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Records of YMCA international work in Italy

Identifier: Y.USA.9-2-53


Correspondence, minutes, reports, financial documents, pamphlets, maps, journal and newspaper articles and other records of North American YMCA international work in Italy, with the bulk of the collection starting in the 1920s, when the United States YMCA became active in Italy. The majority of the collection is focused on Rome, as it was the center for YMCA activity within Italy, but also includes material on YMCA work in Turin, Siderno, Catania, and Pescara, along with the camp sites of Camp Olbia in Sardinia and Camp Palena in the central Apennine Mountains. Much of the collection focuses on budgetary information because the Italian YMCA was unable to procure most funding from within the country and therefore was reliant on external sources of capital such as the North American YMCAs International Committee. References to Claud Dalton Nelson, Arthur Stuart Taylor, Charles Taylor Tidball, Guido Graziani and Olindo Parachini among others are made throughout the collection.

The collection includes information about grants that the Italian YMCA received from the James Stokes Society, YMCAs Building and Capital Needs Fund and YMCAs Buildings for Brotherhood Program, as well as building projects taking place in Italy, specifically the Building plans for the Turin YMCA, the Siderno Project and the Rome YMCA Project. The Rome YMCA building project is the most densely covered due to complications involved with completing it. Also discussed is the YMCAs response to multiple financial crises experienced in Italy throughout the country's history.

Italy's involvement in World War II on the side of Axis forces and the consequent closure of the YMCA is documented within the collection. Also discussed is war work in Italy and the political and religious situation within the country, with emphasis on effects on the YMCA there. YMCA youth work also is emphasized within the collection, as well as the assistance of the YMCA World Youth Fund with the development of youth work there.


  • 1897-1988.
  • Majority of material found within ( 1920s-1980s)


Language of Materials


Use of Materials:

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YMCAs sprang up in Italy in the third quarter of the nineteenth century. These early associations were church-related societies, generally of Waldensian denomination. Gradually groups arose that were interdenominational. The first Italian YMCA National Convention was held in 1887, with delegates from twenty associations. By 1892 the number of associations had jumped to fifty, all of them small. The North American International Committee first became involved with Italy through James Stokes, who became interested in YMCA work in Italy in the mid-1890s. In 1897 the North American YMCA International Committee first bought property in Rome, financed through a $20,000 gift from Stokes. The Italian YMCAs declined for a few years but after World War I they once more increased in number.

In 1921 Claud Dalton Nelson was sent by the North American International Committee to cooperate with the Italian Student Christian Federation. By 1923 there were six North American secretaries in Italy, two in Rome and four in Turin. One of the six was established as the Senior Secretary, with residence in Rome. A YMCA World Center was founded there alongside the city YMCA. A new property was acquired in Rome, the city YMCA and World Center were consolidated and the Paris basis was adopted for membership. Stokes gifted another $20,000 to the Italian YMCA for this project and The North American International Committee supplied $110,000 from "World War I funds." Gradually the influence of the North American ideals permeated the other YMCAs within Italy. By 1926 many of them had declared themselves interdenominational. By 1927 these YMCAs totaled sixty-seven in number, with Waldensians still maintaining the largest element of membership, though there was also both other Protestant and Roman Catholic members.

By 1930 YMCAs had been established in Naples and Florence as well. The Depression caused the withdrawal of most North American secretaries and by 1931 only Taylor remained. Because of the political situation in Italy, it was impossible to call on the public for funds or to conduct an open membership campaign, and activities had to be confined to the buildings. Due to the deepening depression, North American subsidies were reduced and in 1937 it became necessary to close the Turin association. In 1937 Taylor died and in 1938 was succeeded by Nelson. In spring 1940 Nelson went to the United States to report and Italy's entrance into World War II prevented his return. Due to the war, Italian YMCAs were forced to close, although General Secretary Guido Graziani attempted to maintain contact with the North American International Committee. In 1944 as American Allied troops entered Rome, Graziani offered his services to the American Red Cross, setting up rest centers, organizing city tours, etc. Graziani organized summer recreational programs, youth hostels, grammar schools, softball games and helped to reestablish the Boy Scout movement within Italy. In 1945 Nelson was sent back to Rome as a member of the British YMCA, serving British troops and, with Graziani, set up centers of help for returning Italian prisoners. After the fall of Italy's Axis forces, the North American International Committee recovered property and reestablished YMCA work in several centers. In the newly opened Rome YMCA, Graziani set up a medical clinic for free general help of two hundred street boys. In 1946 the Italian YMCA adopted its constitution declaring that the YMCA was a free association, independent of any other civil or religious organization. By 1956 Graziani was a National Secretary for the Italian YMCA.

