National YMCA Hall of Fame
at Springfield College

John Wanamaker (1838-1922)

Inducted in: 2016

Philadelphia YMCA

At the age of 19 John Wanamaker was hired by the Philadelphia YMCA, officially becoming the first corresponding secretary in the YMCA movement. The Y centered itself around making a conscious evangelistic effort to bring the youth to faith in Jesus Christ. John initiated daily prayer meetings at noon. He also supervised the distribution of hundreds of New Testaments, enlisted and trained more than forty young men as Sunday School teachers and secured many pledges of total abstinence.

When the Civil War began in 1861, Wanamaker helped other northern YMCA leaders who were forming the United States Christian Commission to support the enlisted men of the Union Army and Navy.

After four years with the Association, John Wanamaker decided to leave the position for a highly successful and financially rewarding career in retail. Even with his thriving businesses however, he always made time for the Y, and in 1870 John Wanamaker was elected President of the Philadelphia Association. He continued to invest in the mission of the YMCA as a result of his business success, both nationally and internationally. He never lost sight of the promise of the Y mission to influence the lives of men in society.