Our History Old

Sister Cities International has a rich history of citizen diplomacy and building relationships all across the world. See our timeline below for the best moments from the first sister city relationship to our 50th anniversary conference. For a more in-depth look at the first 50 years of Sister Cities International history, check out the online version of our anniversary book Peace Through People: 50 Years of Global Citizenship.  

  • January 30, 1931

    Oldest Sister City Relationship Established Between Toledo, Ohio and Toledo, Spain

    Although many communities site evidence of exchanges or other activities, Sister Cities International has verified that officials from Toledo, Ohio, and Toledo, Spain signed a twinning document in 1931.more
  • September 11, 1956

    The Birth of the People-to-People Program

    Two deeply-held convictions unite us in common purpose. First, is our belief in effective and responsive local government as a principal bulwark of freedom. Second, is our faith in the great promise of people-to-people and sister city affiliations in helping build the solid structure of world peace.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower

    On September 11, 1956, President Eisenhower brought Americans representing all walks of life to Washington D.C. to attend a White House Conference on Citizen Diplomacy. This conference formed the capstone of the People-To-People program.more
  • December 1, 1956

    A Sister City Leader

    Mark Bortman was the first leader to chair the Civic Committee (the main cog in the mechanism of citizen diplomacy) and saw the sister cities movement grow from some 40 affiliations after the Committee was formed in 1956 to over 350 U.S. communities linked with communities in 57 countries until his death In 1967.more
  • July 24, 1957

    The Civic Committee Finds a Home: the American Municipal Association

    The National League of Cities, then the American Municipal Association, approved participation in a joint cooperative program with the Civic Committee of People-to-People to further the U.S. Sister Cities program on July 24, 1957.

  • February 27, 1958

    First National Conference

    The experience that our committee members are gaining in carrying out affiliation projects has created an America more knowledgeable in foreign affairs than their parents or grandparents. Their visitations and personal experiences have given them first-hand knowledge in a practical and wise manner.

    -Mark Bortman, Chair of the Civic Committee

    The very first national sister cities conference was held in Washington D.C. on February 27-28, 1958 and helped point the way to the future growth the program would enjoy.more
  • August 2, 1963

    The Annual Awards Program is Established

    The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. sponsored the awards program from 1963 through the mid-1990s. Through the Annual Awards Program, the outstanding projects and activities conducted by sister cities throughout the world are recognized and rewarded.more
  • June 12, 1967

    A New Association is Incorporated

    The Town Affiliation Association of the United States, Inc., was finally incorporated on June 12, 1967 in Washington, D.C.more
  • May 5, 1968

    Defining a Sister City Relationship

    The Town Affiliation Association of the United States, Inc., amended its bylaws to define an accredited sister city relationship as one that had formally been “recognized by the mayor and city council of the chief executive and legislative body of the area.”more
  • March 28, 1969

    A Sad Passing

    On March 28, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower passed away, just three years after the 10th anniversary of the People-to-People program. In the Town Affiliation News, the editors encouraged readers, saying:
    “Now is the time and opportunity for all Americans as well as the citizens of the many friendly nations to join in the spirit of People-to-People and build in Eisenhower’s remembrance not just an inert monument of stone, but a living memorial that will carry on his drive for universal understanding and peace.”
  • January 19, 1971

    Growing the National Association

    On January 19th, the “primary responsibility for U.S. government relations with the Town Affiliation Association of the United States” was transferred from the United States Information Agency to the Department of State under the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.more
  • July 14, 1972

    A Special Leader: Lou Wozar

    Louis Wozar, a civic leader and industrialist from Dayton, Ohio, was elected the third president of the association at the annual conference in Seattle, Washington. He traveled to more than 60 countries on behalf of the sister cities program at his own expense, and is the namesake of Sister Cities International’s current annual awards dinner.more
  • September 2, 1974

    The First Annual Sister Cities International Conference

    1974 was the first year that the annual conference was called the "Sister Cities International Conference". It took place in Phoenix, Arizona in September, and the theme was “Communicating for World Peace.”more
  • September 30, 1975

    The 500th United States Community Joins Sister Cities International

    Savannah, Georgia and sister city Patras, Greece, became the 500th United States community to join the growing sister city program. This occasion was marked by accolades from President Gerald Ford. Lou Wozar presented the President with three volumes of American history and a Sister Cities International pin to mark the milestone.

  • July 17, 1977

    Technical Exchange in Developing Countries: The Technical Assistance Program (TAP)

    The Technical Assistance Program was established in 1977 to exchange technical expertise between United States communities and affiliated communities in developing countries. Supported partially by a grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), these projects brought sister city partners from developing countries to the United States and helped them work with their United States partners to improve the quality of life in their communities. Hialeah, Florida and Managua, Nicaragua were the first communities to receive a grant.more
  • May 1, 1978

    The George V. Allen National Tri-Media Contest

    The precursor to our current Young Artists and Authors Showcase, the National Tri-Media Contest encouraged youth to think about “the Challenge of Saving our World Environment” and express their thoughts through essays, poetry, or photography.more
  • September 11, 1986

    Sister Cities – We Are One

    Popular singer and writer, John Denver, recorded “Sister Cities: We Are One.” The song was introduced at the 30th anniversary conference in Los Angeles. The song was performed by co-author and writing partner Dik Darnell and accompanied by “Kids of the Century” (who appeared on the popular television show “Fame”).more
  • October 7, 1988

    Washington D.C. Proclaims “International Sister Cities Day”

    The Mayor of Washington D.C. proclaims October 7-8, 1988 as “International Sister Cities Days in Washington, D.C.more
  • May 1, 1996

    Sister Cities International 40th Anniversary Photo Contest

    Sister Cities International held a photo contest in 1996 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the sister city movement. These images celebrated the beauty and power of sister city friendships and programs. Today, youth can submit their photos to Sister Cities International’s Young Artists and Authors Showcase to express their passion for citizen diplomacy.more
  • July 15, 2001

    The Global Envoy Program: Partners Spreading the Sister City Mission

    The Global Envoy Program started in 2001 as a way to increase Sister Cities International’s presence at global events. The envoys represent Sister Cities International at conferences, embassies, meetings, and other important events to spread the mission of the organization. See our Global Envoys here.more
  • September 11, 2006

    Sister Cities International 50th Anniversary Conference

    The 50th Anniversary Conference in Washington D.C. celebrated the past while looking to the future of the citizen diplomacy movement. It was held in conjunction with the National Summit on Citizen Diplomacy, as well as an International Youth Summit on Global Citizenship for students to develop leadership skills, advocate for citizen diplomacy issues, and make lifelong friendships.more


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