One of the premiere events for Americans a century ago was the long-awaited opening of the Panama Canal. Initially started by France in 1881, the United States took control of the project in May 1904, shortly after Panama declared its independence from Columbia. The Canal was completed ten years later, and was officially opened to boat traffic in the summer of 1914.
Many in the United States were eager to see the Panama Canal project brought to fruition, including REALTORS®. NAR’s members were given an insider’s update in the March issue of the National Real Estate Journal, written by one J. F. Jordan, an employee of the American telegraph service in Panama.
“There is perfect team work,” Jordan reported, “and a great deal of rivalry, both of which have a tendency to hurry the work along. If you listen to the steam shovel men they will make you believe they dug the canal, and the dredgemen, machinists, boilermakers, carpenters and concrete men will make you think theirs is the most important part of the work, and their arguments are so plausible that you hardly know to whom belongs the credit. Each man seems to think the whole responsibility of the canal rests of his shoulders. This enthusiasm is not confined to Americans alone, but to the 85 nationalities represented on the zone.”
Jordan also wrote that “Uncle Sam’s Big Ditch” held interesting prospects for enterprising real estate brokers and investors. “The canal zone has been a very good place for the sale of real estate; the men have made good wages and a large percentage have been saving for the proverbial rainy day. They see the work is nearing completion and most of them look ahead to owning home in the city or ranches…. There are still good opportunities for a live wire down in Panama, but my advice to any dealer contemplating going there is to get some A1 references as to the reliability of himself and the property he is selling, for, as I said before, quite a few have been ‘stung’ and are inclined to be skeptical.”
The Canal’s promises for economic growth in the United States were what REALTORS® looked forward to most, however, especially in cities on the West Coast. At the National Association’s convention in Pittsburgh, Seattle broker Alfred Dwyer spoke up for his city’s potential: “Last year our shipping amounted to 8,000,000 tons — nearly one-half that of Chicago. Twenty years ago it wasn’t a million. All before the canal opens. Now that the canal is ready, what will be the increase? What about that million mark of population, now?”
At the same meeting, Edward James Cattell, City Statitician of Philadelphia and author of a guide to the new nation of Panama, assured REALTORS® that the United States would fare well in “the forthcoming battle for world-supremacy along commercial lines.”
“A mighty change, I think, will follow the opening of the Panama Canal,” predicted Cattrell.
What’s a proven method for getting a good turnout at your next open house? One REALTOR® had some success with a car, some soft drinks, and a huge media blitz, according to an article in the March 1953 issue of the National Real Estate Journal.
In the fall of 1952 a young Dallas homebuilder promoted his new model home with an offer of a new car and free soft drinks. All one had to do to get the new Cadillac was purchase one of Howdy Howard’s Holiday Homes.
The 31-year-old Howard was proud of his Holiday Home and pulled all the stops to let Dallas-area home buyers know about it. The house featured year-round air conditioning, an all-electric kitchen and laundry, two and a half baths, and a large patio with a sink and refrigerator built into the barbecue pit. The exterior walls were made of 100-year-old bricks and the steps were faced with imported Mexican tiles.
Howard advertised on local television and radio stations and in the newspapers and other media outlets — even an aerial banner ad — inviting everyone to see the home during a 12-day open house beginning October 26, 1952.
The Dr. Pepper beverage company provided complimentary drinks during the event. Handing out soft drinks on the patio was Dr. Pepper employee Barbara Gentry. Earlier in the year she had gained fame as “Alice from Dallas,” the city’s official hostess at a national Jaycee convention, and as Miss Dallas Texans for the new football team.
On its opening Sunday an estimated 30,000 people visited the house. By the time the 12-day open house was over, nearly 100,000 prospective buyers and curious lookers had toured Howdy Howard’s Holiday Home.
Built in the fashionable Northhaven Hills area, Howard said about half of the homes would be built to his specifications and the rest according to clients’ wishes. Prices ranged from $40,000 to $110,000. All came with groceries stocked in the kitchen and of course a Cadillac in the driveway.
In late July 1917, REALTORS® from all around the United States and Canada descended on Milwaukee, WI, site of the 10th annual convention of the National Association of Real Estate Boards. The mayor of Milwaukee opened the convention, followed by speeches and presentations on housing laws, homebuilding, land title systems, and financing techniques. Towards the end of the first day of sessions, everyone filed outside to pose for a giant group photograph.
