Born in Waverly IL in 1878, Ralph C. Smedley graduated Illinois Wesleyan University in 1903 and a year later became educational director of the Bloomington YMCA. There he began a public speaking club for high school students. Because their meeting simulated a formal banquet, the group was dubbed “Toastmasters Club.”

Two years later Smedley moved to Freeport with the YMCA and that town soon had a Toastmasters Club of professional men. Eventually, his work took him to Santa Anna, CA, where he started a club in 1924. From there, it spread to other cities. By the time of his death in 1965, Toastmasters International had 80,000 members in over 3,600 clubs.

He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Illinois Wesleyan in 1950.

This collection includes selected Toastmasters publications, a speech given by his cousin Gene Smedley, newspaper articles, and other miscellaneous focused on Ralph Smedley and his creation of Toastmasters International.