05 June 2014

The USCF in Numbers

In my previous post, June 1964 'On the Cover', I discovered a list of U.S. Amateur Champions in a recent USCF Yearbook. On the same yearbook page as that list was a chart showing the growth of the USCF since 1940. Why 1940? I explained that a few months ago in Happy Anniversary, Chess Federations!.

A more recent copy of the same chart, available at 2013yearbook.pdf (I'm not sure if it's accessible to non-USCF members), is shown below. From around 1000 members in 1940, the federation grew to 78.466 members in June 2013.

The growth has not been linear. There was a spurt from 11.202 members mid-1968 to 59.779 members in 1974, then a long, choppy decline, then another period of growth from 52.898 members in 1990 to a peak of 88.908 members in 2002. The last dozen years have seen the organization in decline again.

The early 1970s are known as the 'Fischer years', when the struggle of the American Champion to become World Champion was tracked by the mainstream press. Here's an excerpt from the November 1972 issue of Chess Life (CL), titled 'Presidential Report' by Dr. Leroy Dubeck, USCF President 1969-1972.

The precedent has been established for each outgoing USCF President to present a brief report of the highlights of his term of office. Furthermore my predecessor, Marshall Rohland, compiled a rather interesting cross table of USCF growth over the past decades. I have appended the appropriate data for 1970-1972

As one can tell at a glance, we have grown dramatically during the past three years from about 13.000 members to 34.000 members and subscribers as of 30 June 1972. This dramatic growth was due to three main factors. We acquired Chess Review in the fall of 1969 and merged that magazine with Chess Life to produce the finest magazine in the English language, Chess Life & Review. Secondly the enormous publicity given to Bobby Fischer in particular and to chess in general by the mass news media has contributed significantly to our growth rate. As the publicity given to chess grew, so did our numbers. During the summer weeks concurrent with the World Championship match our growth rate dramatically increased. This has more than justified the decision of my administration to support Fischer's quest for the World Chess Championship.

Last, but certainly not least, our growth has been due to the untiring efforts of hundreds of chess organizers across the country who have worked tirelessly to expand USCF activity everywhere. Furthermore, the efficient staff at our business office, under the leadership of Executive Director Edmondson, have played an important role in assisting our grass roots supporters.

The numbers were echoed in the same issue of CL under 'Summary of USCF Business Meetings'.

Membership statistics were presented showing a 259% increase over the last six years. An annual growth rate, projected from the first six months of the year, was calculated at 32.9%, with a figure of 55.000 to be reached by 1975.

From CL, October 1973, 'Summary of 1973 USCF Business Meetings':-

Executive Director Edmondson presented a remarkably glowing membership and financial picture. Membership had almost reached 60.000 at the end of June, a 695% increase over the last ten years. Fiscal 1973 had a net gain of $223.800 of which $100.00 [sic; not sure if $10.000 or $100.000 is meant] is being set aside for relocation and reorganization of the Newburgh Business Office, now rapidly outgrowing its present quarters.

From CL, November 1974, 'Summary of 1974 USCF Business Meetings':-

Mr. Edmondson explained the smaller than usual increase in membership over tha last fiscal year (1.9%) as being due to the energy crisis, the economic recession, and World Champion Fischer's withdrawal from competition and threats not to defend his title. As measures to combat the decline in growth, Mr. Edmondson cited action in the following areas: (1) develop a 'stable of stars' of promising young players and training programs, (2) seeking publicity in the general news media for these stars, [...]

From CL, November 1975, 'Summary of 1975 USCF Business Meetings':-

Executive Director Edmondson reported that membership as of 30 June 1975, was 53.588, a decrease of 10.4%, but that an upturn was predicted by the end of the calendar year, unless the national economic situation worsened.

We know now that the economy had nothing to do with the decline. The increasing interest in chess and the subsequent falloff were both due to Fischer. As for the growth in the 1990s and the subsequent decline, I have no ready explanation.

1 comment:

Macauley Peterson, chess24.com said...

The growth in the 90s was largely do to the tremendous boom in scholastic chess, which more than made up for the decline in adult memberships.