Lions Clubs International Centennial Celebration - 240M People Benefited  |   Centennial Merchandise
Jump to Main Content
Lions 100 Lions 100
Jump to Footer

Expanding Horizons

Harry A. Newman of Toronto became Lion’s first international president in 1924 as Lions Clubs expanded beyond the U.S.

Harry A. Newman of Toronto became Lion’s first international president in 1924 as Lions Clubs expanded beyond the U.S.

Expanding Horizons

section

Touchstone Story #31

All roads lead to Toronto. At least they did for Lions in 1931 when Canada became the first country outside of the United States to host the Lions Clubs International Convention. 

Canada had embraced the fun and service mindset of Lions since 1920, when the first club, the Border Cities Lions Club, was founded in Ontario. The same year, Harry A. Newman, a lawyer from Toronto, joined the executive board of Lions. After serving in several leadership posts, in 1924 he became the organization’s first international president from outside of the United States. By the time the 1931 convention took place in Toronto, Lions clubs had spread across Canada, from Halifax to Vancouver.

International President Earle W. Hodges, an American from  Arkansas who served from 1930 to 1931, encouraged Lions to head in droves to the convention, reminding members that Canadian Lions had always been faithful conference attendees at conventions held in the United States.

“It’s going to be the most enjoyable and the most instructive convention we’ve ever had!” the Lions board of directors told members in LION Magazine. To ease the minds of some anxious travelers, the magazine also featured a primer on how to travel to Canada. It included instructions for crossing the border by auto, boat, plane and—just in case— bicycle.

Lions showed up in record attendance. More than 6,000 Lions came to Toronto for the annual conference, which was held July 14 to 17. Throughout the four-day event attendees were treated to performances from musicians, dancers and opera stars. They took trips across the bay, sang songs, attended parties, laughed with old friends and joined in the parade. One evening’s big event, Canada Night, featured an astounding 700 performers.

Like all conferences, the fun was mixed with business. Board and departmental meetings continued as usual, and Lions founder and Secretary General Melvin Jones got a laugh when he jokingly offered to read his 200-page report on the state of Lions from the podium at the convention hall. The highlight of the report: Lions had added 333 clubs during the previous year, bringing the total to 2,500.

Lions Clubs International has grown by leaps and bounds since the 1931 convention, when clubs could be found only in United States, Cuba, China, Mexico and Canada. Lions have spread around the world, establishing more than 46,000 clubs in over 200 countries and geographic areas. And each summer, representatives still gather together from near and far for the annual international convention to reunite, reflect and build excitement for another year of service, fellowship and fun.

Toronto hosted the first Lions Clubs International Convention outside of the U.S. in 1931 and hosted the conference again in 1964 and 2014.

Toronto hosted the first Lions Clubs International Convention outside of the U.S. in 1931 and hosted the conference again in 1964 and 2014.

section

Jump to Top