Friday, July 31, 2015

Toastmasters History Blog

http://Toastmasters at

July 2018 Update:

Pop down to Chapter Fourteen to see a new feature about Past International Presidents, their brief biographies, the WHQ they reported to.  These are the gentlemen who actually served with founder Ralph Smedley.

January 2017 Update:

This blog is a "work in progress" and is amended when new historical information is made available.
For the LATEST and very important addition to this history, scroll down to where George Sutton and Ralph Smedley formed the first BOYS toastmaster club in 1905.  That was 17 months after a Pantagraph newspaper clipping dated September 11, 1903 was found which shows that
George Sylvester Sutton, general secretary of the Bloomington, Illinois Y.M.C.A., founded a MEN'S toastmaster club a full month before Ralph Smedley went to Peoria to assume his very first YMCA position.                                           


Blogger's note:  

The bulk of this blog was posted during Toastmasters International's 90th anniversary year (2014), but recent updates have been made with the discovery of new findings on  

As you read this blog, you might ask aloud "Why wasn't this historical material made known years ago?"  The answer is that it simply couldn't have been compiled before created in 2011.  Before the advent of digitized newspapers from all around the country, researchers such as myself had to sit for endless hours pouring over microfilm of vintage newspapers in some musty, dusty, old library basement.  Being from California, how would I ever make it to Illinois to photocopy all the pages I needed from all those newspapers?  Impossible! 

The major impetus of this research was to spotlight Ralph Smedley's involvement with the Illinois YMCAs because even in his 1959 book, The Story of Toastmasters, Reminiscences of the Founder, the exact sequence of his tenure at the YMCAs wasn't spelled out.  The 1974 issue of                      The Toastmaster (which marked the magazine's change to the size it is today) had Dr. Smedley going from Bloomington straight to Santa Ana.  (Probably due to space in the magazine considerations.)

An exhaustive Internet search of Smedley biographies revealed that quite a few had him going from Bloomington straight to Santa Ana or, at least, through San Jose.  No one mentioned his stay at Monmouth, IL nor his involvement during WWI with the Army YMCA.

This blog is a chronology that sets the record straight of  Ralph Smedley's long journey toward finally establishing a permanent Toastmasters club at the Santa Ana YMCA in 1924.

 The majority of this research was obtained from a subscription to which had old newspaper clippings from Bloomington, IL (The Pantagraph), Freeport, IL (Freeport Journal Standard), Santa Ana, CA (Santa Ana Register) and several other sources which are cited in the fine print. 

    In 1975, the Pantagraph newspaper in Bloomington, IL published a fabulous 5-page spread on Ralph Smedley and his time in college and his founding of Toastmasters.  The pieces ran for five consecutive days in May 1975.  Mr. Smedley's daughter, Betty, provided the Pantagraph over 50 pages of material to use.   I checked with the Pantagraph in July 2015 and they said that they probably mailed all of the Smedley bio papers back to T.I.   T.I. hired a professional historian and archivist in 2016.  Upon checking with him after he painstakingly combed through the archives at Toastmasters International, he reported that he never came across the Pantagraph submissions, nor did he find the 50-some pages of Santa Ana YMCA construction documents which were purported to have been in Ralph Smedley's possession when Mr. Smedley retired from the "Y" in 1941.

     Ralph Smedley was so popular in Bloomington (educational director) and Freeport (general secretary) that both city newspapers continued to print articles about him long after he had moved to the Santa Ana YMCA.  They posted that he had gotten new appointments to subsequent YMCAs, wrote about daughter Betty getting married in 1937, and several other mentions.  It should be noted that a cousin, Gene Smedley, was the editor of the Pantagraph for several years which is probably why that paper kept up with Ralph Smedley's many travels.

Special Request: It would be great if Toastmasters clubs in or around Monmouth, Illinois and San Jose, California would visit local libraries to search old microfilm records of the YMCAs from both cities during the years Ralph Smedley was tenured there.  As of this writing in late 2016, doesn't have digital versions of vintage newspapers from either Monmouth or San Jose.  If you'd like to help out and find old clippings which mention Toastmasters clubs being started in those two cities, it would be greatly appreciated.  You can get in touch with me through the Prime Time Toastmasters Club 130 website.  I'll add pictures and newspaper clippings to this blog.                                                               ----Bob Palmer, DTM, District 12 Historian

               Foreword Part Two:  The Blue and the Grey

Most Toastmasters know that Ralph Smedley married Frances Bass in October 1904, but did you know that both fathers-in-law could have killed each other in the Civil War?  

