Updated: Jul 14, 2020
1900 – 1918:
In 1900, Along with the addition of “patriotism” to the Knights’ principles came the first Fourth Degree exemplification, which took place Feb. 22, 1900, in New York City, with 1,100 Knights participating. A similar event took place in Boston in May with another 750 candidates taking the patriotic degree.
Councils were chartered throughout the United States and Canada.
International expansion continued to Mexico and the Philippines in 1905, along with Cuba and Panama in 1909.
1904: More than 10,000 Knights and their families attend ceremonies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., in which a check for $55,633.79 is presented to the school for the establishment of a K of C chair of American history. From 1909 to 1913, Knights raise $500,000 to establish a permanent endowment for Catholic University of America.
1912: At the dedication ceremony for the Christopher Columbus Memorial Fountain in Washington, D.C., in 1912, a reporter for The Washington Star noted that the large number of Knights in attendance “marked anew the important position of the Knights of Columbus as an order in the social fabric of the United States.”
1914: Two Knights, David Goldstein and Peter W. Collins, embarked on an extensive, 27,000-mile lecture tour against religious prejudice throughout North America in 1914. Later that same year, the Order established the K of C Commission on Religious Prejudice. The commission’s work concluded in 1917, when the United States entered World War I.
1916: When National Guardsmen are sent to the U.S.-Mexico border to prevent Mexican Gen. Francisco “Pancho” Villa from raiding towns in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas, K of C councils in those states spontaneously respond to the religious and social needs of troops serving there by opening KOC centers. In all 15 centers were established to support the troops.
1917: During the Great War, the Order provided rest and recreational facilities and social services to Allied servicemen of all faiths. Order opens service centers, or “K of C Huts,” in training camps and behind the lines of battle. The Knights and independent fund drives raise nearly $30 million to finance the huts.
K of C Huts throughout the United States and Europe provided religious services, supplies and recreation under the motto, “Everybody Welcome, Everything Free.” Whatever your race or creed, you were welcome at K of C facilities.
In fact, the Order was praised by a contemporary African American historian of World War I, because “unlike the other social welfare organizations operating in the war, it never drew the color line.”
As a result of the Order’s wartime work, which earned high praise from Pope Benedict XV, nearly 400,000 men joined the Knights between 1917 and 1923.
After the Great War, the Order continued its charitable work, offering education and employment services to returning servicemen. In less than two years, the Knights of Columbus Bureau of Employment placed some 100,000 people in jobs.
Two years after launching educational, vocational and employment programs for World War I veterans, more than 50,000 students are enrolled in K of C-sponsored evening school programs across the United States and Canada. The Order also launches a correspondence school.
1920: 235 Knights sail from New York City to France. In Paris, they are greeted by Church and civic authorities, who thank the Knights for their WWI work. In Metz, a large equestrian statue of the French patriot Lafayette, funded by the Knights, is unveiled. The K of C delegation continues to Rome, where it is received in a private audience with Pope Benedict XV on Aug. 28, 1920. Pope Benedict XV invited them to build several recreation centers for Roman youth. In response, the Knights constructed five playgrounds throughout the city.
1923: In response to the passage of laws in Oregon prohibiting children under 16 from attending private schools, the Knights work to overturn the law. In 1925, the Supreme Court declares the Oregon law unconstitutional.
1924: The Knights open St. Peter’s Oratory, the first K of C recreation center for youth in Rome. Four more are established between 1924 and 1927.
1924: The Order’s anti-defamation work resumes after World War I. The K of C Historical Commission publishes the Knights of Columbus Racial Contributions Series. Three monographs highlighting the positive contributions of African-, Jewish- and German-Americans are published.
1925: The Knights’ Rome youth work stimulates interest in similar projects in North America, and the Columbian Squires program is established. Brother Barnabas McDonald consults with the Knights on the creation of the Squires. The institution of the first Squires circle takes place at the Supreme Council meeting in Duluth, Minn.
1926: Supreme Knight Flaherty, Deputy Supreme Knight Martin H. Carmody and other officers meet with President Calvin Coolidge about the persecution of the Catholic Church in Mexico. The Order launches a $1 million educational campaign to influence American public opinion on the need for a strong stand against the Mexican government’s attacks on the Church. It takes more than 10 years for the tensions to ease.