Toastmaster International History
Original Home of TI in Santa Ana, CA

The Beginnings of Toastmasters

Ralph Smedley as Educational Director of the "Y" in Bloomington, Illinois discovered there was a need for training in speech. He began to design a club and struggled for a name. The General Secretary of the "Y", George Sutton, suggested calling it a Toastmasters club. The boys liked the name and the club was a success. At each club meeting, there was a rotation of duties with members taking turns at presiding and speaking. Short speeches were evaluated by Ralph and the other older men, and the boys were invited to join in the evaluation to learn more. The club performed its intended purpose as leadership and speech improved in the other educational groups with which these young men were associated. The first meeting of "The Toastmaster Club" was held on March 24th., 1906.

The club only lasted a year after Ralph Smedley moved to the YMCA at Rock Island, Illinois as General Secretary in 1910. He organized a Toastmasters Club at the Rock Island "Y" which soon reached a membership of 75. When Ralph Smedley left the Rock Island "Y", the Toastmasters Club there also soon perished.

After he spent over two years with an architect working on YMCA architecture he accepted the post of YMCA Secretary at San Jose, California in September 1919, and soon had a Toastmasters Club flourishing at his new YMCA. Again the club lasted only a short time after he moved to Santa Ana, California in 1922.

The First Permanent Club

A club was immediately organized and still exists as Club No. 1 of Toastmasters International. He introduced the Toastmasters Club idea and the first meeting was held at the YMCA Building on October 22, 1924. Until then, the Toastmasters Club was an educational arm of the YMCA. In the autumn of 1925, J. Clark Chamberlain of Anaheim, California visited the Toastmasters Club and the following winter, Ralph Smedley helped a group in Anaheim to form a Toastmasters Club. It is still labeled as Club Number 2 in Toastmasters International. The Toastmasters Club idea spread to Los Angeles, Long Beach, and other southern California cities. Representatives of these clubs met and organized an association.

Birth of Manuals

In order to save the time consumed in replying to many letters and inquiries, Ralph prepared a "Manual of Instructions" and "Ten Lessons In Public Speaking" which he mimeographed and bound in paper covers. On October 25, 1928, Ralph obtained copyrights on his publications and copyrighted the name Toastmasters Club all of which he later assigned to Toastmasters International.

The new association needed a name and because of one club in British Columbia, Canada, they chose to call it Toastmasters International. There were about 30 clubs when the association was formed in 1930, and in 1932 Toastmasters International was incorporated as a California Non-profit corporation.

In addition to his job as Secretary of the YMCA, Smedley was the Secretary and Bulletin Editor of the Santa Ana Rotary Club and undertook the dual role of Editor and Secretary of the new Toastmasters International. In 1936, he published his first article to give special recognition to General Henry Martyn Robert, the author of Robert's Rules of Order. His interest in General Robert continued for the rest of his life and culminated in the book The Great Peacemaker by Ralph C. Smedley published in 1955.

He resigned as YMCA Secretary in 1941 to devote more time to Toastmasters International. Through the war years he operated the organization out of a small office. When the war ended, a new Secretary, Ted Blanding, replaced Smedley, who remained active as Educational Director for the rest of his life and a permanent member of the Board of Directors. In 1950, Smedley wrote "Beyond Basic Training". At the Toastmasters International Convention at Atlanta, Georgia, August 18-20, 1960, Ralph C. Smedley showed the model of the new Toastmasters International Headquarters, 2200 North Grand, Santa Ana, California, to the District 19 delegation.

1st World Headquarters owned by TI in Santa Ana.Expansion

The new World Toastmaster International Headquarters was opened in 1962 in Santa Ana. In 1964 Toastmasters introduced and issued it 1st award the Able Toastmaster.  (ATM).

Sadly on 9/11/65 Dr Ralph Smedley pasted away. In his honour, the Foundation Club keeps a chair vacant at their meeting with his picture on it.

The first Competent Toastmaster (CTM) Award was issued in 1968. You needed to do 15 speeches to acquire this award. 1970 the Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) Award was introduced. One of the first people to receive this award was non other than PDG and PID Sandy Robertson, DTM (#8) of Victoria Beavers Toastmasters Club of District 21.

In 1973 TI opened it's membership to women, but it was rumoured that some had been members before that. They used their names by using their initials (e.g. I.A.Woman). This was a great move, this year 2008 Toastmasters International will have their forth woman President, Jana Barnhill, DTM and in 2010 the helm will be taken by Pat Johnson, DTM [also PDG of District 21].

From 1982 to 1989 Toastmasters membership increased 50% from 100,000 to 150,000. This was the fastest growth ever. In 1990 TI moved to another new World Toastmaster International Headquarters in Rancho Santa Margarita, just a mere 27 minute drive (22 Miles) from the old headquarters. The new headquarters held its opening ceremonies, emceed by Past International President John Noonan [also PDG of District 21] on February 16th, 1991.

Since 1991 there has been many changes to the Educational Programs with the introduction of the Competent Communicator (CC) Award, the Advanced Awards (AB,AS, and AG) and the introduction of a Manual for Competent Leader (CL), with Advanced designations for leadership program (ALB and ALS), all still culminating in the Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) Award.

Altisma Park, Rancho Santa Margarita with Saddleback Mountains in the background


In 2008, there are more than 230,000 members and over 11,500 clubs located in 92 countries around the World including the United States, and Canada. Membership in the US has grown by 3% in 2007 while it continues to grow rapidly in many foreign nations. Toastmasters members belong to local clubs, which generally have between six and 40 members, with 20 members being a typical size. The local clubs meet on a regular basis for members to practice various skills useful in public speaking, including giving speeches, speaking extemporaneously, listening, and providing each other with feedback and evaluation. Some clubs meet monthly, some meet twice a month, and some meet weekly.

The source of this history is taken from the following Wikipedia articles, Ralph C. Smedley, Toastmasters International. , and the 'Expansion' section written by Brian Dodd, ACG,OCL. All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. (See Copyrights for details.)