Here's the scoop:  (but don't pay any attention to the Confederate flag's the best clipart I could find even
                                     though it's not politically correct these days).
Thomas Braxton "Doc" Smedley on the Union side joined the 14th Illinois Volunteers in March  1862 and marched with General Grant in Mississippi from Shiloh to Vicksburg.  Later, he was sent with Sherman's Army to Georgia where Eaton W. Bass, confederate soldier, was fighting.  Before Sherman's "march to the sea", Smedley was captured and spent the rest of the war in POW camps including the famous Andersonville facility.   Since both Smedley and Bass were in Georgia at the same time, it is not inconceivable that they might have encountered one another. 
Years later, after Ralph married Frances, the two old Civil War veterans liked to sit on Doc Smedley's porch in Bloomington, Illinois and smoke their pipes and jawbone about the old days.
source: "Doc" Smedley's obituary on and The Pantagraph  1975

When Ralph and Frances were married on October 6, 1904, it was a "blue and grey" wedding!
The Pantagraph   May 29, 1975

Thomas Braxton Smedley (7-22-32 to 10-6-17) first married Catherine Rice in 1850, but she died in 1861.  
He married Martha Ann Rice (1839-1911) after the Civil War and settled down to run a grocery store in Waverly, IL where Ralph was born four years after his brother Frank.   
Ralph Smedley had an older sister, Bertha, who died of diphtheria at age seven before Ralph was born.   
His grieving mother dressed him in girls clothes until he was about three. He finally wore short pants at age five.  Mr. Smedley talks about it in the five-page spread the Pantagraph published in 1975.
(Interview notes writtten during Mr. Smedley's lifetime were given to the newspaper by his daughter, 
Elizabeth "Betty" Smedley. 
The Pantagraph 1975

                 Chapter One: Smedley's College years

Most histories of Ralph Smedley have him starting college at Wesleyan University in Bloomington, IL, but he actually enrolled in the University of Illinois prior to that and lasted only one term.  
He went to Wesleyan in September 1896.

While he was at Wesleyan, Ralph Smedley was made president of the Epworth Club, an on-campus club affiliated with the Methodist church.  Guess who was the recording secretary of the same club?  Frances Bass!  Ralph met her on September 9, 1901 at the home of their Methodist minister, Reverend G.A. Scott.  
Here's a picture of Ralph Smedley in a Leader Group at Wesleyan in 1898 when he was only 20.  
He's the handsome devil on the far right in white. 
When Ralph Smedley was a senior at Wesleyan in 1903, he was called in to the President's office one day.  In this May 28, 1975 clipping in The Pantagraph, you can read why he was summoned:

Yep.  That's our Ralph Smedley.  The school was founded in 1853, and he had received the highest grades in the school's history.  He was a quite modest lad and simply shrugged it off.  The rest of the article goes on to say he wouldn't be taking any bows.
The Pantagraph  May 28, 1975

                           Chapter Two:
           Ralph Smedley, Quite a Busy Fellow!


                                 Chapter Three:

      A Pre-Toastmasters Toastmaster Club

[Don't forget: Oxford English Dictionary has the word "toastmaster" going as far back as 1769.  
   It meant one who gave a toast or one who introduces a person giving a toast or a speech.]

Huh?  What's all this? 
Again, from old newspaper clippings, here's what I discovered:


             Chapter Four Section One:

George Sutton's 1903 MEN's toastmaster club

As mentioned in the 2017 update at the top of this blog, the Pantagraph newspaper clipping dated September 11, 1903 had six paragraphs about YMCA membership, and the last paragraph said that a "toastmasters" club is forming at the Bloomington YMCA.  That was a month before newlyweds Ralph and Frances Smedley made their way from Bloomington to Peoria for Ralph's very first assignment at a Y.M.C.A.  The 9-11-03 article here is 17 months before Ralph had joined the Bloomington "Y" with Sutton and they both formed the BOYS club (see the next chapter four section).
Here's paragraph six of the article:
 Ralph Smedley was from Bloomington, hung around the Y.M.C.A., but there weren't any real openings for positions in 1903 until he applied for one in Peoria, northwest of Bloomington.  

Here is the October 12, 1903 "farewell to Smedley" article which says he's leaving Bloomington.  This was a month after George Sutton formed the men's toastmaster club.

(It should be noted that a thorough search of Pantagraph newspapers in 1903 or 1904 failed to turn up any mention of the first toastmasters club mentioned above.) 

