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Starting something since 1904At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we’ve been impacting the lives of children for 110 years. And we’re just getting started.

110 Years of History

For more than a century, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been helping change kids’ perspectives and giving them the opportunity to reach their potential. And we have more than a century of volunteers, donors, and advocates just like you to thank.

It all started in 1904, when a young New York City court clerk named Ernest Coulter was seeing more and more boys come through his courtroom. He recognized that caring adults could help many of these kids stay out of trouble, and he set out to find volunteers. That marked the beginning of the Big Brothers movement.

At around the same time, the members of a group called Ladies of Charity were befriending girls who had come through the New York Children’s Court. That group would later become Catholic Big Sisters.

Both groups continued to work independently until 1977, when Big Brothers Association and Big Sisters International joined forces and became Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

More than 100 years later, Big Brothers Big Sisters remains true to our founders’ vision of bringing caring role models into the lives of children. And, today, Big Brothers Big Sisters currently operates in all 50 states—and in 12 countries around the world.

Here is a look at our history, from the start:

Date Event


Ernest Coulter, court clerk, helps organize the first New York Children's Court; Ladies of Charity, later Catholic Big Sisters of New York, starts to befriend girls who come before the New York Children's Court.


Businessman Irvin F. Westheimer befriends a young boy in Cincinnati, OH; seeds are formed for the start of Big Brothers in Cincinnati.


Ernest Coulter founds the organized Big Brothers movement by obtaining 39 volunteers, who each agree to befriend one boy.


The New York Times reports Big Brothers activity in 26 cities.


Ernest Coulter embarks on nationwide lecture tour on behalf of Big Brothers; planning begins for a national Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization.


The first national conference of Big Brothers and Big Sisters organizations is held in Grand Rapids, MI.


Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., becomes treasurer of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation;
First motion picture based on a Big and Little Brother relationship is released by Paramount Pictures.


President Calvin Coolidge becomes patron of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation.


Six hundred delegates attend a Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation meeting in New York City.


President and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt become patrons of Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation.


Norman Rockwell produces the sketch that becomes a symbol for the Big Brothers Association.


The Big Brothers of the Year program begins, Associate Justice Tom Clark of the U.S. Supreme Court and J. Edgar Hoover are named.


Big Brothers Association is chartered by Congress.


Big Sisters International is incorporated.


Big Sisters International and Big Brothers Association merge, forming Big Brothers Big Sisters of America with 357 agencies.


Big Brothers Big Sisters of America occupies its headquarters at 230 North 13th Street in Philadelphia.


Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is honored with a commemorative stamp by the Postmaster General.


Public/Private Ventures Study on Big Brothers Big Sisters Community-Based Mentoring shows measurable, positive results on youth who have a Big Brother or Sister, seminal research in the field of youth mentoring.


President William J. Clinton holds Volunteer Summit in Philadelphia; Big Brothers Big Sisters plays key role.


Big Brothers Big Sisters International is founded.


President George W. Bush announces three-year $450 million mentoring initiative in his State of the Union Address.


Big Brothers Big Sisters celebrates 100 years of serving America’s youth.


First Lady Laura Bush stars in a public service announcement to recruit volunteers across the nation.


Public/Private Ventures conducts a study on Big Brothers Big Sisters School-Based Mentoring program, reinforcing the value of strong, long-lasting relationships and leading to program enhancements.

In a Super Bowl first, CBS, the NFL and Big Brothers Big Sisters joined forces to create a public service announcement that features the two coaches whose teams are competing in the game. Roughly 90 million viewers tuned in to watch the game and see Indianapolis Colts' Coach Tony Dungy and Coach Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears underscore the importance of mentoring by referencing their real-life mentoring relationship.


President Obama holds a White House National Mentoring Month Ceremony; Big Brothers Big Sisters attends and plays a key role.

2011 Big Brothers Big Sisters launches national mentoring initiative, Start Something.
2012 In January, Big Brothers Big Sisters releases first-ever, nationwide Youth Outcomes Survey (YOS) Report, which reflects the collective progress and success in three outcome areas known to significantly change the lives of children for the better, forever – educational success, avoidance of risky behaviors and socio-emotional competency.
BBBSA relocates its national headquarters to Tampa, Florida.
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