History of the Junior Chamber

Henry Geissenbier

The origin of Junior Chamber can be traced as far back as 1910 to the city of St. Louis, Missouri, in the United States of America. A young man named Henry “Hy” Giessenbier and his friends formed the Herculaneum Dance Club with the main objective being the preservation of conservative dance styles.

What are the Jaycees?

Simply put we are the premier leadership training organization for individuals ages 18-40.

For some 70 years the Arkansas Jaycees and its member chapters have been serving communities’ state wide. Raising millions of dollars throughout those years and put it back into the community. Arkansas’ Jaycees over the years have started Christmas parades, taught gun safety, fed the needy and given toys to the children, and worked with Special Olympics to enrich the lives of those less fortunate. Jaycees have worked with other charitable organizations and even started a few new charities.

At the same time the Jaycees have grown leaders, the leaders of tomorrow. Some former Jaycees include former governor Frank White, Sheffield Nelson, and David Hale.

We also teach our members how to become better people through numerous training opportunities including our Individual Development competitions like Write-up and Speak-up where members are encouraged to develop their thoughts and express them in either writing or the spoken word.

There is also an incredible networking opportunity, not just nationally but also globally as Jaycees are not only members of their local chapter and state organization, but also a part of the United States Junior Chamber and Junior Chamber International. All members are afforded the opportunity to participate in all meetings of the Jaycee movement where talented professionals spend time to train on the finer points of such subjects a time management, dealing with conflict, being an effective leader, sell anything including yourself or you organization&hellop;and much much more.

Five years later, in 1915, Colonel H.N. Morgan, a prominent St. Louis citizen, inspired the members of the dance club to become more involved in civic issues. Giessenbier and 32 other young men formed the Young Men’s Progressive Civic Association (YMPCA) on October 13, 1915. This organization grew to a membership of 750 in less than five months.

Giessenbier visualized an organization that would allow young men to develop their business skills and reputations in the community. In his era, most young men were out of school and working by the age of 15. Their first jobs were most likely the jobs they held throughout their lives. With luck and hard work, some might reach executive positions by their forties. Giessenbier felt that young men were not receiving the opportunities necessary to develop their skills at a younger age, thus depriving our nation of an important resource. Providing those opportunities formed the founding ideals of the U.S. Junior Chamber.


The very next year, 1916, saw another change of name as the YMPCA became Junior Citizens, commonly called JCs, which later became Jaycees. The year 1918 marked another change as the JCs were affiliated with the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce and officially became the St. Louis Junior Chamber of Commerce.

After WWI, Giessenbier contacted other cities in the United States with similar young businessmen’s groups, and, subsequently, 29 clubs from around the nation formed the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce. Henry Giessenbier was elected the first President of the national organization.


The international chapter of the organization began in 1923 with the Winnipeg Board of Trade’s becoming the first Junior Chamber outside the United States. By 1928 the idea of an international body crossed the Atlantic Ocean to England.

In 1940 a resolution was passed by the United States Junior Chamber approving a program to further mutual interests among countries in Central and South America. This lead to the establishment of Junior Chambers in Mexico City, Guatemala City, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama City in 1943.

The realization of Junior Chamber International had begun. In 1944 the first international conference was held in Mexico City. Raul Garcia Vidal of Mexico was elected the first President. The countries which formed Junior Chamber International were: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and the United States of America.


Two years later, in February of 1946, the first World Congress was held in Panama City. This congress was attended by 44 delegates from 16 different countries. The international organization was formally constituted, a temporary constitution was approved, and the word “Commerce” was omitted from the official name.

Erasmo Chambonnet of Panama was elected the second JCI President at that Congress, and Australia and Canada were officially affiliated.

In 1948 the JCI Creed was officially adopted at the IV JCI World Congress in Rio de Janeiro, and in 1952 a permanent Secretariat was established. In 1972 the name was changed to Jaycees International; however, in 1988 the name was changed back to Junior Chamber International.


Every year, new and exiting advancements and decisions are made in this organization. As it is impossible to list them all, the following are the events that are truly regarded as landmarks in the history of this worldwide organization.


  • 1910 – The organization began in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A. The founder, Henry Geissenbier, had formed the Herculaneum Dance Club with the purpose of bringing about the social elevation of its members.
  • 1915 – The first step toward the creation of the Junior Chamber movement was taken when 32 young men met at the Mission Inn on October 13 to form the Young Men’s Progressive Civic Association with Geissenbier as president.
  • 1916 – In August, the organization’s name was changed to Junior Citizens and it was at this time that the initials “JC” were first used. This group became affiliated with the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce and in 1918 the name Junior Chamber was adopted.


  • 1920 – On January 21st and 22nd, The United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (USJCC) was formed in St. Louis, Missouri, with 3,000 members.  Twenty-nine clubs around the nation were in attendance.  Henry Geissenbier was elected as the first national president.
  • 1923 – Get Out The Vote was the first Jaycee program to receive national endorsement.
  • 1925 – Beginning of national projects Know America First and Fire Prevention.  Birth of Expansion, the first USJCC national magazine.
  • 1926 – Development of aviation adopted as a national poject.
  • 1927 – Jaycee Charles A. Lindbergh made the first solo flight between New York and Paris.  Jaycees worked with Lindbergh to develop the U.S. Air Mail Service.