                   Chapter Four Section Two: 

           The Genesis of Ralph Smedley's

                      Toastmasters 1905

Let's move on to the very first Toastmasters club which featured Ralph Smedley at the YMCA in Bloomington, Illinois in 1905 with a startling revelation that the old building still stands and was simply on two floors above a grocery store!
              "Bloomington Idea" clipping from The Pantagraph  May 29, 1975
The picture below shows that rather than starting in a magnificent three-story brand-new brick building, Toastmasters had very humble beginnings above a grocery store on the NW corner of Main and Market in Bloomington, IL.

Here's how I found the actual building: one of the five-part series articles about Ralph Smedley in The Pantagraph in May 1975 had a quote by Mr. Smedley that the old Bloomington YMCA was above Gray Bros. grocery on Main St.  Using Pantagraph clippings from, I was able to find out that Gray Bros. grocery was located at 428 N. Main in Bloomington.  When I Googled 428 N. Main, I got a list of the current tenants in the building.  It was a simple next step to search the building on Google Earth® and voila!  The 1895 building is still there!

NEW!  Discovered September 6, 2015:  The McLean County Historical Society has a 1935 picture of the same building with the windows still showing on the second floor.  Those are the same windows Ralph Smedley and George Sutton would have peered out of back in 1905.   

Remember, back in 1905 the bottom floor held Gray Bros. Grocery.  This picture shows Nierstheimer's Grocery which was started by the Nierstheimer brothers in 1913.  
Why would the upper two floors have their front windows boarded up as in the picture above?  

The Pantagraph  1975

                      The Pantagraph  May 25, 1975
That's Ralph Smedley on the far left with the mustache and YMCA General Secretary 
George Sutton on the far right in this Pantagraph 1975 clipping.  
Did You Know?  There's a George Sutton Toastmasters Club #3942 in Aurora, Colorado.
Above:  George Sutton in a 1911 photo.  He served as General Secretary at YMCAs in Kewanee, IL, Bloomington, IL (where he hired a young Ralph Smedley as Educational Director),
Brandon Manitoba, Canada, and finally Decatur, IL.  He left the YMCA biz to become a minister.


                       Chapter Five:

                    Smedley's YMCAs

      Once and for all, let's get things straight about the YMCAs Ralph Smedley worked at as either educational director or general secretary (like an executive director).
In an exhaustive search online, NONE of the reports of his YMCA tenure have the correct sequence and order.   Even the 1974 50th anniversary issue of the Toastmaster magazine has him going straight from Bloomington to Santa Ana!
      Most accounts have Mr. Smedley at YMCAs in  Bloomington, then Freeport (his first general secretary position) and then there's a variety of accounts that have him going straight to San Jose, CA and then finally Santa Ana.
Below is an excerpt from a sheet I made called "Our Guy at the Y"

Ralph Smedley spent his entire career working for YMCAs.  After graduating from Wesleyan U. in Bloomington, Illinois in 1903, his first "Y" job was in Peoria northwest of Bloomington teaching night classes for immigrants.
Here is the timeline leading up to the
Santa Ana YMCA where he started Toastmasters in October 1924.

1. Peoria             June     1903   (He taught night classes for immigrants)
2. Bloomington  August 1904   (He was hired as educational director)
3 Freeport          May     1906   (This was his first general secretaryship)
                             Above is the first mention of a Freeport YMCA Toastmasters Club, 
                                              but Ralph Smedley is strangely missing.
                                                                Freeport Journal Standard Wednesday March 6, 1907

4. Rock Island                 1910   (The "OLD" Rock Island YMCA was on the corner of 3rd and 19th back in 1910
                                                                when Ralph Smedley became its General Secretary.   He oversaw the fund raising
                                                                and the eventual construction of the "NEW" YMCA on the corner of 20th St. and 5th
                                                                Avenue which opened in 1913.) 
Here is the clipping of the first notice that a Toastmasters club was to be formed at the Rock Island YMCA 
on December 6, 1910
                                                                                  Rock Island Argus and Daily Union December 6, 1910
Also at Rock Island,  check out what happened to Frances Smedley:

Below is a portrait of what Ralph Smedley looked like at the time he served at the Rock Island Y.M.C.A. (from the Rock Island Argus newspaper)
Prior to Rock Island, Mr. Smedley actually accepted a job as general secretary at the new Clinton YMCA, but he eventually declined the position because the facility was taking too long to get built.     

On September 1, 1914, he resigned  to to "field work" for several years with architect C.D. McLane. 
  [C.D. McLane was actually Cyrus D. McLane.  In those times, it was very common to use first and
  middle name initials when citing people in newspapers].
 When Mr. Smedley took a leave of absence from his YMCA work, it was only a year after Ralph and Frances' only child, Elizabeth (Betty) was born.

