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Records of YMCA International Work in Brazil

Identifier: Y.USA.9-2-12


Includes correspondence, reports, and printed material, primarily concerning the YMCAs in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, but also including information on other YMCAs in Brazil. A significant portion of the records consist of correspondence and documents concerning the financial struggles and building campaign of the Rio de Janerio YMCA.


  • Creation: 1890-1989
  • Creation: Majority of material found within ( 1890-1960)


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.


Myron Clark arrived in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1891 upon request of George W. Chamberlain, a Presbyterian missionary to Brazil, to see if the area was suitable for a YMCA. After visiting Sao Paulo, Clark decided that that area was not well suited to host the country's first YMCA. Instead the first YMCA in Brazil was founded in Rio de Janeiro in 1893 and is the oldest continuous YMCA in Latin America. The founding of this Y also marked the Y's first foray into a Roman Catholic nation. In order to operate efficiently and reach a wide base of people, the YMCAs in Brazil became religiously tolerant - allowing Catholics membership in October of 1929. These were the first YMCAs to allow membership to non-Protestants.

The membership was predominantly Brazilian. They acquired a building in 1897, but was burdened by heavy debt for several years. Nevertheless, by the end of 1895, Brazil was home to two moreYMCAs in Campos and Sao Paulo. However, it was not until 1904 than an additional secretary was sent from North America. The first National Convention of the Brazilian Associations (The Brazilian Alliance of YMCAs) was held in July of 1903. Clark described it as the "first interdenominational gathering of any sort in all South America."

In 1901, another association was founded in Porto Alegre. The operation of this YMCA was unique in that it had no financial assistance from the national or international associations. This Y was responsible for raising money to fund all of the programs and the wages of its employees. Because of this, this YMCA had a lot of trouble getting up and running. However by 1930, under the direction of F. M. Long, the educational program was so successful that its night schools had inspired other night schools. City leagues for track and field sports were organized. Welfare work was done in the state penitentiary and sports and educational classes were started for newsboys.

The Rio de Janeiro Association grew rapidly after finally shedding its debt in 1906. Clarke retired from his position as general secretary in 1911 to focus more fully on his national secretary position and was succeeded by V.P. Bowe. In the following year the membership increased from 950 to over 1,400. The building was soon overcrowded and another building campaign was started in 1917 that eventually raised $100,000. An increase in membership again followed, reaching about 1,600 members in 1918.

In 1920, the popularity of physical education and athletic sports, in which the Association had been a pioneer, mounted rapidly. The National Committee decided to create a Department of Physical Education and appointed H. J. Sims as its head. They also recruited five young Brazilians for physical directorships. In 1922, the Association was also asked to find three directors of physical education for the Brazilian navy. But, the Association did focus on more than physical exercise. The National Convention of Brazil met in 1921 and voted to adopt a national program for social action and in some situations to take the principal leadership in dealing with alcoholism, sexual immorality, illiteracy, and thriftlessess.

The YMCA entered the 1940s with operations in only three Brazilian cities: Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Porto Alegre. And all three struggled during the depression but then soon recovered. In 1951 the membership of Rio de Janeiro was reported at 5,000 with 600 in the boys’ department and a student body of 900 with eight Brazilian secretaries. In 1937, Sao Paulo acquired a building of its own, and in 1954, it had 2,600 members, and nine secretaries. It was noted for its educational programs extending outside the building into the twenty districts in the town. The Port Alegre Association also made an impressive recovery from the decline. In 1954, a campaign was organized locally to raise funds for new premises.

In 1960, a new constitution was adopted and the national organization has since then been called the Federação Brasileira das Associações Cristãs de Moços (Brazilian Federation of Young Men's Christian Associations). Later on more associations were formed including: Belo Horizonte (1951), Sorocaba (1956), Campinas (1964), Brasilia (1965), and Londrina (1966).

The following is a list of individuals who served as YMCA secretaries in Brazil, along with their dates of service.

Bordwell, Theodore Ivan (1911-1918) Lueras, Paul D. (1973-1977)
Bowe, Vernon P. (1908-1921, 1926-1945) Lyon, Harry Speidel (1920-1922)
Clark, Myron Augustus (1891-1920) Magee, Douglas George (1921-1926)
Clarke, Dumont, Jr. (1909-1911) Manuel, Arthur Webster (1911-1919)
Davison, Waldo Burton (1916-1929) McArrol, Ralph Bruce (1913-1915)
Frohberg, Susan (1987-1989) Melby, Harry Charles (1922-1927)
Fugua, James (1980-1982) Parks, Samuel Ryder (1912)
Gallyon, Irving Henry (1912-1931) Salassa, Maurice Clarence (1911-1912)
Gruenau, Curtis Thomsen (1943-1949) Shaw, Paul Vanorden (1921-1922)
Henna, Chester B. (1920-1925) Sims, Henry James (1912-1932)
Hill, Harry Oliver (1906-1913) Stair, Carl Edmund (1951-1964)
Hinnant, Odis Benjamin (1932-1934) Vollmer, John (1908-1911)
Lichtwardt, Henry Herrman (1916-1950) Warner, John Howell (1904-1928)
Lightsey, Anne (1984-1986) Watson, James Boyd (1912-1915)
Long, Frank Millard (1913-1934) Wiens, Rudolf Peter (1952-1972 )
Historical information largely adapted and quoted from World Service: A History of the Foreign Work and World Service of the Young Men's Christian Associations of the United States and Canada(New York: Association Press, 1957) by Kenneth LaTourette, and from the collection.


2.3 Cubic Feet (7 boxes)


Correspondence, reports, and printed material on the YMCA's international work in Brazil, primarily in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, but also including information on other YMCAs in Brazil.


Biographical information on many of the secretaries involved in Brazilian work (see list of individuals in the historical note) is available in the YMCA Biographical Files, separately cataloged in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.

Processing Information:

Processed as part of Fast Processing Project II, August 2009, as collection FP007. Material has been minimally processed. Descriptions of box contents are very general.

Catalog Record ID number: 6213518

An Inventory of Its Records
Finding aid prepared by Lara Friedman-Shedlov and Kirsten Pagel.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area