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Author malw  Date 12 Aug 05, 19:52  Views 1564
Description History and background
Category Toastmasters  Type Information

How and where did Toastmasters Start?

Since the Toastmasters organization began in 1924,more than three million men and women have benefited from its communication and leadership programs. The first club was formed in October 1924, when a group of men assembled by Dr. Ralph C. Smedley met in the basement of the Santa Ana, California YMCA to form a club 'to afford practice and training in the art of public speaking and in presiding over meetings, and to promote sociability and good fellowship among its members'.

The group took the name 'Toastmasters.'

A year later, a second club was started in Anaheim, California, followed by a third in Los Angeles.
By 1930, it was apparent that a federation was necessary to coordinate activities of the clubs and to provide standard methods. After formation of a club in Victoria, British Columbia, the group became known as Toastmasters International.

Growth was slow during the early years, but the number of clubs increased steadily. The forerunner of today's Communication and Leadership program, Basic Training, was introduced in 1942 and has been expanded and updated many times since then to keep abreast of the times and members' needs.

Membership in Toastmasters International increased rapidly after the end of World War II, and by 1954 the number of Toastmasters clubs had approached 1,500.

Gavel clubs were formed in 1958 to accommodate groups wanting Toastmasters training but not qualified for Toastmasters membership. These clubs provide communication and leadership training in correctional institutions, hospitals and schools. In 1966, the Youth Leadership Program, for young people in junior and senior high school, was added to the list of established community programs being present by Toastmasters.

In 1962, World Headquarters offices were moved to a new building in Santa Ana, California, not far from where the first club began.

In 1973, Toastmasters club membership was opened to women, enabling them to benefit also from self-development in communication and leadership. In the same year, a comprehensive listening program was introduced to further help members develop their communication skills. The following year saw a celebration of the organization's first 50 years and the promise of an even more successful second half-century.

New programs, including the Advanced Communication and Leadership Program, Success/Leadership Series, and self-study cassette tape programs, were added to augment the Communication and Leadership program. Growth in new club, especially in the corporate sector, reached new highs in the late 1970s with the number of clubs approaching the 4,000 mark.

Throughout the '80s, Toastmasters International established itself as the undisputed world leader in public speaking training. In 1990, World Headquarters moved to Rancho Santa Margarita, California, to accommodate rapidly expanding operations. With approximately 8,300 clubs in 70 countries, Toastmasters International is continuing its drive to make effective communication a worldwide reality.

Toastmasters International History at a Glance

    October 22, 1924 The first meeting of the Number One Toastmasters club in Santa Ana, California.
    January 19, 1926 The second Toastmasters club is chartered -- in Anaheim, California.
    August 11, 1927 Representatives of five Santa Ana Toastmasters clubs plan the formation of a "Federation of Toastmasters Clubs."
    October 25, 1928 First manual for Toastmasters Clubs, copyrighted by Ralph Smedley.
    October 4, 1930 The name Toastmasters International is adopted and officers are elected.
    October 4, 1930 Publication of The Gavel, the first Toastmasters magazine.
    December 19, 1932 Toastmasters International incorporated.
    April, 1933 First issue of The Toastmaster magazine.
    January 9, 1933 First Toastmasters club outside of California established in Seattle, Washington.
    July 6, 1935 District organization is instituted, starting with District 1 of Southern California.
    January 29, 1938 Charter No. 100 presented to the Century Toastmasters Club in Santa Ana.
    August 1938 Inter-Club Speech Contest started. First winner: Henry Wiens of Reedley, California.
    July 1946 District 18 of Scotland becomes the first district outside the United States.
    1948 First TI Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws are published.
    1950 The first "Certificate of Achievement" is issued for the new advanced course, "Beyond Basic Training.
    June, 1951 First Regional Conference is held in Des Moines, Iowa.
    October 27, 1962 Dedication of new World Headquarters building in Santa Ana, California.
    March, 1963 A district awards program is adopted, the precursor of the later Distinguished District Program.
    1964 The first Able Toastmaster Award (ATM) is issued.
    1968 The first Competent Toastmaster Award (CTM) is issued for completing Basic manual.
    August, 1969 Communication and Leadership manual introduced at the International Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.
    1970 The first Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) award is issued. (DTM #1 is a D-47 Toastmaster)
    August, 1973 Membership opens to women.
    1978 The multi-manual Advance Communication and Leadership Program is introduced.
    1979 The first two Success/Leadership Programs are introduced.
    1981 The Accredited Speaker Program begins.
    October, 1982 Membership reaches 100,000.
    1984 The Communication and Leadership Program manual is revised, and two new educational awards are introduced: the ATM Bronze and ATM Silver.
    April, 1989 Membership reaches 150,000.
    July, 1989 The Distinguished Club Program, Distinguished Area Program and Distinguished Division Program are introduced.
    June, 1990 World Headquarters moves to Rancho Santa Margarita, California.
    January, 1993 Toastmasters International charters its 8,000th club.
    June, 1993 The High Performance Leadership Program is introduced.
    January, 1997 The revised Communication and Leadership Program manual is introduced.
    July, 1997 An improved two-track educational recognition system begins. The communication track includes the CTM, Advanced Toastmaster Bronze, Advanced Toastmaster Silver and Advanced Toastmaster Gold Awards. The leadership track includes the Competent Leader and Advanced Leader awards. Requirements for the DTM awards also changes.