Of the 1,384 registered attendees, roughly 1,000 of them are depicted here outside the Milwaukee Auditorium, where the convention sessions took place. A small, somewhat blurry version of the photograph was published in the August 1917 issue of the National Real Estate Journal as part of its convention coverage, but the original is over three feet long and full of sharp details.
Included in the crowd are several important figures from NAR’s early history, including R. Bruce Douglas, the second CEO of the National Association (and 1917 president of the Milwaukee Real Estate Board); Tom Ingersoll of Los Angeles, Douglas’s successor as NAR chief executive; William M. Garland, also from Los Angeles, president of NAR in both 1917 and 1918 (and the only person to have held that office for more than a year); and past NAR presidents William W. Hannan (1909), Samuel Thorpe (1911), Thomas Shallcross (1914); Walter Collins Piper (1915), and Henry P. Haas (1916). The cluster of sign-wielding REALTORS® at the back of the group is getting a head start on promoting the 11th annual convention.
The NAR Archives extends its thanks to the Greater Milwaukee Association of REALTORS® for their generous donation of this fascinating piece of REALTOR® history and for the opportunity to share it with NAR’s members. View the full photograph in detail on our Flickr page, or, if you happen to be in Chicago, visit the NAR Archives to see it in person.
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.
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.
As NAR’s annual Midyear Meetings are underway this week in Washington, DC, we took a look in the Archives to find out what happened at the Midyear Meetings half a century ago. In 1963, the meetings were held in Chicago in June, where attendees were updated on the progress of the National Association’s first major national advertising campaign.
NAR had engaged in national ad campaigns before, notably in conjunction with the federal government’s “Own Your Own Home” initiative in 1919 and another targeting local newspapers in the early 1930s. This campaign, though, was much more closely orchestrated than earlier efforts, seeking to put the REALTOR® trademark before as many public eyes as possible.
Full-page ads appeared in publications such as U.S. News & World Report, Look, and Newsweek, all emphasizing the benefits of home ownership and using REALTORS® as professionals in the real estate transaction. Thousands of REALTORS and local associations subscribed to the promotional campaign for $25. In return they received advertising kits that tied in with the campaign. In many of the magazines the names of REALTORS® in that locality were printed on a page adjacent to the ad.
REALTORS® of fifty years ago loved the national publicity. Richard Powelson from Aurora, IL, wrote: “We received a call to list a home yesterday strictly because of this ad…the REALTORS® have gone a long way in helping to educate the public.” A REALTOR® from Cape Cod sold a home to a prospect who called him because his name was listed in an ad in Look magazine. Mrs. Win B. Brush of Liberty, MO, said “Soon after the ad came out in Look, I had a call from a large manufacturing corporation asking for my service in an appraisal, and they had obtained my name from the Look ad.”
Kenneth S. Keyes, president of the National Association in 1957, was also a great admirer of the program. “I consider the nationwide advertising campaign one of the greatest things that NAREB has done to increase the prestige of REALTORS®.”
Despite the kudos, this was still relatively new territory for NAR. At the 1963 Midyear Meetings the association’s Board of Directors took a tentative view of the campaign, deciding to allow the program to continue on an experimental basis for another year. In 1964 the campaign was granted a longer tenure, continuing through the early 1970s. NAR’s efforts to promote the benefits of using a REALTOR® have come a long way since 1963, of course. Visit the Public Advocacy Campaign for a look at the latest national advertising efforts.
One hundred years have passed since a key document in the REALTOR® organization’s history first made its debut. Written in 1913, the Code of Ethics was seen as a declaration of the real estate industry’s principles and beliefs, a “golden thread” uniting those devoted to raising the standards of professionalism and service in real estate.
The Code is a living document that undergoes regular revision to keep it updated and relevant as the real estate industry evolves, so today’s Code of Ethics looks much different from the one that was adopted in 1913. Even so, REALTORS® are often surprised to see that the words “Under all is the land,” the familiar opening of the Code’s preamble, are nowhere to be found in the original version.
So where did the preamble come from, and who wrote it?
The Code of Ethics was over a decade old before the preamble was introduced. In 1924, the National Association’s committee assigned with revising and modernizing the Code decided that the rules should have an introduction, and prepared two versions of a preamble for consideration.
The first version, written by A. S. Adams, a REALTOR® from Atlanta, GA, took the form of a straightforward personal pledge: “I, a member of the National Association of Real Estate Boards, accept as the primary requirement for engaging in the Real Estate Business that my first duty is to the public whom I propose to serve, and the protection of whose interests must always be my first consideration….”