Ralph Smedley had a hand in the design and construction of a several new YMCAs including:
       Rock Island, IL  opened in 1912
     *Racine, WI
     *Anderson, IN
     *Dubuque, IA
     *Battle Creek, MI                           
        Monmouth, IL                                          
     *Pomona, CA   dedicated April 1922
       Santa Ana, CA  opened April 1924

5. Monmouth     September 1918 (In all the historical listings of Ralph Smedley's YMCAs  I've ever seen, 
                                   Monmouth is not spotlighted.  Mr. Smedley was at Monmouth serving as General Secretary at
                                   the time his father died back in Bloomington. 
* He only worked on planning or building these, not serving as General Secretary. 

      New!  April 2017: 
One of the San Jose Mercury News clippings which spotlights the fact that the San Jose YMCA had chosen Mr. Smedley as their General Secretary mentions that he served at the MONMOUTH YMCA immediately prior to coming out to San Jose.  (article not printed here because it was of very poor quality)

6. San Jose         September 1919  
Here's the clipping from the San Jose Evening News September 1, 1919 regarding Mr. Smedley's appointment.  The article said he was at Rock Island YMCA for 16 years, but they actually meant he had been working for various YMCAs for that long.
  For some reason, though, they didn't have a formal reception for him at San Jose until November 7th.
 Ralph Smedley was in high demand as a planner, not just an executive.  He was actually down in Pomona designing and building that YMCA when he got the call to go to  Santa Ana.
7. Santa Ana      October     1922.  He stayed at this "Y" until he retired in January 1941 to devote all
                                                         of his time to Toastmasters International. 
                                                                                               Santa Ana Register October 18, 1924
Above is the very first "call" for starting a Toastmasters club at the Santa Ana YMCA.  
The actual date of the founding of that club was October 22, 1924.
Here's a synopsis of the Y's  at which Ralph Smedley served in
    an executive capacity:
Ralph Smedley had a hand in the design and construction of a several new YMCAs including:
Rock Island, IL  opened in 1912
*Racine, WI
*Anderson, IN
*Dubuque, IA
*Battle Creek, MI                          
  Monmouth, IL                                          
*Pomona, CA   dedicated April 1922
  Santa Ana, CA  opened April 1924
* Ralph Smedley was in on the planning/building of these facilities, not serving as General Secretary.
                       Want to see Ralph Smedley's  Illinois Y.M.C.A.s  that he worked at?  
                                                     Just follow the numbers from 1-5
         The last entry on the Illinois map above mentions a Ralph Smedley   podium in a city park in   
        Waverly where he was born.  Here's a picture of it from a Waverly Toastmasters club website.

                                  Chapter Six:

           What About Toastmasters Clubs?

     When general secretary George S. Sutton and education director Ralph Smedley of the Bloomington YMCA started what was to become the first Toastmasters club on February 24, 1905, the club consisted of high school boys and quickly folded when Mr. Smedley was assigned to Freeport YMCA and Sutton left for a "Y" in Brandon, Manitoba.

      When Ralph Smedley got to Freeport,  some of the men in the community had heard of the boys' Toastmaster club and said, "Hey.  We want one, too!"  That's when the first MENs Toastmaster club was formed on March 27, 1907.  It is always said that every fledgling Toastmaster club that Ralph Smedley started failed after he was assigned to a subsequent YMCA somewhere, but I have found through newspaper clippings on that the Freeport club was still going in 1929, five years after the Santa Ana YMCA club started in October 1924.  

       After leaving Freeport to take the new position at Rock Island YMCA, the first listing of a "Toastmasters Club" was December 6, 1910.  Both Freeport and Rock Island had many weekly or monthly reports of who spoke, what their speech titles were, and who served as Toastmaster, but there is ONLY ONE MENTION OF RALPH SMEDLEY.  He was neither listed as a club official or a weekly speaker except the clipping on March 12, 1908 when the Toastmasters club spoke against saloons.   The club had a resolution in support of a town committee working to close down the saloon.  Ralph Smedley's speech was "Will the New Option Work?" referring to one proposed way the town could deal with the saloon problem.

                        Chapter Seven:

                      Monmouth What?
      After planning and building YMCAs in the Midwest with architect C.D. McLane, Ralph Smedley settled down to plan and build and become Executive Director of the Monmouth Y.M.C.A. just south of Rock Island in Illinois.
                                                                                 The Pantagraph 1917
This clip came from the Bloomington Pantagraph newspaper because Ralph Smedley was dearly beloved there from his time at the Bloomington Y.M.C.A.   That paper seemed to follow Mr. Smedley wherever he went and write about him.  They even posted the 1937 wedding of Betty Smedley to Walter Lincoln Spaulding in the Pantagraph.

