Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 9, 2014


December 9, 1851: The first YMCA is opened in North America. The Young Men’s Christian Association, sometimes shortened to four letters or even called simply the Y, was founded by George Williams in 1844. Williams was born in 1821 and described himself when a young man as being a “careless, thoughtless, godless, swearing young fellow” who eventually became a devout Christian. He was born in Somerset, England and arrived in London as a young man. He was appalled by the squalid conditions he found there, especially for the newly arrived workers. Williams created a space where his coworkers could live without being drawn into the temptations abounding in the big city. The goal of the new facility was to provide low cost housing in a safe environment.

The need for safe, low cost housing was in evidence around the world as shown by the fact that in just a few short years, YMCAs were established in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the US. By 1855, 99 YMCA delegates from Europe and North America met in Paris for the First World Conference. They vowed to help each other to enhance cooperation among individual YMCAs. They also realized the need to support autonomy among members and they also wished to extend the Kingdom of God as one of their missions.

Between the 1870s and the 1930s, the YMCA was very influential and promoted evangelical Christianity both in their Sunday services as well as weekday meetings. They promoted good sportsmanship and both basketball and volleyball were invented there. They also built swimming pools as well as gyms to support competition in athletic pursuits. As time moved forward, their membership became more interdenominational and they became more concerned with morality and good citizenship rather than limiting their beliefs to Christianity. Today, the focus of your local Y is more geared toward exercise and a healthy lifestyle rather than proselytizing for any religion.

On this day, the first North American YMCA opened in Montreal, Canada. Today, Canadian YMCA is dedicated to the growth of all persons in spirit, mind, and body and they engender a sense of responsibility towards others, both locally and globally. The first YMCA in the US opened on December 29, 1851 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Y does not keep track of how many locations they have, rather the number of people they serve. That number is over 45 million people in 119 countries. In the US alone, there are more than 2,700 YMCAs. Today, they are headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The red YMCA triangle, proposed by Luther Gulick in 1891, symbolizes the unity of spirit, mind, and body.

It is not how little but how much we can do for others. – George Williams

What is my duty in business?  To be righteous.  To do right things between man and man.  To buy honestly.  Not to deceive or falsely represent or colour. – George Williams

Oh Lord, You have given me money.  Give me a heart to do your will with it.  May I use it for you and seek to get wisdom from you to use it aright. – George Williams

It was impossible to resent his [Williams] cheerful, unaffected sincerity; his manly directness; his courageous simplicity. – JE Hodder

Also on this day: NYC’s First Daily – In 1793, Noah Webster began to publish NYC’s first daily newspaper.
Muckraker – In 1935, Walter Liggett was murdered for his belief in a free press.
Doctor? – In 1946, the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials began.
Coal Power – In 1911, the Cross Mountain Mine disaster occurred.

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