Kiwanis International Records, 1914-2010

This collection is currently being processed.  Please consult with Brenda Burk about research within this collection.


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 Gainesville, Florida.


Regular international conventions resumed in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and broke all previous attendance records with nearly 10,000 attendees.

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 from Kiwanis.


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 Week.


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 Kiwanis.


Delegates in Toronto, Ontario, resolve to favor the establishment of Kiwanis clubs in countries in addition to Canada and the United States.

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 settings.”


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 Voluntary Action.


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 Manila, Philippines.

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 Canadian district.

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, Minnesota.


Gender is eliminated as a qualification for Kiwanis membership.

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, Florida.


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, which continues at this site today.

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, Norway.


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 magazine.

Last updated by on 05/10/2013