Youth Groups: Boys Clubs


Figure 1.--Here Ted Donaldson appears with some other Hollywood film kids to make a plug for the Boys' Clubs and Easter Seals. This photograph would have beeb taken about 1946.

The Boys Club is a largely American group, although there are clubs in some other countries. The Boys' Club is the oldest American youth organization and possibly the oldest in the world. The Boys and Girls Club Movement began in the United States just before the outbreak of the the Civil War. The first Boys Club was founded in Harford, Connecticut during 1860--the Dashaway Club. Interestingly, it was the women of Harford whjo were responsoble. They were concerned about the boys who were roaming the streets without any constructive activities. Apparently the girls were not roaming and already had constructive activities to occuopy them--probably helping mom with the cooking and cleaning. The women thoughtb that the boys should have a positive alternative. They organized the first Boys' Club. Soon Clubs were opening in large cities throughout the United States. The idea spread to other areas of the country and more Clubs were formed. The first Club to use “Boys Club” in its official title was the Boys Club of New York in 1876. At this time, the Clubs served only boys. By the turn of the 20th century, there were about 50 such clubs. Representatices of 53 clubs formed a national organization (1906). Girls Clubs were also formedm but as a separate organization. They evolved into Girls, Inc. which organizes actibities for girls a serves as an advocacy group for girls. In response to a need for a girls program, the Boys Clubs began to also serve girls. The national organization officially changed its name to Boys and Girls Clubs of America (1900). There are over 4,000 Clubs in the United States serving over 4 million members. There are similar organizations in Germany, Australia, Canada, and many other countries around the world, but thev program is much smaller outside the United States.

Chronology

The Boys Club is the oldest American youth organization and possibly the oldest in the world. The Boys and Girls Club Movement began in the United States just before the outbreak of the the Civil War. The first Boys Club was founded in Harford, Connecticut during 1860--the Dashaway Club. Interestingly, it was the women of Harford whjo were responsoble. They were concerned about the boys who were roaming the streets without any constructive activities. Apparently the girls were not roaming and already had constructive activities to occuopy them--probably helping mom with the cooking and cleaning. The women thoughtb that the boys should have a positive alternative. They organized the first Boys' Club. Soon Clubs were opening in large cities throughout the United States. The idea spread to other areas of the country and more Clubs were formed. The first Club to use “Boys Club” in its official title was the Boys Club of New York in 1876. At this time, the Clubs served only boys. By the turn of the 20th century, there were about 50 such clubs. Representatices of 53 clubs formed a national organization (1906). The Federated Boys Clubs in Boston was formed with 53 member organizations. The Boys Clubs of America celebrated its 50th anniversary (1956). President Eisenhower officially presentef the national organization its Congressional Charter. This was a signal honor given to only a few non-profit organizations.

Gender

Girls Clubs were also formedm but as a separate organization. They evolved into Girls, Inc. which organizes activities for girls a serves as an advocacy group for girls. In response to a need for a girls program, the Boys Clubs began to also serve girls. The national organization officially changed its name to Boys and Girls Clubs of America (1900).

Size

The Boys and Girls Clubs by the turn of the 21st century had over 4 million members belongoing to 4,000 clubs. We have noted some sources quoting smaller numbers.

Purpose

The idea behind the Boys Club was to provide a haven for boys from the dirty, crime-ridden of urban America. The Boys Clubs provided a clean, safe haven where boys could play and study. Generations of iner-city youth have found a safe haven in the Boys Clubs to play and learn. The Clubs pride themselves on instilling sound values while inspiring hope for the future. A new program promotes new Clubs beyond the organization's inner-city base. Clubs are being set up on Indian Reservations around the country.

Operations

Most of the Clubs charge a modest fee, typically about $10 per month.

Activities

The Boys Clubs offer a range of activities. Those activities have varied over time and depebded on the facilities at the indivisual club. activities ranging from sports to pool to computer instruction as well as a variety of field trips. We note that the Boys Clubs were active during World War II. They also sponsored summer camps. One example is Camp Whitcomb which was associated with the Miluakee Boys Club. One activity was Indian Lore, an actuivity that has also been used by other American youth groups, especially the Cub Scouts and YMCA. We are not sure just how popular Indian Lore prograjms were at Boys' Clubs.

Clothing

The Boys' Clubs was a rare youth group that never adopted uniform for the boys. It was founded decades before the Boy Scouts which firmly set the conventiin of uniform, in part because of the military background of is founder and the uniform of its parent oganization--the Boys Brigade. The BC members just wore their ordinary clothing. The boy do not seem to have dressed up or down for the BC. This convention has remained unchange after now more than a century and a half. What has varied of course are the fashions boys wore over time to the club's and BC events. They represent another look at at popular contemporary styles and fashion conventions. We see all the period fashion fads, perhaps even more strongly than at school as the BC did not have dress codes and mothers were less concerned about how the boys dressed than when they went to school.

Nationality

There are over 4,000 Clubs in the United States serving over 4 million members. There are similar organizations in Germany, Australia, Canada, and many other countries around the world, but thev program is much smaller outside the United States.






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Created: November 15, 1998
Last updated: 3:11 AM 3/31/2014