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Howard S. Braucher
1881 - 1949
Inducted October 1988
"Recreation is not only for the time. Recreation is forever afterward. Each person has his memory chest."
Described as a philosopher, crusader, promoter, and interpreter, Howard Braucher is among the leading pioneers in the recreation movement. Originally from Royalton, NY, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University. While a student, Braucher served as president of the Christian Association and worked at the Church of the Covenant and the Madison Square Church House. His professional career started in 1906 as secretary of Associated Charities in Portland, ME. During this time, his interest in recreation was stimulated as a result of his volunteer service in Portland’s evening recreation centers and by a visit he made to a number of cities to study the new recreation movement. From 1909, when he became the fi rst full-time secretary of the Playground Association of America, until his death in 1949, Braucher spearheaded a nationwide movement to bring recreation opportunities to all people, regardless of age, sex, race, or religious faith.
As the guiding force behind the National Recreation Association for 40 years, Braucher believed it was local government’s responsibility to provide basic recreation services to the general public. During this time, community recreation in the United States won wide support. Funding for local recreation programs increased phenomenally in the first half of the twentieth century, from one million in 1909 to 96 million in 1948. Much of the growth of public recreation is attributed to Braucher and the efforts of the National Recreation Association.
At the onset of World War I, Braucher, along with Joseph Lee, was instrumental in organizing the War Camp Community Service (WCCS) to provide off-base recreation opportunities for military personnel. Under their direction, WCCS established clubhouses in towns and cities near military bases and employed a staff of 2,500, who were assisted by 60,000 volunteers. This wartime community service helped to stimulate the expansion of public recreation during the 1920s.
Among his other pioneering efforts, were the establishment of a National Physical Education Service and the creation of the National Recreation School. The National Physical Education Service, implemented in the 1920s, represented a nationwide campaign to make physical education compulsory in elementary and secondary schools. The National Recreation School, established in New York City in 1926, provided a one-year graduate program to train men and women to serve as recreation executives in cities across the country. Both of these institutions provided early on a set of standards and trained professionals for communities.
The importance of Braucher is evident in his writing in the monthly magazine known as Recreation, formerly called The Playground and later Playground and Recreation. For many years, Recreation magazine carried on its editorial page Braucher’s wise and timely comments on the ways of the world, with particular reference to the field of recreation. When unemployment was a major problem in the United States, he called on recreation to meet the challenge of empty hours and emptier pockets. When dictatorship enveloped half of Europe, no one realized more clearly than he how easily organized recreation could be made an instrument for enslaving the souls of men. He saw what “Strength through Joy”1 had come to mean in Germany and he was unwavering in his determination that no such corruption of the spirit of recreation should come to pass in America. When war was declared, he was among the first to affirm that service to country must come first, that play must wait for the leisure moments when all work was done; but he never ceased to emphasize the importance of play as a builder of morale and a source of strength for continued effort.
At the end of the war, he wrote of the need to establish a sense of brotherhood in the community, in the nation, and in the world, and of recreation as a means to this end. At the time of his death, his editorials, rich in philosophy, were published by the Association in a volume entitled A Treasury of Living. They were published in the hope that others reading his words may be inspired to carry on his legacy.
It is difficult to estimate the influence Braucher has had on the growth of community recreation. Braucher preached the gospel of play as an essential part of life. To him, life without recreation was a living death and the man who lacked the spirit of play was an empty shell. His contributions will have lasting value, not only for recreation professionals, but everyone involved in the well being of mankind. One would be hard fast to find a neighborhood that at some time or another has not benefited from the numerous services provided by the National Recreation Association under the leadership of Braucher.
Adapted from: Hartsoe, C, Sanders, D & Bridges, M (eds.) (2009), Profiles in Leadership: Robert W. Crawford Recreation and Park Hall of Fame. National Recreation and Park Association and American Academy of Park and Recreation Administration.
- Butler, G.D. (1965). Pioneers in public recreation. Minneapolis, MN: Burgess Publishing Company.
- Ibrahim, H. (1989). Pioneers in leisure and recreation. Reston, VA: American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance.