Skip to main content

Young Men's Catholic Association of Boston College records

Collection BC-2001-074: Young Men's Catholic Association of Boston College records


  • 1874 - 1941

Scope and Contents

The Young Men's Catholic Association of Boston College records contain ledgers of meeting minutes; scrapbooks documenting the organization's recreational and educational activities; and publications and ephemera produced by the Association from 1875-1941. Of interest among the publications and ephemera are programs from Association events (including College Balls), materials from the evening courses offered by the Association, and career and trade preparation materials.


Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research; portions of the collection are available digitally.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Historical Note

The Young Men's Catholic Association of Boston College (YMCA) was an educational and recreational organization for Catholic youths founded in 1875 by Robert Fulton, SJ, then Boston College's third president. Catholic pastors feared that the church was losing track of young Catholic men after they left grammar school. Fulton realized that most young Catholic men could not attend Boston College, and his aim was to establish a Catholic social organization for them. The organization was given access to Boston College facilities. The YMCA constitution deemed that the president of Boston College was also the president of the YMCA. The YMCA's vice-president remained the true leader of the organization while the president was given veto power.

Though using college facilities, the organization was not officially tied to Boston College. The facilities were important because they offered access to a library, lecture halls, a reading room, and a gymnasium (one of the main attractions of the Protestant Young Men’s Christian Association). The use of Boston College Hall enabled lectures and multiple-day annual reunions. These reunions (also known as College Balls) were so well-attended that they were often held in Mechanics Hall and even Symphony Hall.

In 1890, Fulton acquired a new building for the college and earmarked a quarter of that property for the YMCA. Some Boston College students and alumni possessed animosity towards the YMCA, feeling that it lessened the college's growing prestige. The name was changed to simply "YMCA of Boston" after the turn of the century to reflect the independence of the organization from the college.

In 1910, President Thomas Gasson, SJ, introduced a major change to the YMCA: evening classes were offered for the first time. These classes tended to be vocational and included composition, accounting, social service, commercial arithmetic, and preparation courses for civil service examinations. Teachers served on a voluntary basis for the first four years. In 1914, the YMCA had twenty-five paid instructors. By the early twenties, the enrollment stood at 2,600 students. The courses were open to men and women of all races and religions. The night school was praised nationally and was seen as a means to fill the gap between private and public education. It was the largest in New England and inspired similar programs in other urban areas.

The YMCA survived the Great Depression but could not withstand the stresses of World War II. With young men joining the Armed Forces, the YMCA's enrollment dropped to such a low level that the organization could not maintain itself financially and closed. Over the course of its sixty-five years of operation, 60,000 members and students passed through the doors of the YMCA of Boston.


Kennealey, Brendan. "Young Men's Catholic Association of Boston College." Paper for Dr. Thomas O'Connor's course, Boston Irish Politics. February 1998


16.25 Linear Feet (19 containers)

Language of Materials



The records contain meeting minutes, scrapbooks, publications, and ephemera produced by the Young Men’s Catholic Association of Boston College between 1875 and 1941.


The collection is arranged into four series. I. Meeting minutes; II. Scrapbooks; III. Printed materials, and IV. Photograph of the Board of Trustees.


Gifts of Paul Nelligan, S.J. (2001), uknown donor (2001), and Mary Cunningham (2004).

Existence of Digital Copies

Portions of this collection are available digitally. Links are included in the inventory.

Related Materials

Robert Fulton President’s Office Records, BC.1986.020B, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Young Men's Catholic Association of Boston College records
Ed Copenhagen, 2001; and AnnMarie Anderson
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States