Kiwanis was founded in Detroit, Michigan, on January 21, 1915. The first Kiwanian was a merchant tailor named Joseph Prance. The original name was "The Benevolent Order of Brothers" and its purpose was the mutual exchange of preferred treatment in professional and business dealings.
Within a year, the name had been changed to "Kiwanis", taken from an American Indian term "Nun Keewanis", which roughly means "self-expression" or "to make oneself known." It was shortened and modified to become Kiwanis. It had also become obvious that the original purpose lacked the power to attract and hold members.
The purpose of the organization thus became community service, a concept from which Kiwanis has never deviated. A short time later Kiwanis incorporated itself and began following a growth pattern that continues today. Kiwanis establish itself in Canada in 1916, thus becoming "International". Kiwanis now serves the needs of over 71 countries around the world.