After the war, the YMCA attempted to expand in many places Italy and many projects were born from this enthusiasm, but most without solid economic basis. Shortly afterwards, all associations except Rome, Catania, Turin and Siderno had to close down. North American help came through grants and loans from the James Stokes Society, the YMCA's World Youth Fund, the YMCA Building and Capital Needs Fund, and from YMCA's Buildings for Brotherhood Program. This assistance supported the restoration of facilities and financing of projects in Rome and Siderno. Charles Taylor Tidball went to Rome in 1956 to help resolve problems with the construction firm contracted for a new building there. Referred to as "The Rome Project," Tidball helped to save the property and ensure the Rome YMCAs viable operation.

Through 1969, the North American International Committee made annual program appropriations for the Italian YMCA, these were usually allocated towards leadership development. In 1970 this was eliminated from the North American budget and the Italian YMCA was left without this asset. Tidball had initiated annual finance campaigns that grew steadily and assisted the Italian YMCA with the appropriation of its own resources. Even after his retirement, Tidball assisted with the Italian annual finance campaign. By 1970 the Italian YMCA had four locations that operated under a national federation: Rome, Siderno, Catania and Pescara. Other operations included Camp Olbia in Sardinia, and Camp Palena in the Central Mountain Range.

In 1972 Olindo Parachini pushed the Italian YMCA to become more than a camping organization and health club. In the late 1970s however, the Italian YMCA faced a substantial financial crisis and made an appeal to the YMCA CIMS (Center for International Management Studies) to organize a training institute for entrepreneurs in Southern Italy. The organization persevered through this and other challenges, including wars, fascism, church and state relationships and financial situations. In recent years, the work of the Italian YMCA focused on social support programs, promotion of sports, cultural activities and civil rights work, camp and holiday courses, tourism promotion, support for existing associations within Italy, and development of new association work both within Italy and internationally.

The following is a list of individuals who served as YMCA secretaries in Italy along with their dates of service:

Berry, William Clayton (1920-1926) Ross, Duncan William (1918-1925)
Camerini, Florido (1922-1926) Smith, Kenneth J. (1950-1957)
Collins, Earl C. (1966-1969) Taylor, Arthur Stuart (1925-1937)
Farina, Mario (1974-1975) Tidball, Charles Taylor (1956-1966)
Garniss, George Winslow (1920-1921) Van Bommel, Dirk J. (1926-1930)
Hubbard, Joseph E. (1919-1921) Westerman, Leland Stuart (1955-1956)
Nelson, Claud Dalton (1921-1926, 1938-1952) Ybargoyen, Samuel G. (1925-1929)
Moyse, Lawrence A. (1958-1965)
Historical information largely adapted and quoted formWorld 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 Scott Latourette; from Federazione Italiana YMCA, Young Men's Christian Association (, 2006; retrieved December 7, 2012); and from the collection.


5 Cubic Feet (13 boxes)


Correspondence, minutes, reports, financial documents, pamphlets, maps, journal and newspaper articles and other records of North American YMCA international work in Italy, primarily in Rome.


Additional information on and papers of many of the YMCA secretaries who served in Italy (see names listed in the historical sketch above) can be found in the YMCA Biographical Files (Y.USA.12) at the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.

Processing Information:

Processed as part of Fast Processing Project II, March 2009, as collection FP023. Material has been minimally processed. Folder descriptions may be general and material has not been grouped into series.

Catalog Record ID number: 9971920450001701

An Inventory of Its Records
Finding aid prepared by Lara Friedman-Shedlov and Melanie Doherty.
Language of description
Script of description
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Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area