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National Recreation Association

National Recreation Association

Introduction: The National Recreation Association was founded in 1906 as the Playground Association of America (PAA) by eighteen men and women from playground associations, public school and municipal recreation departments, settlements, teachers’ colleges, the kindergarten movement, and charity organizations. Industrialization and growing urbanization prompted a perceived need to encourage positive citizenship through supervised playground and leisure time activities. The organization was dedicated to improving the human environment through park, recreation, and leisure opportunities. Its concept of recreation evolved from the development of supervised playgrounds to one that includes a broad range of leisure-time programs and facilities that enrich the human environment. Reflecting the organization’s changing mission, it changed its name to the Playground and Recreation Association of America (1911-1930) and the National Recreation Association (1930-1965). Ultimately, in 1965, the National Park and Recreation Association was formed by a merger of the National Recreation Association, American Institute of Park Executives, the National Conference on State Parks, the National Recreation Society, and the National Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums.

Initially, PAA was funded by private sources and volunteers until the Russell Sage Foundation agreed to help fund services and start up costs. With more financial security, the organization was able to build, and hired the first professional executive secretary, Howard Braucher, a social worker who held the position for forty years. The organization flourished under the leadership of Braucher and new president Joseph Lee. In 1911, the name was changed to Playground and Recreation Association of America (PRAA), symbolizing its expansion into adult as well as childhood activities.

With the start of World War I, the PRAA expanded to provide services to troops at training camps. Due to poor physical fitness results of prospective recruits, fitness became a large concern in America. The entire post-war decade was one of large growth for the PRAA. It established the National Recreation School to train professional recreation leaders, funded scholarly research, and promoted physical fitness programs in schools and for African Americans. In the mid-30s, the name of the organization changed to the National Recreation Association (NRA), reflecting its efforts to increase support for and broaden the definition of recreation and leisure.

Constitution and Name Changes


315 Fourth Avenue, New York 10, N.  Y.

Established April 12, 1906 as Play Association of America

Name changed to Playground and Recreation Association of America, May 1911

Incorporated June 17, 1926

Name changed June 17, 1930 to National Recreation Association, Incorporated

Purpose (From the Charter of the Association):

“The development in all communities, through public private agencies and by every appropriate means, of play and recreation, higher and more adequate community and neighborhood expression, a better social-life and better moral and industrial conditions.”


Article I


The following persons shall be members of the Association:

  1. Its incorporators
  2. Such persons as the incorporators may associate with themselves, at the meeting held to organize the Association.
  3. Such persons as the Board of Directors may elect for such periods as the Board may prescribe.

Article II


The business and affairs of the Association shall be managed by the board of forty-eight directors, all of whom shall be members of the Association.

The first Board of Directors shall be persons named as directors in the certificate of incorporation.

At their first meeting they shall divide themselves into three classes of sixteen each, to hold office respectively until the annual meetings of 1927, 1928, 1929, and until their successors are elected.

Sixteen directors shall be elected at each annual meeting of the Association for a term of three years each.

A Constructive Creed, Published 1910



To promote normal, wholesome playground


  1. Dependency is reduced by giving men more for which to live.
  2. Delinquency is reduced by providing a wholesome outlet for youthful energy.
  3. Tuberculosis is reduced by building up strong constitutions through vigorous outdoor life.
  4. The general standard of health is raised by pleasurable physical activity.
  5. Industrial efficiency is increased by giving individuals a play life which will develop greater resourcefulness and adaptability.
  6. The tendency of modern industrialism to crush individuality is counteracted by increasing the opportunities for each person to develop in his leisure hours individual qualities not developed in the hours of business.
  7. Higher standards of morality are developed by providing good substitutes for undesirable forms of recreation.
  8. Good citizenship is promoted by forming habits of cooperation on play.  People who play together find it easier to live together.  Individuals enjoy a wholesome happy play life are more loyal as well as more efficient citizens.
  9. A broader, more complete, and more vivid life is made possible through play.
  10. Family unity is most easily secured when the members of family have forced the habit of playing together in their leisure hours.
  11. Community spirit is most easily developed through play in which all the members of the community may share.  Democracy rests  on the most firm basis when a community has formed the habit of playing together.
  12. The highest form of spiritual life are possible only when there has been developed a strong play spirit.  Social progress depends upon the extent to which a people posses the play spirit.

The Playground, June 1910

Additional Sources: For a more detailed history of the National Recreation Association, see William Wallach’s essay in Peter Romanofsky, ed. Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Institutions, Social Service Organizations: ,Vol. 2, 1978, pp. 587-592, from which this summary was drawn. See also, Richard Knapp and Charles Hartsoe. Play for America: The National Recreation Association, 1906-1965, National Recreation and Park Association, 1979. Additional information about the founding of the Playground Association of America was drawn from the National Recreation Association Records as summarized in Linnea Anderson, “The Playground of Today is the Republic of Tomorrow:’ Social Reform and Organized Recreation, 1890-1930’s” in the proceedings of the History of Community and Youth Work Conference.

Ed. Note: Portions of the introduction were copied from the Historical Note from the files of the National Recreation Association maintained at the Social Welfare History Archives at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. More information is available at: