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. Thank you for this information. Interesting.

  2. Code of Ethics
    Story of the 1913 convention in Canada is very interesting.

  3. I like the flyer for Real Estate Delegates. Esp. the words “Winnipeg want you”.

  4. History of the birth of NAR is touching. I am touched by the honor given to deceased Realtors!

  5. Fascinating history!

  6. Really enjoyed reading 1913 NAR in Canada. Liked the poster too.
    Good history lesson of the 3 Realtors lost on the Titanic, God rest their souls.

  7. Bertha Shane

    Very interesting

  8. Great information.

  9. Learned a lot , very helpful.

  10. Very interesting. I have a better understanding of how NAR was created.

  11. Awesome info….who wouda thought???

  12. I have been a Realtor for thirty one (31) years! I was taught the GOLDEN RULE since childhood! I really do appreciate understanding how relates to our behavior as Realtors! The beginning of this Ethics class stated that NAR request us to take this class! A better word is “DEMANDS!” That’s okay, but be fair, we should NOT be required to take this right here at Christmas time. I just heard of this a week ago, that is VERY LITTLE NOTICE!!!

  13. Terry Lewis

    History is binding

  14. Sharon Dougan

    always a surprise when you learn the “reason” for the decisions that are make. I am wondering when they changed the verbiage from Men of North America to include the other 1/2 of the population…the women? It would seem they are in violation of their own “code”

  15. Colleen Nesseth

    interesting information

  16. Colleen Nesseth

    This is very informative information.

  17. Marsha Nemitz

    Interesting information

  18. Marsha Nemitz

    Very interesting information.

  19. John Rhoads

    Interesting that 3 Realtors lost their lives on the Titanic. They must have been doing quite well?!

  20. KayPlimpton

    very interesting information

  21. Hildreth Stoddart-Brown

    Informative and interesting

  22. Sharon Olund

    This was very interesting. Very sad about the 3 members who lost their lives.

  23. Robin Phillips

    This course was so simple and easy to navigate.

    It was very professional in style.

    Thank you,

    Robin Phillips

  24. john skinner


  25. Thomas Brackin

    I do love history !

  26. Sonia Grant

    Interesting information!

  27. William Edens

    Great History

  28. Kathy Lobry

    I have never heard about this part of our Realtor History.
    I love history and this is great information. Thank you for telling
    us about this.

  29. Davina Nussenblatt

    very interesting to see when it all started.

  30. Martha Smith

    Interesting history…A great reminder of the when and how it all came together

  31. Paulette

    Very interesting and informative!!!

  32. Amy Croce

    Enjoyed learning about beginning of the profession.

  33. Tina Marie Kassam

    History is very helpful in helping one understand the why of everything

  34. Tina Marie Kassam

    It helps one remember important facts about history when you are able to start at the beginning.

  35. Tina Marie Kassam

    I never would have realized that three members of the NAR lost their lives during the Titanic tradgedy.

  36. Cheryl Penuel

    Interesting article and nice to learn about how it all started. thank you

  37. Great History

  38. Educational

  39. cheryl maniscalco

    I had no idea!

  40. Lynn Levine

    Good course.

  41. Mary Swartz

    I had forgotten this information…still interesting.

  42. Interesting reading thus far, surprised to find this all originated from up in Canada, and then to come to find out of their removal in 59′ also surprising was the three realtors who perished in the infamous Titanic