For over a century, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been helping change kids’ perspectives and giving them the opportunity to reach their potential. And we have over 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
1902 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.
1903 Businessman Irvin F. Westheimer befriends a young boy in Cincinnati, OH; seeds are formed for the start of Big Brothers in Cincinnati.
1904 Ernest Coulter founds the organized Big Brothers movement by obtaining 39 volunteers, who each agree to befriend one boy.
1912 The New York Times reports Big Brothers activity in 26 cities.
1914 Ernest Coulter embarks on nationwide lecture tour on behalf of Big Brothers; planning begins for a national Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization.
1917 The first national conference of Big Brothers and Big Sisters organizations is held in Grand Rapids, MI.
1923 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.
1925 President Calvin Coolidge becomes patron of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation.
1930 Six hundred delegates attend a Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation meeting in New York City.
1934 President and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt become patrons of Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation.
1948 Norman Rockwell produces the sketch that becomes a symbol for the Big Brothers Association.
1951 The Big Brothers of the Year program begins, Associate Justice Tom Clark of the U.S. Supreme Court and J. Edgar Hoover are named.
1958 Big Brothers Association is chartered by Congress.
1970 Big Sisters International is incorporated.
1977 Big Sisters International and Big Brothers Association merge, forming Big Brothers Big Sisters of America with 357 agencies.
1984 Big Brothers Big Sisters of America occupies its headquarters at 230 North 13th Street in Philadelphia.
1985 Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is honored with a commemorative stamp by the Postmaster General.
1995 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.
1997 President William J. Clinton holds Volunteer Summit in Philadelphia; Big Brothers Big Sisters plays key role.
1998 Big Brothers Big Sisters International is founded.
2003 President George W. Bush announces three-year $450 million mentoring initiative in his State of the Union Address.
2004 Big Brothers Big Sisters celebrates 100 years of serving America’s youth.
2006 First Lady Laura Bush stars in a public service announcement to recruit volunteers across the nation.
2007 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.
2010 President Obama holds a White House National Mentoring Month Ceremony; Big Brothers Big Sisters attends and plays a key role.