 Editor's note: as of this writing (July 2015) a lady at the Monmouth Historical Society is researching the old Monmouth Y.M.C.A. on microfilm at her local library.  As soon as I get pictures and more newspaper reports of Mr. Smedley's Monmouth experience, I'll post them here.

                                    Chapter Eight:

             Ralph Smedley's WWI service with the YMCA 

The Monmouth Y.M.C.A. had its Grand Opening over three days in February 1918, but Ralph Smedley had to miss it.  Why?  It's because he took a leave of absence to go to Chicago and train for work in the "Army Y.M.C.A." which was a system of small Y.M.C.A. centers in the U.S. and abroad that served as stopping places for traveling WWI troops and a "home away from home" for troops stationed overseas.  After brief training in Chicago, he was sent to Ft. Oglethorpe in Georgia.
      No, he didn't enlist in the Army.  This was managerial service at a tent or quanset hut on the base at Ft. Oglethorpe.  The Army Y.M.C.A. maintained a canteen, showed movies, had church services, team sports, and promoted other wholesome entertainment for the troops instead of them going into town, getting snot-slinging drunk, and getting in trouble with ladies of questionable repute.
Aw, c'mon.  Can't a guy have a little fun?  No, said the Army Y.M.C.A.

                                                                                                         Kautz Family YMCA Archives
With great thanks to the KAUTZ FAMILY YMCA ARCHIVES at the University of Minnesota and especially Ryan Bean who works there, this is Ralph Smedley's actual punch card for his service appointment at Ft. Oglethorpe.  See the date of 12/6/17?  That's why Ralph Smedley missed the Monouth Y.M.C.A. grand opening the following February.

                                                                                               Decatur Herald newspaper November 1917
More on the Army Y.M.C.A. is in this Decatur, Illinois Herald newspaper ad from November 1917 telling the people of Illinois why they should monetarily support the Army Y.M.C.A.
The facilities were known as RED TRIANGLE HUTS.  Troops knew they were always welcome to drop in whenever they saw the distinctive RED TRIANGLE outside the facility.

Being a educator, counselor, manager, song leader, spiritual leader at those Y.M.C.A.s at which he worked, you can see that Mr. Ralph Smedley was a natural for doing this kind of work.

 Editor's note:  More research is being conducted for clarity and verification of timelines, but this
                          historian's theory is that Ralph Smedley returned to the Monmouth Y.M.C.A. after
                          less than a year in the service of the Army Y.M.C.A. and received other marching

                                    Chapter Nine:

                         "California, Here I Come"                                           

After his service with the Army YMCA and pretty much being through with the Monmouth "Y", Ralph Smedley packed-up Frances and three year old Betty and went to California in 1918 to plan, raise money, and help build the Pomona Y.M.C.A.   In fact, it was while he was working at Pomona that he got his marching orders to report to the San Jose Y.M.C.A. in 1919. 

                                  Chapter Ten:

            The Santa Ana Y.M.C.A.,  Home Sweet Home

 The next section of research was compiled from dozens of newspaper clippings from the Santa Ana Register from a subscription to

 After San Jose, Ralph Smedley reported to his next and final duty station: Santa Ana, where he was instrumental in planning, designing, and building the Santa Ana Y.M.C.A. where his speaking club called Toastmasters finally took root and flourished starting on October 24, 1924.

We need to back up to when he arrived on October 1, 1922.
                                                                                                            Santa Ana Register 1922
                                                                  Santa Ana Register 1922
Mr. Smedley was signed to a $225 per month contract by Y.M.C.A. Board Member Edgerton B. Sprague.  E.B. Sprague worked at the First National Bank in Santa Ana where Ralph Smedley secured a 10 x 16 room on the 5th floor solely to run Toastmasters International operations in 1941 after he officially retired from the Y.M.C.A..  More on that later.

E.B. Sprague ended up being the last surviving member of the original Board of Directors of the Santa Ana Y.M.C.A.  He was written-up in the Register in 1972 and had lots of reminiscences of the old building.

      Ralph Smedley, already proficient at Y.M.C.A. planning and building, worked closely with Frederick H. Eley, a prolific Orange County architect known for a distinctive style and well-built buildings. 
                                                                   Santa Ana Register 1922
 Here's the architect's sketch of the Santa Ana Y.M.C.A.
The main entrance to the building was on the south side.  In this and many other pictures, you're looking at the south side on Church Street and the east side on Sycamore St.
There was a lobby on that south side as well as offices.  The MEN's lobby was on the west side, the BOY's lobby was on the east side.  The second and third floors featured dormitories.

