1915 : Birth of Kiwanis in Detroit

January 21, 2023 all-day

Kiwanis International, one of the great service organizations of the world, had its origin on January 21, 1915. On this date the State of Michigan issued a charter to a group of business and professional men who organized the first Kiwanis Club on this site in the old Griswold Hotel. The club’s name, Kiwanis, was an Indian term. The concept and principle which Kiwanis represents is symbolized by the slogan “We build.” From this beginning, and within two years, Kiwanis became international in scope.

The original members, Detroit merchants and professionals, planned to call themselves the Benevolent Order Brothers. The name, though, was nixed when one member pointed out the difficulty in recruiting members to a club called BOB. Instead, they adopted the name Kiwanis, an American-Indian word for the phrase “we share our talents.”

Sources :

Michigan Markers, erected in 1964.

Emily Hopcian, This Week in Michigan History, Detroit Free Press, January 20, 2008, B.4.

Kiwanis wikipedia entry

Sam Stall, “Kiwanis International : It All Began in Detroit”, Michigan History, March/April 2015, pp.25-29.