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Records of YMCA international work in Puerto Rico

Identifier: Y.USA.9-2-26


Includes correspondence, reports, statistics, newspaper and journal articles, pamphlets, building details, images and handbooks; primarily concerning the development of YMCAs in San Juan, Puerto Rico and the surrounding area. This is a small collection but the bulk of it focuses on building development, primarily that of the San Juan, Ponce, and Mayaguez sites. Much of the collection discusses the programs that were made available to Puerto Rico by the YMCA, such as gymnastics, athletics, tumbling, dancing, basketball, volleyball, swimming, leaders training class, educational classes, night school, and religious meetings. A lot of the correspondence and reports involve discussion of the equipment which was both needed and supplied to the Puerto Rican YMCA. Much of the correspondence also involves W. G. Coxhead Esq. who was the first secretary assigned to Puerto Rico, as well as his staff members A. F. Grimm and William D. Lopez. Included in the correspondence as well are the Puerto Rico YMCA secretaries, George I. Babcock, Manuel Bueno, Manuel A. del Valle and John H. Warner. Some of the correspondence discusses a hurricane in 1928 that occurred in Puerto Rico and its effects on the communities that the YMCA served. There is also mention of the San Juan YMCA's involvement in 1917 in the United War Work Campaign. Some of the handbooks and pamphlets discuss the urbanization, new wealth and raised standard of living that took place in the 1960s due to the industrial revolution that occurred at that time in Puerto Rico.


  • 1908-1969.


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The American YMCA's Advisory Committee for the West Indies focused a large portion of its efforts on Puerto Rico. In 1910 a board of directors was assembled for an association in San Juan, a campaign was inaugurated for a building fund, and a site was donated for the building, which was completed in 1913. With the aid of the YMCA's International Committee and a local campaign, the mortgage was paid off entirely by 1916.

W. G. Coxhead, formerly in Mexico, was appointed by the International Committee and arrived in Puerto Rico in 1914. The first staff consisted of a general secretary, assistant secretary, physical director, educational secretary and a building manager. Membership by the beginning of 1915 was 373 people but by the end of the year it increased to 554. The programs offered by the Puerto Rico YMCA included gymnastics, tumbling, dancing, basketball, volleyball, swimming, leaders training classes, educational classes, night school options and religious meetings.

Beginning in 1917, Puerto Rico participated in the United War Work campaign through the YMCA, with extensive YMCA war work in training camps throughout 1918. Eventually athletic equipment, office supplies and reimbursement services were received as an aftermath of the war. Many words of commendation were extended to the YMCA of San Juan for its role in war work. A. F. Grimm, a secretary in the Puerto Rican YMCA, also introduced the Boy Scout movement to Puerto Rico in 1917 in order to help the boys' programs with growth. The two movements often worked together through the YMCA boys' programs to assist in war work.

In 1919 the San Juan building was renovated and efforts and surveys were made to start YMCA work in the communities of Mayaguez and Ponce. Building and equipment upkeep was very difficult due to the environmental conditions, but membership doubled in the first five years. In the year 1926 W. G. Coxhead was succeeded by General Secretary by E. J. Simonds. Simonds left in 1930 and George Babcock came in on a year's special assignment. In 1931 John H. Warner took over as General Secretary from 1931 to 1933 and was succeeded by Manuel Bueno in 1934, the first native Puerto Rican General Secretary.

A hurricane in September of 1928 destroyed approximately one hundred thousand houses and major portions of crops. Again in 1931 there was another massive storm. The International Committee donated $4500 towards repairs to the YMCA building after these storms.

The YMCA of Puerto Rico became self-supporting in 1934. Due to financial difficulties, no help was forthcoming from the International Committee. The General Secretary received no salary checks for six months. Supervision by the International Committee during the next several years was limited. A desire to be more closely related to the states led to an affiliation with the Southern Area YMCA Council in 1944 and in 1947 the Puerto Rican YMCA sought affiliation with the Central Atlantic Area YMCA Council.

By 1947 Puerto Rico had seven associations, four YMCA buildings, over 8200 members, and 200 board and committee members in Puerto Rico. In 1953 two new YMCAs in Ponce and Mayaguez and a new San Juan building were erected. A building site was secured and the building was started in Ponce. A building site was proposed for Mayaguez. Several new lodges at the Boys' Camp in El Yunque Mountains were also erected.

In the 1960s Puerto Rico went through an industrial revolution, there was new wealth, a raised standard of living and life changed for the citizens of Puerto Rico. New YMCA locations surfaced in Mayaguez, Ensenada and Aguirre. The YMCA focused its attention on preparing youth to face their new circumstances with instruction on business industry, general education, community and political development. The intention was to ensure the continual Christian values in the community and to ensure that these communities had what they needed to succeed in changing environments.

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

Babcock, George Ira (1930-1932) Simonds, Everett James (1926-1930)
Beck, Cameron (1909-1914) Thayer, Clarence Putnam (1924-1928)
Coxhead, William George (1914-1926) Tibbitts, Frank (1910-1914)
Dome, Earl (1923-1924) Tibbitts, George F. (1909-1914)
Grimm, Alfred Frederick (1913-1919) Warner, John Howell (1931-1935)
Hitch, Herbert Taylor (1919-1924) Whittaker, Frederic N (1919-1920)
Russell, Howard Odlin (1924-1926,1941-1942)
Historical information largely adapted and quoted fromWorld 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, and from the collection.


.8 Cubic Feet (2 boxes)


Correspondence, reports, statistics, newspaper and journal articles, pamphlets, building details, images and handbooks; primarily concerning the development of YMCAs in San Juan, Puerto Rico and the surrounding area, mainily focusing on building development in San Juan, Ponce, and Mayaguez.


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

Processing Information:

Processed as part of Fast Processing Project II, February 2009, as collection FP013. Material has been minimally processed. Folder descriptions may be general and material has not been grouped into series.

Catalog Record ID number: 6336921

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

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area