                                                                                              Courtesy of Santa Ana History Room

                        Get a Load of This!

A June 1924 picture of the main lobby shows Y.M.C.A. General Secretary Ralph C. Smedley sitting at his desk!

Santa Ana Register
June 12, 1924, barely two months after the grand opening of the Santa Ana Y.M.C.A., the Santa Ana Register had their staff artist, Jack Fisher, work up this tribute to the highly talented Mr. Smedley.               

                     More Y.M.C.A. Pictures

This is by far the earliest picture I've ever seen of the Santa Ana YMCA when it wasn't yet finished.    I bought it from the First American Title Photo Archives in Santa Ana.  This view is looking at the east side of the building on Sycamore Street.  This entrance was the main one that was used to get up to the dormitories.  The double doors lead into the Boys Lobby which is listed as the "side lobby entrance off Sycamore" in the lobby pic above.

See those windows almost at "street level"?  Those were the windows that gave light (and air) to the basement where the dining hall, meeting rooms, and swimming pool were located. 

Thousands of Toastmasters have never seen the historic Santa Ana YMCA where Toastmasters International got its start, so I took the liberty of flying over the old YMCA in a helicopter just for this blog and shot these pix.

This view is the south side of the building on Church St. which has been renamed Civic Center Drive.  The large palm tree on the right obscures the window of the office in which Ralph Smedley was sitting in the lobby shots section above.  

Notice one side is longer than the other.  The big, ugly, gray-roofed structure in the rear is the gymnasium.  Hold on!  Don't get down on the gymnasium!  It was actually revolutionary for its time because it featured a running track far above the main floor.

As my chopper swung around the building, this pic shows the Sycamore (east) side of the building.  Notice the courtyard in the middle.
This is the view from the west and really illustrates how large the gym was.
This side of the building was probably where all the deliveries were made to the "Y".  The trucks came in off Broadway (not shown).  
I was getting airsick in the chopper, but took one more picture.
Okay, okay.  These are GOOGLE EARTH pictures.  This view is the north side of the "Y" with Sycamore St. on the left.  Pay very close attention to the back end of the long side of the building.
See where the red tile peaks and there's a chimney in the middle of it?  There are three windows shown on three floors, too.  Just to the right of that is a STAIRWELL which contained stairs to all three floors. the basement of the the basement of the the basement of the the basement of the the basement of the YMCA......  

Honestly, every history of Toasmasters you'll ever see mentions that we were founded where?

The Santa Ana Y.M.C.A. basement was HUGE.  It ran the length and width underneath the main structures as well as the interior courtyard.  It had a kitchen, a dining room that could seat 300+, 
a 50,000 gallon swimming pool, offices, and, according to several newspaper clippings I found, "ASSOCIATION ROOMS".

      We Almost Didn't Have a Toastmasters?

The Santa Ana Y.M.C.A. opened in April 1924 to great fanfare.  Less than a month later, Ralph Smedley was stricken with TYPHOID FEVER!

                   NEW: January 14, 2017!
Most histories of the very first Toastmaster meeting at the Santa Ana Y.M.C.A. quote the date of  Wednesday October 22, 1924. 
Check out this compilation of Santa Ana Register clippings which illustrate that the club actually started on Tuesday October 21st and switched to Wednesdays (reason unknown) on October 29.  


 Ralph Smedley Leads the Chorus
                                     Chapter Eleven:     

                      Ralph Smedley Cashes In His Chips

T.I. has this picture of the old bank in their History Room just off the lobby at WHQ.
If you look closely, you can see trolley tracks that come down Main St. and curve left on 4th which are no longer there.
             Extra notes about moving from the YMCA to the First National Bank:

Mr. Smedley opened a 10-by-16-foot office on the 5th floor at the bank. 
The room had a desk, typewriter, telephone, and second-hand address machine.  He hired a secretary to handle the correspondence while he wrote various materials destined for the organization's use.
Why the First National Bank?  When Ralph Smedley first came down from the San Jose YMCA to accept the new Santa Ana "Y" position, he was hired by E.B. Sprague, who was a banker in that very building.   

                 Take a Side Trip to discuss Toastmasters Pins and Logos
Extra notes about the 1931 Toastmasters logo pictured just above the section above:
I first saw the "Oratores Omnes" logo on my home club's 1938 charter which was actually signed by Ralph Smedley.  You can see it on the Prime Time Toastmasters 
Club 130 website (yes, I'm the webmaster) at:

I think the "Oratores Omnes" in Latin means "keep it short, blabbermouth!"  LOL

The “Oratores Omnes” logo was designed in 1931 by Clarence Marshall of Pasadena and George Hedstrom of Anaheim.   

