The CLEVELAND FOREIGN CONSULAR CORPS, formed in 1925, is a group of men and women selected by various foreign governments to serve as nonpolitical representatives of international diplomacy between the country they represent and the U.S.—particularly the Cleveland area. Such individuals may be either honorary consuls, who are usually American citizens (sometimes descended from natives of the country they serve), or career consuls, who are citizens of the countries they represent and who are paid by those countries for their full-time service. Both groups essentially have similar duties and responsibilities, including promoting and maintaining good relations between countries; furthering business and cultural bonds; stimulating and expanding trade and tourism; providing information about investment opportunities; aiding nationals living (or visiting) in the area; legalizing documents such as visas and passports; settling estates; providing information for students in area schools and colleges; and answering inquiries from the populace of the city.
Some of the earliest consulates in Cleveland included Adolph Rettburg, consul for Germany (1866); Laurentius Ludwig Malm, vice-consul for Norway and Sweden (1895); Wm. Secher, vice-consul for Denmark (1897); and Dr. Nicola Cerri, consular agent for Italy (1900). On 13 Jan 1925, the consuls formed the Consular Corps of Cleveland under the leadership of Dr. Cerri, who served from 1900-26 and who was known as dean of the Consular Corps. The original group included consuls for Austria, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Sweden, and Italy. In 1935 16 nations maintained consulates in Cleveland. During World War II, several consulates in Cleveland were closed by the U.S. government or by their own country; others had relations with governments in exile. Following the war some of them reopened and in 1968 23 consulates were in Cleveland.
In 1984 there were 3 career consulates general representing the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and 22 honorary consulates representing Austria, Belgium, Colombia, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Finland, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Republic of Haiti, Honduras, India, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the Royal Kingdom of Nepal, the Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Republic of South Africa (closed in Aug. 1985). Consulates are located throughout the city; the consuls are responsible to their ambassadors in Washington, DC, via regional consulates general. The Consular Corps meets once a month to discuss items of common interest and to sustain the spirit of friendship that characterizes their work. The position of dean of the Consular Corps is determined by the consul who has served the longest in Cleveland.