board of the North American YMCA.


These material is organized alphabetically by state.


Constitutions of local YMCAs are separately cataloged as a collection in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.

YMCA State Committee Records are separately cataloged in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.

Processing Information:

Processed as part of Fast Processing Project II, October 2009, as collection FP93. Material has been minimally processed. Folder descriptions may be general and material has not been grouped into series.

Includes accession numbers: Y20190416 added November 2021; Y20230410,Y20230530, and Y20231006 added 2023.

Catalog Record ID number: 9973950701101701

An Inventory of Records
Finding aid prepared by Lara Friedman~Shedlova and Melanie Doherty.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • June 2023: Revised to include new acquisitions
  • August 2023: Revised to include new acquisitions

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area