This design was presented for consideration on January 24, 1931.  It was discontinued in 1941, shown second from left below.
Here are subsequent logos Toastmasters has used down through the years.


More on the "Oratores Omnes" logo:  I bought an antique lapel pin on eBay a few years back.  The picture the seller took to advertise the item is pictured below.  The pin was made by the L.G. Balfour Company out of Attleboro, Massachusetts.  I contacted that company as well as the Attleboro library to see if there might be an old catalog in which the pin was featured , but to no avail.
The blue paint on the pin is NOT flaking off.  It was the Balfour Company's clever way of showing the continents on the "map".

                  Back to the WHQs................

WHQs from YMCA---First National Bank---Pacific Building---Santa Ana Community Center---Grand Avenue

Did T.I.'s home office (WHQ) stay there at the First National Bank in a cramped 10x16 foot room?  No. 
The October 1946 issue of the magazine shows that WHQ moved to the PACIFIC BUILDING on the corner of Broadway and Third in Santa Ana.   
The 1925-built building was added to the National Registry of Historic Buildings in 1984 and is still standing today.

The tenure at the Pacific Building only lasted about five years before the next WHQ move.

 Here's the story of where World Headquarters moved to in 1951: 
                                       The Santa Ana Community Building.

The snapshot of the cover of the old July 1951 Toastmaster magazine came from the Santa Ana History Room (SAHR) at the downtown Santa Ana Library.

For perspective, this is how far the new 1951 WHQ on W. 8th St. was from the old Y.M.C.A.,
taken from a poster that I made up to show at District conferences.

       The old Santa Ana Community building on 8th St. has long since been torn down.

Take a Side Trip to discuss Ralph Smedley's 1950 award.............

                                 Chapter Twelve:

                          Now it's "Dr." Ralph Smedley

The Pantagraph newspaper in Bloomington, IL reported on 
May17, 1950 that Ralph Smedley was going to be one of five alumni of Illinois Wesleyan University to receive degrees on Monday June 5, 1950.  Here's the headline and the article 
from the newspaper with the actual picture of Dr. Smedley:

                                         (The bio above, one of the five, was clipped to show Dr. Smedley only.)
      What's the inside scoop on a "doctorate of humane letters"?

                      The degree of Doctor of Humane Letters 
     (Latin: Litterarum humanarum doctor; D.H.L.; or L.H.D.) 
      is almost always conferred as an honorary degree, usually 
      to those who have distinguished themselves in areas other 
      than science, government, literature or religion.

Armed with a new honorary doctorate degree, Dr. Smedley proudly officiated at the chartering of Toastmasters Club 850 that same day at the Illinois Wesleyan University Memorial Center.  That's right, folks,  Forty-five years after starting the boys toastmaster club with George Sutton at the YMCA in Bloomington, Dr. Smedley inaugurated the Bloomington Toastmasters club. 
[a recent search of Club 850's club number at T.I. revealed that the number has since been retired].

                                    Chapter Thirteen:

                         Another World Headquarters?

In 1924, Toastmasters "headquarters" started at the Santa Ana YMCA, then, as profiled above, moved in 1941 to one room on the 5th floor of the First National Bank in Santa Ana.  
In 1947, WHQ was at the Pacific Building on the corner of Broadway and Third.
In 1951, WHQ was at 1104 W. 8th St. in Santa Ana at an old converted Army building.
In 1961, Toastmasters broke ground on a beautiful, new two-story edifice on Grand Avenue 
in Santa Ana.  This was the last WHQ that Ralph Smedley worked in.

(Living just 45 minutes away in Riverside, I had the pleasure of visiting that building many times in the '70s and '80s to pick up materials for my club.  One time, they let me go upstairs to the microfilm room and do research on Club 130.)

The actual dedication of the new WHQ was on Saturday October 27, 1962.  After the 10AM ceremonies, there was lunch for Toastmasters and their families from noon to 2 PM hosted by International President from Milwaukee Frank Spangler.
The building is now a Trinity Law School.  Here is a shot of the front of the building as it looks today.  You wouldn't know it by the picture, but there is plenty of parking in the rear. 

Hey!  What about the World Headquarters in Rancho Santa Margarita?   Sorry, folks, this blog only goes up to WHQs  that Ralph Smedley worked in.

