Toastmasters began as a series of speaking clubs organized by Ralph C. Smedley during his time working for the YMCA in Bloomington, Illinois, USA.
As director of education at the YMCA, Smedley saw a need for men to learn how to speak, conduct meetings, plan programs, and work on committees. He then organized a club where they could learn these skills in a social environment.
He named the group the Toastmasters Club; “toastmaster” was a popular term that referred to a person who gave toasts at banquets and other occasions.
The first unofficial Toastmasters meeting was held on March 24, 1905. Much like Toastmasters meetings today, the participants took turns leading and speaking at each meeting. Smedley and the older, more experienced men evaluated short speeches. As time passed, the younger, less experienced men were invited to build their evaluation skills.
However, as Smedley was offered positions at other YMCAs in Illinois and later, in San Jose, California, the fledgling club lacked leadership and did not flourish.
The Forming of Toastmasters International
Smedley began working at the newly organized YMCA in Santa Ana, California, in 1922. For his first two years, he focused his energy on building the YMCA organization. However, his passion to help others learn to speak and lead remained.
Once the new YMCA building was christened in April of 1924, he was able to introduce the idea of Toastmasters to his colleagues, and organize what eventually became Club No. 1 of Toastmasters International. The first meeting was held at the YMCA building on October 22, 1924. Awareness of his club spread by word-of-mouth and soon people in surrounding communities and other states were asking how they could start their own club.
To save time replying to the many letters and inquiries he was receiving, Smedley wrote the “Manual of Instructions” and “Ten Lessons in Public Speaking,” which he had printed and bound in paper covers. On October 25, 1928, he secured copyrights on the publications and trademarked the name “Toastmasters Club”.
By 1930, nearly 30 Toastmasters clubs had formed including a club in British Columbia, Canada. To reflect expansion outside of the United States, the newly formed association was re-named Toastmasters International. Two years later, in 1932, Toastmasters International was incorporated as a California non-profit organization and Smedley assumed the positions of Secretary and Editor.
He resigned as YMCA Secretary in 1941 to devote more time to Toastmasters. Through the war years, he operated the organization out of a small office. When the war ended, a new Secretary, Ted Blanding, replaced Smedley.
Smedley remained active as Educational Director for the rest of his life, as well as a permanent member of the Board of Directors.
In 1956, Toastmasters International honoured Smedley at an international convention. Smedley was elected president and board member for life. He continued to work for Toastmasters s educational director until his death in 1965 at 87.
The Growth of Toastmasters International
A series of rented office spaces in Southern California served as Toastmasters International’s headquarters until 1962, when the staff moved into the first World Headquarters building in Santa Ana, not far from the YMCA where the first Toastmasters club met.
Ralph C. Smedley died in 1965. In 1970, Toastmasters International admitted its first female member, Helen Blanchard, under the name Homer Blanchard. In 1973, Toastmasters began officially admitting women, and in 1985, Helen became Toastmasters’ first female international president.
Terrence McCann, an Olympic wrestler, was chosen in 1975 to serve as the Executive Director of Toastmasters International, a position he held until 2001. He was replaced by Donna Groh (2001–2008) and then Daniel Rex (2008 to present).
The Birth of District 60
District 60 began in May 1952 when two new Canadian clubs – St. Catherine’s Club and a few weeks later, Hamilton #1 Club – chartered and joined District 34.
Over the next four years, more clubs formed in and around the golden horseshoe until 1956 when a group of Canadian Toastmasters from then District 34, an upper New York State district, applied for an all-Canadian district. Their efforts paid off in 1957 when two groups of Canadian Clubs were spun off from District 34 and granted Provisional District status as District numbers 60-P and 61-P. One year later, Toastmasters International granted full-fledged District status to the two Provisional Districts.
At its largest, District 60 included 347 clubs and served Toastmasters in Metropolitan Toronto, Eastern Ontario to the west of Kingston, Southwestern Ontario to the west of London, Central and Northern Ontario to Elliot Lake, Sudbury, Timmins and the Niagara Peninsula.
On Feb. 18, 2007, the Board of Directors approved a recommendation to reform (split) the district into two smaller districts. As of July 1, 2008, District 60 and the new District 86 operate as two separate districts.
District 60 now serves over 5000 Toastmasters in the cities, counties and regional municipalities in the Toronto, Durham, Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes, Peterborough, Northumberland, Hastings, Lennox and Addington, and Prince Edward.
District 60 has had the pleasure of hosting four different International Conventions, each time in Toronto, in 1967, 1977, 1993 and 2005. We have produced 14 International Directors, although one of them was nominated from District 40 due to relocation.
District 60 has become one of the strongest districts in Toastmasters International. We have achieved Distinguished District status or better 26 times, including President’s Distinguished for four straight years, placing in the top three in the world from 2002-03 to 2005-06.
Original District 60 Clubs
St. Catharines (1102-86)
Hamilton #1 (1114-86)
Toronto #1 (1289-60)
Port Credit (1474-86)
St. Thomas (2049-60) dissolved
Willowdale (2088-60) dissolved
Broadview (1569-60) dissolved
Ambitious City (1586-86)
Gavel & Glass (1693-60)
Toastmasters International recognizes members who demonstrate longstanding support and dedication to Toastmasters with the Presidential Citation.
District 60 members who have received Presidential Citations from the President of Toastmasters International include:
2020 Ross Mackay (via D86)
2019 Tony Nelson
2017 Randie Jacobs, Karim Premji (via D86)
2008 Bill Bienia
2007 Kathleen Wong
2005 Brian Robinson
2000 Harold Usher
1998 Kai Rambow
1996 Ralph Williamson
1993 Henry (Hank) O’Shea
1992 Vince DaCosta
1989 George Keenan
1988 Peter Crabtree
1981 Doug Barclay
1977 Dr. Thomas Francis and Frank Hurst