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Founded in 1915, Kiwanis International is a global organization of volunteers with a mission of “changing the world one child and one community at a time.” The organization originated in Detroit, Michigan in 1914 with Allen S. Browne and Joseph G. Prance with the idea to create a fraternal organization with a health benefit feature. Enough members were recruited for them to apply in the state for not for profit status that was approved on January 21, 1915 and The Supreme Lodge Benevolent Order Brothers was formed. The name changed to Kiwanis a year later. Its first motto was “We build,” a translation of its name based on an Otchipew American Indian expression. The original purpose was to exchange business between members and to serve the poor. The debate as to whether to focus on networking or service was resolved in 1919, when Kiwanis adopted a service-focused mission. Today with nearly 250,000 members and clubs in over 80 nations, the organization continues to focus on its mission with its programs and projects.
The Kiwanis International records include the minutes, correspondence, convention materials, program and project records documenting their development worldwide, financial documents, membership records, chapter development records, and publications.
Professional organizer Allen S. Browne met with Detroit
tailor Joseph C. Prance to discuss organizing a club for businessmen that
included social and commercial benefits. Prance agrees, and becomes the first
member of the Supreme Lodge Benevolent Order Brothers (BOB) for a membership
fee of $5.
Members, (disliking the “BOB” moniker), adopt instead
“Kiwanis,” a Native American term loosely interpreted by Browne and Clarence M.
Burton, Detroit’s official historian; to mean “we trade.” (Other
interpretations include “we have a good time, we make noise.”)
The Detroit Number One Kiwanis Club charter was officially
granted on January 21.
The first convention was held in May in Cleveland, Ohio. A
Constitution was approved, and George Hixson (1916-1918) was elected President,
and would be the only President to serve two terms.
On January 19th, Kiwanis became “International”
with the addition of the Hamilton, Ontario club.
The first edition of the Kiwanis Hornet, later the Kiwanis
Torch, and finally the Kiwanis magazine, was printed in February.
International Secretary O. Sam Cummings selected a small,
two-room office in the Webster Building on LaSalle Street in Chicago’s Loop as
the first International Headquarters.
At the Birmingham Convention, Kiwanis members voted to buy
Allen Browne’s contract for $17,500, thereby severing connections with him.
The Kiwanis International Headquarters moved to the Mallers
Building on Wabash Avenue in Chicago to accommodate a larger staff of twenty.
Roe Fulkerson, editor of the Kiwanis magazine, coined “We
Build” as the official Kiwanis motto.
Kiwanis International held its first convention outside of
the United States, in Toronto, Ontario.
Delegates at the Denver, Colorado convention, (known as the
Constitutional Convention), adopted the Kiwanis’ six permanent Objects.
George Sanford Holmes, President of the Kiwanis Club of
Denver, wrote the words to Onward in Kiwanis for the convention.
To accommodate the business of managing over 1,200 clubs,
with over 90,000 members, the International Headquarters moved to the Federal
Reserve Bank Building at 164 West Jackson Boulevard, in the Chicago Loop.
The first Key Club was formed on May 7th at
Sacramento High School in California.
The Harding Memorial, symbolizing peace and friendship
between the United States and Canada, was dedicated on September 16th
in Vancouver. President Harding was a Kiwanian, and the memorial was funded
entirely through donations.
The International Headquarters moved to the McGraw-Hill
Building at 520 North Michigan Avenue on the “Magnificent Mile.”
On January 21, the first “boundary tablet” was placed on the
Ambassador Bridge between Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario.
The first nationwide broadcast of a Kiwanis convention was
aired from San Antonio, Texas.
Jay N. Emerson of Pullman, Washington, with his Kiwanis
club, purchased a house for State College of Washington students, which offered
low-cost room and board. Referred to as the “Circle K House,” this was the
unofficial beginning of Circle K International.
In April, the Kiwanis Foundation was incorporated.
The International Board approved a charter for the Alpha
Chapter of the Circle K Fraternity of the State College of Washington.
International conventions were interrupted by World War II,
and the International Council convened to conduct necessary business.
The first annual Key Club Convention was held in
Regular international conventions resumed in Atlantic City,
New Jersey, and broke all previous attendance records with nearly 10,000
The first issue of the Keynoter was published in May.
The first Circle K club was organized at Carthage College,
Illinois, on the basis of a concept of service to campus.
The International Board authorized the granting of charters
to Circle K clubs.
Kiwanis created National Kids Day, which would later become
Kiwanis Kids Day.
Kiwanis International’s relationship with the Freedoms
Foundation of Valley Forge began.
The Kiwanis International Board created Key Club Week.
Circle K held its first annual convention at Carthage
College in Illinois. A previous convention was held the year before in New York
City in conjunction with the Kiwanis International annual convention. This convention
was unofficial since the organization had yet to receive official recognition
Chicago-area Key Clubs and the Chicago Daily News sponsored
a youth rally in May.
The Kiwanis International Board officially granted
recognition to Circle K in October.
Also in October, Kiwanis coordinated the first Farm-City
The first issue of the Circle K magazine was
published in January.
