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James Stokes Society records

Identifier: Y.USA.96


Includes minutes, correspondence, ledgers and other financial records, constitutions, and other material of the James Stokes Society from its inception in 1915 to its dissolution when it was absorbed into the National Board of the YMCA in 1970. The collection also includes correspondence (much of it with John R. Mott, who was Student Secretary and then General Secretary of the North American YMCA movement during that period), reports, and other papers from before the Society's incorporation, primarily concerning the work Stokes was doing to establish the YMCA movement in Russia and his financial support of various YMCA buildings there and in Europe, as well as the wills of James Stokes and his wife, Florence Chatfield Stokes.


  • 1858-1976
  • Majority of material found within 1890-1971


Conditions Governing Access

Open for use in the Elmer L. Andersen Library reading room.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be 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 necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law.


The James Stokes Society was established by James Stokes (1841-1918) in 1915 as a philanthropic organization to support YMCA work in Russia and Europe. Stokes (1842-1918) was born in New York City to a wealthy family. His grandfather was a founder of Phelps, Dodge and Company with William E. Dodge. Both of his parents were also active in philanthropy. Stokes graduated from New York University in 1863 and from its law school in 1865. He became a private banker and also was appointed as a director to several large bank companies, including Manhattan Life Insurance.

In the late 1850s and early 1860s he traveled to England a number of times, where he became friends with George Williams. At the age of 19 he became involved in the New York City YMCA. In 1864 he became a member of its board of directors, serving until his death in 1918. In 1862 he traveled to Paris and became interested in supporting its YMCA and had considerable success raising funds for it. In 1866 back in the United States, he was appointed a member of the International Committee. He was also active in promoting railroad associations. He continued to travel extensively, working to establish and foster YMCA work in other countries. In 1868 and 1869 he traveled to France, Italy, Egypt, Syria, and Switzerland promoting association work. In 1890 he was instrumental in raising money for a new association building in Paris. In 1898 he went to Russia and met with the Empress (Tsarina), Alexandra Feodorovna, to discuss the introduction of YMCA work to that country. Further contacts eventually lead to the establishment of a quasi-YMCA called a "Mayak" (sometimes spelled "Miyak") in St. Petersburg. Stokes purchased a building in the Russian capital in 1905 and the organization slowly expanded to Moscow before the beginning of World War I. AFter teh onset of the war, Stokes took special interst in Russian prisoners in Austro-Hungarian prison camps. he paid for the construction of YMCA huts in the Dual Monarchy, including the "James Stokes Pavilion" in Braunau-in-Böhmen in Austria.

In the last years of his life he established the James Stokes Society. The Society purchased property or provided significant financial support for a number of YMCAs in Europe and in Russia. In 1970, the Society and its assets were officially merged into the National Board of Young Men's Christian Associations (of the United States).

[Historical information is taken from, and in some cases quoted directly from Kenneth Steuer, Pursuit of an 'Unparalleled Opportunity': The American YMCA and Prisoner of War Diplomacy among the Central Power Nations during World War I, 1914-1923,; and C. Howard Hopkins, History of the Y.M.C.A. in North America, New York, Association Press: 1951, as well as the collection itself.]


4 Cubic Feet (4 boxes)

Language of Materials




[One to two sentence description of the collection.]

Related Materials

See also material Records of YMCA international work in Russia and the Soviet Union and with Russians (Y.USA.9-2-1) and material on James Stokes in the YMCA Biographical Files (Y.USA.12), both separately cataloged in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.

Processing Information

Includes material fast-processed as FP110.

Catalog Record ID number: 9977868702501701

An Inventory of its Records
Lara Friedman~Shedlov
May 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area