Happy Birthday, NAR

naree_smFrom the NAR Archives: This month the National Association of REALTORS® turns one hundred years old. On May 12, 13, and 14, 1908, 120 real estate men from thirteen states, representing nineteen local boards and one state association, met in Chicago with one purpose: “to unite the real estate men of America for the purpose of exerting effectively a combined influence upon matters affecting real estate interests.”

They convened at 10 o’clock on a Tuesday morning in the YMCA auditorium on South LaSalle Street in Chicago’s Loop. The convention was called to order by Edward S. Judd, past president of the Chicago Board who in four years would be elected the fifth president of NAR.

Fifty years later NAR historian Pearl Janet Davies would write, “The National Association of Real Estate Boards arose from a realization by men in the real estate business that their business had within it the possibility of governing itself. The association was formed- as some such organization would inevitably have been formed- because real estate matters are deeply matters of the general welfare.”

Judd also chaired the critical Committee on Form of Organization, which included a representative of all boards in attendance and worked all of the first day of May 12 and into that night to hammer out a constitution and by-laws. The Chicago Board’s gifted counsel, Colonel Nathan William MacChesney, provided legal advice when needed. He would go on to represent NAR for almost forty years.

The founders expected a Code of Ethics to be written and approved (it was, five years later) and the by-laws required a standing committee on Code of Ethics. Other standing committees included National Legislation, State Legislation, and Taxation, as hot a topic then as now. An entire evening was devoted to “The Burden of Taxation as We Have Felt It.”

The board presidents were asked what goals the proposed organization should have. Their replies were first for standards in ethics and business practice; second for exchanging information and statistics on the real estate business; and for all involved to promote real estate ownership and development.

Separating themselves from unethical “sharks” and “curbstone brokers” was a primary concern. As REALTOR® and future Seattle Mayor George W. Dilling said, they sought “to assure to the buyer and to the seller the services of responsible and trustworthy agents.”

Hard-working Realtor Edward A. Halsey of Chicago doubled as the first Executive Secretary from 1908-1909. Shortly after the historic meeting he published a magazine account of the proceedings, “United Realty.” Over one thousand copies were mailed to real estate boards, newspapers, libraries, and colleges and universities.

The first Realtors expected this real estate organization to survive, unlike others previous to it, and decided the second annual convention would be held in Detroit. Lobbying hard for the Motor City was William W. Hannan. A year later, in his home town, Hannan would be elected NAR’s second president.

Other founders included the third president, Alexander S. Taylor of Cleveland. Historian Davies wrote “Taylor will always be remembered as the red-headed giant whose evangelism…breathed life into new real estate boards all over the country.” Then there was Samuel S. Thorpe of Minneapolis, who “led the transition of the Association from a loosely organized fraternal group to a working body with a full-time executive.”

By June of 1913 Judd was president and “the Association was ready to burst into major action that profoundly fulfilled its purpose.”

The early years were lean for NAR. Davies wrote: “The first years were the hardest. They were an era of getting acquainted, and of talk, just talk. There was confusion and hesitation among the volunteer executives before functions and procedures were defined. First commitments in national affairs were very cautious… but not once did expectation die down.”

Read more about NAR’s first days in United Realty, the official proceedings of the founding meeting (15M Adobe Acrobat file).

Frederik Heller

Managing Director of Information Services at the National Association of REALTORS®.

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