Adams’ preamble was not nearly as poetic and visionary as the second version presented before the committee. Written by the committee’s chairman, a prominent REALTOR® and Presbyterian minister from Tacoma, WA, named Arthur H. Barnhisel, this preamble took a different tack, “setting forth the social responsibility of the association and of the local real estate boards who make up its membership.”
With its inspirational portrayal of the nation’s land and the REALTOR®’s role in ensuring its “highest use” and “widest distribution,” Barnhisel’s preamble easily won the committee’s vote. With little debate and only a few minor edits, the preamble was included along with several other revisions to the Code that were accepted by the National Association’s Board of Directors at its June 1924 meeting in Washington, DC.
As far as we’ve been able to find in the NAR Archives, Barnhisel never explained how he came up with his version of the preamble or revealed his sources of inspiration for the language. Among REALTORS®, though, the preamble quickly became the Code’s best-known feature and was proudly displayed on the walls and in the windows of real estate offices across the country. By 1943, NAR president Cyrus Crane Willmore declared in a speech before the association’s Board of Directors: “Property ownership is fundamental to our way of life. The first five words of our Code of Ethics should be impressed upon the minds of every man, woman and child in our country. They are, ‘Under all is the Land.’”
The Code of Ethics was revised again in 1955, and it included, among other changes, a rewritten preamble. The new preamble tried to preserve the ideals expressed in the original, using modernized language that was more in tune with the post-war 1950s.
REALTORS® were largely unhappy with the changes made to their beloved preamble, though, and in 1961 the National Association took steps to return it to its original form as written by Arthur H. Barnhisel. “A return to this wording is proposed because of its superior phrasing,” explained the report to the Board of Directors.
With the exception of those six years, the preamble remained exactly as Barnhisel wrote it for nearly seven decades. The preamble as we know it today took shape in 1994, when the first six Articles of the Code were incorporated into the preamble, adding paragraphs regarding the REALTOR®’s obligation to share their professional knowledge and stressing the importance of maintaining a spirit of cooperation with other real estate professionals.
Sunday, April 15, marks 100 years since the sinking of the RMS Titanic. Three REALTORS® were among the 1,500 people who were lost when the “unsinkable” ship struck an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic.
The three men were all from Winnipeg, Manitoba — at the time nine Canadian real estate boards were part of the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges (now known as NAR). 64-year-old Mark Fortune was a former president and charter member of the Winnipeg Real Estate Exchange. He was returning from a European vacation with his wife, son, and two daughters. J. Hugo Ross and Thomson Beattie, both 36, were friends who had offices across the hall from each other in Winnipeg’s old Merchants Bank Building. Ross was also a former president of the Winnipeg Board, and Beattie was a business partner of the city’s mayor, R. D. Waugh. They had been traveling in Egypt and the Aegean Sea when Ross fell ill and they decided to return home early, booking passage on the Titanic.
According to the National Real Estate Journal, Fortune moved to Winnipeg in 1874 and entered the real estate business four years later. “Within the past ten years,” the Journal reported in May 1912, “he has been one of the most successful real estate operators in the city. Property which he had held for years became very valuable…he is said to have owned property in nearly all the principal blocks along Main Street and Portage Avenue.” Fortune served four terms on the Winnipeg City Council and was very active in Knox Presbyterian Church.
Ross had served as secretary of the Winnipeg Stock Exchange and attended the fourth NAR convention a year earlier, in Denver in 1911. Beattie took over management of the firm of Waugh and Beattie when his partner was elected mayor. “In many respects they resembled one another,” the Journal wrote of Ross and Beattie. “Both were typical opportunistic westerners, positive of the future of Winnipeg and western Canada.”
Fortune’s 19-year-old son Charles also perished in the disaster, while his mother and sisters were put off in lifeboats. A month later Beattie’s body was found with two others adrift in a collapsible life boat, and he was buried at sea.
At the national convention in Louisville two months later Fortune, Ross and Beattie were remembered in prayer by their fellow REALTORS®, who then voted for Winnipeg to host the 1913 convention.
Celebrating the Association Executives Committee’s 100th birthday
This weekend, REALTOR® association executives (AEs) from around the country will gather at the 2012 A.E. Institute for a few days of networking, professional development programs, and a chance to learn about key industry trends and issues.
As it happens, this year’s conference takes place in Louisville, KY, which makes it a particularly auspicious occasion: 100 years ago in the same city, REALTOR® AEs gathered together for the very first time.