                                    Chapter Fourteen:
                                  [new feature in 2018]

Now that we know where all the World Headquarters were, we'll spotlight all the Past International Presidents (PIPs) from #1 to #35 who served with Ralph Smedley prior to his death in 1965.
This new feature has a picture of the WHQ as well as the Toastmaster logo the PIP would have used on his stationery, club charters, and lapel pins.  Notice that the logo changes in 1941 (white "T" in the midde) and again in 1961 (black "T" in the middle).

                           Past International Presidents 1-20 shown in correct 
             order of succession from the top row to the bottom row.

                          Past International Presidents 1-35

16 of the 35 featured here were born in the 1800s.  At the time of death, Haynes was the oldest at 95.  Hoche was the youngest at 51.  Sias was the only PIP older than Ralph Smedley.  (It says so on his card below).

These gentlemen would have rubbed elbows with Mr. Smedley at conventions, club charterings, International Board meetings. 
          How about creating some cereal-box-style trading cards to introduce our 
          pioneer PIPs to today's Toastmasters?
       Mr. Demaree was born in Japan and lived there until age 15.  He and PIP #6 Jean Bordeaux
      were the two Toastmasters to sign the Articles of Incorporation for Toastmasters International on
       December 1, 1932 in Los Angeles where Mr. Bordeaux had an office in the Richfield Building.

Thanks a lot, Mr. Switzler!  (#14 above) To find his bio on or any other sources, it was IMPOSSIBLE and quite frustrating because his real name was REMINGTON Switzler.  
He must not have liked that moniker and simply went by Robert.

above: expanded bios for Puzey and Griffith TBA
above: expanded bios for McIntire TBA   
It should be noted that after Charles C. Mohr, a few other PIPs might have actually met Ralph Smedley while coming up through the ranks in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but this spotlight focuses on just those who served while Mr. Smedley was living.

                                    Chapter Fifteen:
      Let's take a detour down Memory Lane to remember 
           Ralph and Frances' only child, Betty, who would 
           have been 100 on July 31, 2015.
 Still a "work in progress", I need to nail-down when Betty split from Lincoln Spaulding and married James West Stephenson sometime between 1953 and 1958.  

I actually trooped over to Scripps College in Claremont to get copies of old yearbook pictures and alumni magazine articles which featured Betty.  Five miles from my house, I went to Riverside National Cemetary and found the grave marker for both James and Betty Stephenson.

     Speaking of Betty and James, here is the work-up I did separately from the Betty Smedley piece above. 

                                                    Chapter Fifteen:
                   The End of the Long Road to Greatness
Bob's club has an original 1938 charter signed by Ralph Smedley.  Bob took the charter to a District 12 conference about fifteen years ago and showed it to two visiting Past International Presidents
(one of whom was Helen Blanchard, DTM).  Both PIPs said they had been all around the world and had not seen a club charter signed by Smedley.   Don't forget, this charter was created at the Santa Ana YMCA before Ralph Smedley retired in 1941 and moved WHQ to the First National Bank.    
                           [pay special attention to the Oratores Omnes background on the logo]
  Club Challenge: 
      If you know of any other "Smedley-signed" club charters,  please scan and send them to T.I. so
      they can make an official collection of them.

Final note:
            About the blogger:
           Bob Palmer, DTM, joined Toastmasters Club 130 in August 1973 about the same time that
           T.I. was voting to admit women into the organization.  When District 12 split off from
           Founder's District in 1989, Bob was the first DTM in the District's history.  He is also the first
           DTM in the history of his club.
           Bob has been Area Governor five times, Division Governor twice (Division Governor of the
           Year 1993-1994) and has co-founded four clubs.  He is currently District 12's Historian.
  Mr. Palmer has served as Toastmasters District 12 Parliamentarian several times and is also the president of the 32 year old Riverside Society of Parliamentarians in Riverside, CA.
Check out his website at which contains the history of parliamentary procedure going back to 1275 as well as a biography of Henry Robert.
Bob will soon post a new blog about the life and times (and books) of Luther Stearns Cushing who published Cushing's Manual of Parliamentary Procedure some 28 years before Roberts Rules of Order.The Riverside Society of Parliamentarians is proud to have in its possession a dust-jacketed copy of Ralph Smedley's 1955 book about Henry Robert: The Great Peacemaker 
We only wish it had been signed by the author.

Final note:
Bob's wife of 41 years, Mary, lost a 23-week battle with pancreatic cancer on January 20, 2018. 
The diagnosis came just 72 days after Mr. Palmer retired from elementary school teaching in 
May 2017.  Bob currently spends a lot of time with his daughter and son-in-law and his bouncing 4-year old grandson.
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