The TOWNSEND PLAN, a proposal made in Jan. 1934 by California physician Francis E. Townsend for a $200-a-month guaranteed income for each senior citizen, found such strong support in Cleveland that Townsend located his national headquarters here from 1946-56. After the national organization disbanded in 1966, the Ohio headquarters at 11102 Detroit Ave. was "generally regarded as the national office." The first Townsend Club in Cleveland formed at the HOLLENDEN HOTEL on 4 Nov. 1934; its 100 charter members were gathered by 2 organizers from California. Townsend visited Cleveland 3 times in the next year, speaking to 3,000 people at Public Hall on 18 Nov., to 3,500 there 6 Jan., and to 15,000 at EUCLID BEACH PARK on 15 Aug. According to one manager, 150 area clubs organized that year.

The national convention of the Townsend organization met in PUBLIC AUDITORIUM 15-19 July 1936, with 8,000 delegates. By Mar. 1938, 80 active Townsend clubs existed locally, and their weekly Sunday rallies at Public Hall attracted about 1,500. Forty-two groups, with a combined membership of 1,500-2,000, were still active in 1947. The national convention returned to Cleveland in 1953, at the Masonic Auditorium. In early 1946 the organization acquired the United Publishing Co. building at 6875 Broadway Ave. for its national headquarters and in May began publishing the Townsend National Weekly. In the fall of 1956, financial problems prompted a move to Washington, DC. A strong local organization remained, headed by Chas. "Harry" and Rose Wendorff, who had managed Lakewood Club #2 since 1938. Charles Wendorff, prime mover behind the state organization, served on the Townsend Metropolitan Council (1943-46) and as deputy state director (1947-58) before becoming state director in 1959. He held that post until his death in May 1977, which marked the end of meaningful local action on the Townsend Plan.

Black, white and red text reading Western Reserve Historical Society

Finding aid for the Ohio Townsend Plan, Inc. Records, WRHS.

Finding aid for the Townsend Club Photographs, WRHS.

Article Categories