Among the nation's oldest athletic clubs, the Boston Athletic Association was established on March 15, 1887 under its first president, Robert F. Clark, and with the support of George Walker Weld and other leading sports enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and politicians of the day.
According to Article II of its 1890 Yearbook Constitution, their objective was to "encourage all manly sports and promote physical culture." The B.A.A. clubhouse on the corner of Exeter and Boylston Streets in Boston's Back Bay was completed in 1888, on the present-day site of the new Boston Public Library. In addition to such facilities as a gymnasium, bowling alley, billiard hall, Turkish baths and tennis courts, the Association also owned a shooting range and a country club.
Among the active sports of the day were boxing, fencing, water polo and athletics. The club held its first organized track and field competition in 1890 and in 1897 the first famed Boston Marathon took place. A unicorn was chosen as the Association's symbol and appears on the Boston Marathon medals to this day.
In 1936, the original clubhouse was closed due to financial hardship. The B.A.A. is now headquartered at 40 Trinity Place. In 1986, John Hancock Financial Services, Inc. assumed major sponsorship of the Boston Marathon. The B.A.A continues to rely on the support of John Hancock and other sponsors and contributors not only with its signature event, the Boston Marathon, but also in its year-round community programming.
The B.A.A. maintains an active running club, and in addition to the marathon, organizes an annual half marathon in October, and the Mayor's Cup cross country races in Franklin Park. The B.A.A. successfully bid to host the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials Women's Marathon, which was run on the Sunday before the 2008 Boston Marathon.
Walter A. Brown was the President of the Boston Athletic Association from 1941 to 1964. In 1951 during the height of the Korean War, Brown denied Koreans entry into the Boston Marathon. He stated: "While American soldiers are fighting and dying in Korea, every Korean should be fighting to protect his country instead of training for marathons. As long as the war continues there, we positively will not accept Korean entries for our race on April 19."
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