Groundbreaking ceremonies and construction began on the site
for the new Kiwanis International Headquarters, located at 101 East Erie
Street, seventy feet from their previous home.
Kiwanis International moved into its new home in March, with
the official ceremony in October. One of the attendees at this ceremony was
Harry A. Young, of the Detroit Number One Kiwanis Club, last living founder of
Delegates in Toronto, Ontario, resolve to favor the
establishment of Kiwanis clubs in countries in addition to Canada and the
In March, members of eleven service clubs met to discuss
administrative procedures, program emphases, and improving the public’s
understanding of their values. The Service Club Leaders Conference has been
conducted annually since.
In May, the Kiwanis Club of Tijuana, Baja California,
Mexico, received its charter and became the first Kiwanis club organized
outside of the United States and Canada.
147 Kiwanians and their wives commenced on the European
Mission, experience a “firsthand acquaintance with new European clubs and their
Kiwanis International celebrated its 50th
Anniversary on January 21st in New York City.
Delegates from clubs outside of the United States and Canada
met in June in Basel, Switzerland, for the first European Conference.
On June 9th, Kiwanis International-Europe was
formed at the Zurich meeting, and they adopted a constitution, elected
officials, and Jean Ladriere became the first KI-E President.
The World Secretariat met for the first time, and continued
until 1977, when it was deemed no longer necessary.
The first Major Emphasis Program (MEP), “Operation Drug
Alert (ODA), was announced.
The first K-family reunion of Key Clubbers, Circle K’ers,
and Kiwanians was held, which would become the annual CONOVACT—Conference of
In February, the Kiwanis International Board conditionally
lifted its male-only restriction conditionally, “leaving it as an option for a
Circle K club and its sponsoring Kiwanis.”
Thirty Kiwanis leaders took part in the 10th
Anniversary European Mission.
In April, the Kiwanis Club of Golden K in Raleigh, North
Carolina became the first official Golden K club.
Delegates to the Atlanta Convention adopted an amendment for
a Board seat for a European Federation representative.
The first Asia-Pacific Conference (ASPAC) took place in
The Kiwanis International Board “officially determined
admission of girls to Key Clubs should be allowed where state legislatures
defined this as a specific requirement, or where required by local school board
action.” Amendments to Key Club’s Constitution and Bylaws completely opened the
door to high school girls in 1977.
Circle K delegates elected their first African-American
President—Gregory Faulkner from Baruch College, City University of New York.
The San Diego Convention’s delegates amended the
Constitution and Bylaws to allow for specified representatives from each
Kiwanis International and the International foundation began
a long-term relationship with the Hugh O’Brien Youth Foundation (HOBY).
Originally created in 1972, Mexico-U.S. Goodwill Week, was
renamed Worldwide Kiwanis Week, and moved to January.
Groundbreaking ceremonies took place in September for the
new Kiwanis International Headquarters, located this time at 3636 Woodview
Trace, in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Kiwanis International completed the move to Indianapolis in
August, and has remained in this location since.
The first Kiwanis annual convention held outside of the
United States and Canada, met in Vienna, Austria.
Circle K delegates elected their first female International
President, Susan E. McClernon, a student at St. Scholastica College in Duluth,
Gender is eliminated as a qualification for Kiwanis
The House of Delegates approved “five world regions with
guaranteed seats based on percentages of the organization’s total membership.”
The first Aktion Club was formed in June in Palatka,
Kiwanis International celebrated its 75th
Anniversary on January 21 in Detroit, Michigan.
In October, the first meeting of the Priority One Advisory
Council took place in Washington, D.C.
Key Club members elected their first female International
President, Michelle McMillen.
Kiwanis International announces its plan to “remove the
scourge of IDD (iodine deficiency disorders) from the Earth.”
Kiwanis International launched its first website at www.kiwanis.org, which continues at this site
Ian Perdriau of the Melbourne, Victoria, club became the
first non-North American International President.
Eyjolfur “Eddie” Sigurdsson, from the Reykjavik-Hekla,
Iceland club, became the first European International President.
Key Club members elected their first African-American
International President, Craig Melvin.
Walter G. Sellers from Xenia, Ohio became Kiwanis
International’s first African-American International President.
Circle K elected their first International President from
outside North America, Hugh Simmonds, from Jamaica.
The K-Kids Club, for elementary schoolchildren, was
officially recognized. (The first, unofficial K-Kids Club formed in North
Lauderdale, Florida, in 1990.)
The “Children of the World” garden was unveiled in April at
the International office in Indianapolis.
Juan F. Torres Jr., M.D. of Antipolo, Philippines, became
the first Asian International President.
Kiwanis International-European Federation elected the first
woman to the federation’s highest post, President Grete Hvardal of Byrgin,
In April, the first editions of what would become the Builders
Bloc, and K-Kidzone, were published.
The Keynoter V 2.0 and the Circle Kzine debut
in September as Kiwanis first Internet-delivered e-zines.
International Convention delegates voted to adopt “Serving
the Children of the World” as the new official motto.
In July, Kiwanis officially introduced Kiwanis Connected,
an online periodical published as a compliment to the printed Kiwanis