Members of the National Association met in Louisville on June 20, 1912, for their fifth annual convention. At this convention, the local and state association secretaries (as AEs were called at the time) for the first time had been allowed two hours to themselves. Around thirty secretaries participated, with R. Bruce Douglas (executive secretary of the National Association from 1909-1911) serving as chairman. The group spent their first hour at the Hotel Watterson, dining on chicken broth, boiled halibut and vanilla ice cream and listening to presentations on topics that would be familiar to AEs today: how to attract new members, ways to get members to attend regular meetings, managing the MLS, and working with the media.
The secretaries spent their second hour together enjoying the Ohio River views aboard the steamboat Constitution. The group decided to create a formal organization for board secretaries, and even crafted a constitution while sailing on the Constitution. The stated purpose of the new Association of Secretaries of the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges was “to afford for its members better opportunity for mutual acquaintance and to hold an annual conference.” Dues were set at $1 per year.
Since that day in June 1912, the association executives’ group has been a constant and influential presence, strengthening ties between the local, state, and national REALTOR® associations. The organization formed in 1912 has gone through many changes over the years, becoming the Secretaries’ Division in 1923, then the Executive Officers Council in 1958, and finally the Association Executives Committee (AEC) in 1993.
In 1921, NAR president Irving B. Hiett dropped in for a visit at the Secretaries’ annual meeting. “I was rather surprised to find the things they discussed there,” Hiett later reported to NAR’s Executive Committee, “surprised at the interest they were taking in the things that are of value not only to their local boards but to the Association as a whole. I want to tell you that I think [the Secretaries’ group] is one of the most valuable assets we have.”
Here’s to a very happy 100th birthday for the AEC, and many more to come.
by Russell Carlson, Information Specialist
From the NAR Archives: Virginia Grant recognized the woman sitting in a large pink Cadillac in front of the trendy Lowenstein’s East Department store in early 1957. Grant had seen the woman’s photograph in the newspaper and recognized her. It was Elvis Presley’s mother.
The Memphis REALTOR® (and member of the Women’s Council of the National Association of Real Estate Boards) engaged in some friendly conversation with Mrs. Presley, and was able to confirm a rumor heard in Memphis real estate circles. The Presleys wanted to buy, perhaps “a few acres with a large house, not too far out of town.”
Grant suggested a property of thirteen acres on Highway 51 and mentioned it to the lady. The Presleys were pressed for time. That night they would be leaving for Hollywood to visit their son for a month. Mr. Presley was in Lowenstein’s purchasing luggage for the trip. “Would you give me your card and write the address and a bit of a description on the back, so I can tell Elvis when we get to Hollywood?” Grant was happy to do so.
A month later the phone rang in her office. “Hello Miss Grant, this is Presley. Wonder if it would be convenient to show me the property you told Mom and Dad about?” Miss Grant made the time to do so. A six figure price was eventually arranged by Virginia and another REALTOR® who worked for the owners of Graceland.
“But for the Grace of God,” she said in the September 1957 issue of the Women’s Council newsletter, What Women Realtors Are Doing, “I might never have been at Lowenstein’s East and met the lovely Mrs. Presley, in exactly the way in which I described to you.”
In 1922 REALTOR® A. W. Ross was standing next to a barbed wire fence along a dirt road in Los Angeles. In place of barley fields he saw opportunity. In less than twenty years that road running west from La Brea Avenue would be a segment of Wilshire Boulevard known as the Miracle Mile.
According to an article in the May 1938 issue of the National Real Estate Journal, Ross’ experience in designing and building subdivisions had taught him that people who can afford to move from lowlands to highlands. Looking at undeveloped land on higher ground nearby, he envisioned lovely homes with access to businesses along a boulevard that would replace his dusty road.
Ross first approached wealthy prospects, offering his road through the barley fields at $100 per front foot. He was laughed at, with one man telling him he should have his head examined.
Ross then tried the “common folks,” and sold the land as “the chance of your lifetime.” By 1930 most of the “common folks” had cashed in. “I had the satisfaction of seeing many a family in ordinary circumstances…step out of the picture with more money than such family ever expected to see in the world,” Ross recalled. “Thinking of that fact is today one of my greatest pleasures.”
In 1929 an affluent man who had laughed at Ross six years earlier paid him $600,000 each for properties Ross himself had bought for $6,500.
In the meantime “height limit” skyscrapers were constructed, beginning with the Wilshire Tower Building in 1927. The E. Clemm Wilson and Dominguez buildings would follow, but the trend was for smaller buildings with ample parking behind the businesses. By 1938 Ross’ $100 front foot was valued as high as $3,500.