The History of Toastmasters

Since Toastmasters began, more than two million men and women have benefited from the communication and leadership programs of the organization. The first club was formed in October 1924, when a group of men assembled by Dr. Ralph C. Smedley met in the basement of the Santa Ana, California YMCA to form a club to afford practice and training in the art of public speaking and in presiding over  meetings, and to promote sociability and good fellowship among its members. The group took the name Toastmasters.

A year later, a second club was started in Anaheim, California, followed by a third in Los Angeles. By 1930, it was apparent that a federation was necessary to coordinate activities of the clubs and to provide standard methods. After formation of a club in Victoria, British Columbia, the group became known as Toastmasters International. Growth was slow during the early years, but the number of clubs increased steadily. The forerunner of today’s Communication and Leadership program, Basic Training was introduced in 1942 and has been expanded and updated many times since then to keep abreast of the times and members’ needs.

Membership in Toastmasters International increased rapidly after the end of World War II, and by 1954 the number of Toastmasters clubs had approached 1500.

Gavel Clubs were formed in 1958 to accommodate groups wanting Toastmasters training but not qualified for Toastmasters membership. These clubs provide communication and leadership training in correctional institutions, hospitals, and schools. In 1966, the Youth Leadership Program, for young people in junior and senior high school, was added to the list of established community programs being presented by Toastmasters. In 1962, World Headquarters offices were moved to a new building in Santa Ana, California, not far from where the first club began.

In 1973, Toastmasters club membership was opened to women, enabling them to benefit also from self-development in communication and leadership. In the same year, a comprehensive listening program was introduced to further help members develop their communication skills. The following year saw a celebration of their organization’s first 50 years and the promise of an even more successful second half-century. New programs, including the modular Advanced Manual Series, Success/Leadership Series, and self-study cassette tape programs, were added to augment the Communication and Leadership program. Growth in new clubs, especially in the corporate sector, reached new highs in the late 1980s, with more than 7000 clubs, and there are now over 10,000.

Today, Toastmasters International is the undisputed world leader in public speaking training with the promise that the best is yet to come.

The History of the Sears-Halifax Club

See a great video history of our club here:

The Sears-Halifax Toastmasters Club has a long and illustrious history, being the oldest Club in Nova Scotia. The Club was chartered on the 25 February 1956 as the Simpson and Simpson-Sears Toastmasters Club and it wasn’t until 1977 that it changed it’s name to the current Sears-Halifax Toastmasters Club.

Helping Other Clubs

The club has a history of starting and supporting other clubs throughout Nova Scotia.

Year Club
1963 Dartmouth
1966 Telco
1968 Yarmouth
1969 Waverley
1970 Cobequid
1979 Schooner
1981 Sackville


The Club has conducted Speechcraft courses for companies and the community including:

Year Area
1967 Maritime Tel & Tel
1970 Junior Chamber of Commerce
1972 Maritime Tel & Tel
1977 Royal Bank Managers
1978 Chartered Accountants
2018 Open Door Center

Club Awards

Club member Jack Kiuru became Nova Scotia’s first Distinguished Toastmaster in 1979 and went on to become District Governor of the Year that same year and was elected International Director in 1980.

The Club continues to thrive, picking up awards along the way:

Year Award
1971 Distinguished Club
1978 Distinguished Club
1981 Distinguished Club
1982 Select Distinguished Club
1983 Distinguished Club
1984 Distinguished Club
1985 Distinguished Club
1986 Select Distinguished Club
1987 President’s Distinguished Club
1989 President’s Distinguished Club
1991 Select Distinguished Club
1992 Distinguished Club
1993 Select Distinguished Club
1995 Distinguished Club
1996 Distinguished Club
1997 Distinguished Club
1999 Distinguished Club
2001 Distinguished Club
2002 President’s Distinguished Club
2003 Select Distinguished Club
2004 Select Distinguished Club
2005 Select Distinguished Club
2006 President’s Distinguished Club
2007 President’s Distinguished Club
2008 President’s Distinguished Club
2009 President’s Distinguished Club
2010 President’s Distinguished Club
2011 President’s Distinguished Club
2012 President’s Distinguished Club
2013 President’s Distinguished Club
2014 President’s Distinguished Club
2015 Select Distinguished Club
2016 President’s Distinguished Club
2017 President’s Distinguished Club
2018 President’s Distinguished Club
2019 President’s Distinguished Club
2020 President’s Distinguished Club
2022 Select Distinguished Club

How it Works

Each club attempts to achieve a series of ten goals each year. Depending on how many are achieved, the club could be awarded one of the following distinctions:

Achieve five out of ten goals:
Distinguished Club
Achieve seven out of ten goals:
Select Distinguished Club
Achieve nine out of ten goals:
President’s Distinguished Club

Club Anniversaries


The significant anniversaries of the Club have been celebrated in style with distinguished speakers from all walks of life:

Anniversary Location Speakers
25th, 1981 Admiral Lord Nelson Hotel Sears General Manager Gerry Grandy
40th, 1996 Halifax Sheriton 1995 World Champion Speaker Mark Brown
50th, 2006 Westin Nova Scotia Hon John Buchanan – former premier of NS (1978-1990), former Senator (1990-2006)
55th, 2011 Halifax Atlantica Hotel Neil Everton from Podium Coaching & Communications
60th, 2016 The Westin Nova Scotian Hotel Joe Grondin, a 2010 and 2015 finalist in the Toastmasters World Speaking Championship

Club Hall of Fame

Our club has had a lot of veterans over the years, each one contributing to the club culture that lives on to this day.

Name Joined Left Years Active