Who is Ralph C. Smedley
Out of the Past
Americans firmly believe that it's possible to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Self-improvement - be it in the form of a face lift, motivational seminar, morning jog, or new low-cholesterol diet regimen - is the ticket to Valhalla.

It's not too surprising, then, to find Toastmasters International, the world's premier self-improvement club, in Orange County, where sheep ranches blossom into million-dollar corporations and swap meets spawn national clothing chains. What is surprising is that the club - which dedicates itself to improving leadership skills, self-confidence and communication through public speaking - originated in Orange County 75 years ago.

Off to a Rocky Start
Toastmasters was the brainchild of a Midwesterner named Ralph C. Smedley. In 1903, after graduating from Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois, Smedley took a job as director of education for the local Young Men's Christian Association. Realizing that the older boys who visited the YMCA needed training in communication, he began a public speaking club.

Smedley called his group, 'The Toastmasters Club' because the activities resembled a banquet with toasts and after-dinner speakers. The boys enjoyed taking turns making speeches and evaluating them, as well as presiding at the weekly meetings. Smedley's club blossomed, but soon he was promoted to general secretary of the YMCA and transferred to Freeport, Illinois. After his departure, the Bloomington club died.

In the following years, Smedley organized other Toastmasters clubs wherever he was transferred. In Freeport, businessmen and other professionals who recognized the benefits of communications skills became members. Yet these older members did not save the organization either. The club operated successfully while Smedley was there but disappeared when its founder moved on to Rock Island, Illinois. Subsequent clubs in Rock Island and San Jose, California, suffered the same fate.

Smedley must have despaired of ever seeing his creation blossom into a self-sustaining organization. "I observed a tendency among my fellow secretaries at the YMCA to regard The Toastmasters Club as a sort of peculiarity -- an idiosyncrasy of mine," he later said. "Perhaps it was not altogether orthodox as a 'Y' activity."

A New Beginning in Santa Ana
Finally, the YMCA director arrived in Santa Ana. Once more he organized a Toastmasters club, holding the first meeting in the Santa Ana YMCA basement on October 22, 1924. In Southern California's optimistic climate, the concept caught on. Men from neighboring communities sought out the group and liked what they saw. Smedley was quick to help them organize their own Toastmasters clubs. The new clubs were united in a federation designed to coordinate their activities and ensure uniform methods.

In 1932, the federation was incorporated as Toastmasters International, following the establishment of a club in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada. Districts were created later, as the number of clubs increased.

For many years, Smedley held the position of general secretary of the Santa Ana YMCA, handling finances, fund raising, program planning, membership matters and the supervision of a number of YMCA employees. In addition,he served as liaison for the local and national YMCA organizations.

Somehow Smedley managed to find time to spread the gospel about Toastmasters, serving as its executive secretary and editor of The Toastmaster magazine, while also maintaining his busy YMCA schedule. He corresponded regularly with members and club officers, encouraging and guiding them in club matters.

International Growth
By 1941, Smedley realized that Toastmasters needed his full-time attention. He resigned from the YMCA and opened a 12-by-16-foot office in a downtown Santa Ana bank, with a desk, typewriter, telephone and secondhand address machine. He hired a secretary to handle the correspondence while he wrote materials for the club's use.

The organization began with two manuals -- Basic Training and Beyond Basic Training -- written by Smedley in the office after business hours. He also found time to write several tomes on public speaking and parliamentary procedure. The Voice of the Speaker, Speech Evaluation and The Amateur Chairman found a ready audience in Toastmaster members. (Smedley also wrote The Great Peacemaker, a biography of Henry M. Robert, author of the famed Robert's Rules of Order.)

Toastmasters continued to grow. The single-room office expanded to four, and past international president Ted Blanding took over the position of executive secretary, while Smedley became educational director and concentrated on learning processes and materials.

Smedley was involved in the educational program of Toastmasters International until shortly before his death in 1965 at the age of 87.

New Directions
Toastmasters has continued to flourish. In 1962, Toastmasters -- by then an organization of 80,000 members and 3,500 clubs -- built its own 27,000-square-foot office building in Santa Ana. Smedley took part in the dedication ceremonies. A second growth spurt came following the decision to accept women as members in 1973.

By 1985, the Santa Ana building was serving 120,000 members and 5,300 clubs worldwide. Expansion and remodeling were necessary to provide 5,000 additional square feet of warehouse space. But within four years, the organization had outgrown the headquarters. In June 1990, Toastmasters International moved into a new world headquarters in Rancho Santa Margarita.

Today, more than 170,000 members take part in 8,300 clubs in the United States, Canada and 67 other countries. Thousands of corporations and government agencies, including Rockwell International in Downey and Irvine's Fluor Daniel, sponsor in house Toastmasters clubs as communication training for their employees. Specialized clubs meet at military bases, colleges and universities, churches and prisons. There are Toastmasters clubs for senior citizens, professional groups, bilingual groups, singles and visually impaired.

Dr. Ralph C. Smedley
Ralph Smedley's contributions to society have not gone unnoticed. In 1950, Wesleyan University granted him the honorary degree of doctor of humane letters, and Santa Ana named a junior high school after him in 1955. In 1956, Toastmasters itself honored him with the title of honorary president and lifetime board member. The Santa Ana Toastmasters Club even renamed itself the Smedley Number One Club in honor of its founder.

But perhaps the best tribute is one that takes place at every meeting of the Smedley Number One Club: A photograph of Smedley and the original club charter are placed in an empty chair near the lectern to represent his continuing inspiration.

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