The Code of Ethics’ North-of-the-Border Connection

Postcard promoting Winnipeg as the site of NAR’s 1913 annual conference. (NAR Archives)

As you may know by now, 2013 is the centennial year of the REALTORS® Code of Ethics.  And this month marks the official birthday of the Code:  On July 29, 1913, at the annual convention in Winnipeg, Manitoba, NAR’s board of directors got their first look at the much-anticipated Code and adopted it for use by the association’s members.

One of the first questions many REALTORS® ask when they find out about the Code’s origins is:  Winnipeg?  Why Winnipeg?

To get to the answer, it should first be explained that for many decades, the Winnipeg REALTORS® Association, along with several other local and provincial real estate associations in Canada, were members of the National Association of REALTORS®.

The National Association’s mission as stated in its 1908 constitution was to “unite the real estate men of America” — meaning North America, not just the United States.  A proposal to change the word “National” to “International” in NAR’s name was hotly debated at the 1912 convention, but the legal and strategic implications of such a move were seen as too much for the fledgling association to take on.  Instead, the constitution was revised in 1912 to say “unite the real estate men of North America,” eliminating any confusion about the status of Canadian members.

In the late 1930s the National Association expanded its territory to include the United States, “the Territory of Alaska, the Territory of Hawaii, the Philippine Islands, Canada, Mexico, and Cuba.”  Winnipeg and other Canadian real estate boards left NAR in 1943 to join the newly-formed Canadian Real Estate Association, but Canada still remained part of NAR’s official territory, at least on paper.  It wasn’t until 1959 — during NAR’s annual convention, held that year in Toronto — that Canada was finally removed from the territory described in NAR’s constitution.

Flyer for delegates at NAR’s 1912 convention, promoting Winnipeg as the 1913 convention city. (NAR Archives)

So how did Winnipeg in particular come to host the 1913 annual conference, where the Code of Ethics was first introduced?  Today, the site of NAR’s annual convention is usually decided years in advance.  In the association’s early days, however, one of the highlights of each annual convention was a contest to decide which city would host the next year’s meeting.   Delegates at the Board of Directors’ meeting would offer invitations from their cities, speeches would be made and much debate ensued over the merits of one city over another.

At the 1912 convention, held in Louisville, KY, three cities were in the running to host the 1913 meeting:  Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Winnipeg.  All three lobbied hard for the honor of hosting the next national REALTORS® convention, but in the end, Atlanta and Cincinnati didn’t stand a chance.  A few months before the Louisville meeting, the R.M.S. Titanic famously collided with an iceberg during its maiden voyage and sank in the Atlantic Ocean.   Among the 1,502 passengers lost were three REALTOR® members from Winnipeg:  Mark Fortune, J. Hugo Ross, and Thompson Beattie.  It was in their memory that the 1912 delegates chose Winnipeg to host NAR’s 6th annual convention.

Frederik Heller

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

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  1. Deborah Fazio


  2. Deborah Fazio

    Learning experience

  3. Martha Clines

    Interestering comment about men only on comment above. I’m sure its only because women were not selling real estate back in 1913. Maybe that is not true. We are here now!! Love the old poster and that we used to be referred to as “Real Estate Exchange”

  4. Carol Martin

    I don’t mind being called a man as long as I count. Men and woman are all important in the field of property sales and respected know matter what our gender.

  5. Carol Martin

    Very informative. Thank you

  6. Carol Martin

    Just great to know

  7. Juanita Thompson

    The NAR History proves that our profession should be taken more seriously and specifically, that we should treat it accordingly.

  8. Interesting, as well as sad, information pertaining to the Titanic and Canadian losses.

  9. Jerry Owen

    Interesting story concerning the formative years of the National Association and the inclusion of all of North America.

  10. Very intersinting!

  11. I thought it was interesting.

  12. I have no more to say.

  13. It is nice to know some of the background.

  14. Next please!

  15. Diane Masaitis

    The origin of Realtors is important to know. Thank you.

  16. Sherry Adams

    great to learn this!

  17. Elen

    Very interesting!!!

  18. Patty


  19. Kari Pollock

    Very interesting Canada was a part of the beginning foundation and left.

  20. Janine Bay Teske

    Interesting history.

  21. Susan Burton

    very interesting….

  22. Patricia t. Seitz


  23. Linda Hyers

    Very interesting

  24. Linda Hyers

    Good info

  25. Linda Hyers

    Glad to know start up group. Loved that it was held in Louisville Ky

  26. Joseph Bechaz Jr.

    great coarse

  27. Lexie Vasquez

    Great Article – Love history

  28. Tami Maloney

    I found it very interesting that the 1913 convention was held in Winnipeg in honor of the three Realtors that were passengers aboard the Titanic. Thank you for the informative article.