  • 1931 – Distinguished Service Awards program established at a chapter level.
  • 1932 – Many actions were taken to form a Junior Chamber International, including the creation of the International Executive Council of Junior Chamber of Commerce formed at the Olympic Games in 1932.
  • 1935 – Death of founder Henry Geissenbier.
  • 1936 – National Wildlife Federation established with guidance of USJCC.
  • 1937 – Programs begun at state and national level to inform the public of the need for diagnosis and treatment of venereal disease.
  • 1938 – Future Magazine established.  USJCC named the Ten Outstanding Young Men for the first time.
  • 1939 – Safety with Light campaigned gained national attention as thousands of street lights were donated to communities by Jaycees.


  • 1940 – USJCC endorsed the principle of a military draft.
  • 1941 – JCI was born in Mexico City on December 7-11.  Witness to the birth of the organization were 30 delegates from North and Central America.  Raul Garcia Vidal of Mexico was elected the first JCI President.
  • 1946 – USJCC established permanent headquarters in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  In February, the first JCI World Congress was held in Panama City.  Junior Golf program began.  The Jaycee Creed was written by C. William Brownfield.
  • 1947 – Official approval of “Jaycee” as a synonym of the organization.  Adoption of the Jaycee Creed.


  • 1951 – War Memorial Headquarters in Tulsa dedicated.  At the urging of Andy Mungenast, the reference to “Faith in God” was added to the Jaycee Creed.
  • 1953 – Jaycees sponsored stops on Professional Golfers’ Association tour for first time at Greensboro, North Carolina, and Hartford Connecticut.
  • 1954 – First Outstanding Young Farmer and Junior Tennis programs held.
  • 1959 – Jaycees supported statehood for Alaska.  Hawaii gained statehood the following year due to Jaycee efforts.


  • 1961 – First Governmental Affairs Leadership Seminar (GALS) conducted.
  • 1962 – Jaycees urge adoption of the Uniform Vehicle Code, with emphasis on state action resulting in adoption nationally.
  • 1963 – Clean Water Program launched to improve water quality in communities across America.  Shooting Education adopted as a national program.
  • 1964 – Project Concern adopted as International Relations activity.  The program raised money and equipment for clinics providing medical care to Chinese refugees in Hong Kong.
  • 1965 – Jaycees presented the first annual National Award of Distinction from the National Clean Up-Paint Up-Fix Up Bureau.
  • 1966 – Name of organization officially changed to U.S. Jaycees.


  •  1970 – Do Something campaign sparked interest in volunteerism.  Jaycees’ cooperation with other service organizations resulted in the founding of the National Center for Voluntary Action.
  • 1971 – More than 3 Million volunteer hours  were provided by the Jaycees to help administer seven million doses of rubella measles vaccine.
  • 1972 – Jaycees undertook model Operation Identification program to combat burglaries and aid crime prevention efforts.  Five million stickers were distributed nationally through Operation Red Ball to reduce fire fatalities.  Bylaw changes admitted 18-year-olds as regular members.
  • 1973 – The United States Jaycees’ Center for Improved Child Nutrition opened in Bloomington, Minnesota.
  • 1977 – Operation Threshold, a program dedicated to reducing alcohol abuse, reached more than 23 million Americans.  Muscular Dystrophy Fund Raising adopted as national program.


  • 1980 – Daisy/U.S. Jaycees Shooting Education program honored with National Safety Council Award for Youth Activities.
  • 1982 – Healthy American Fitness Leaders adopted as national program.
  • 1984 – Bylaw changes admitted women as full and regular members.  Sign Up America campaign collected 1.5 million signatures supporting America’s Olympic athletes.
  • 1985 – The U.S. Jaycees endorsed Campaign for Liberty to encourage public support for restoration of the Statue of Liberty.  St. Jude Fundraising adopted as a national program.
  • 1986 – First woman honored as one of Ten Outstanding Young Americans (TOYA).
  • 1987 – Bylaw change established member ship ages as 21-39.  Name of the U.S. Jaycees’ official publication changed to Jaycees Magazine.


  •  1990 – Name of the organization is changed back to The U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce.
  • 1992 – National Wake Up America program urged communities to get involved in politics by coordinating voter registration campaigns, hosting debates, and embracing pertinent community issues.  Jaycees responded to devastating hurricanes in the Southeast with national support.
  • 1993 – Greenworks! environmental education and community action program adopted by USJCC.  Jaycees Against Youth Smoking (JAYS) adopted as a national program.  Junior Chamber members were instrumental in bringing relief to the flood-stricken Midwest.
  • 1994 – Junior Chamber Mission Inn Foundation created to build a nationwide network of care facilities for children and adolescents affected by HIV/AIDS.
  • 1995 – The Jaycee Alliance was formed as a non-partisan, educational, grassroots governmental advocacy organization to give young Americans a voice in government.  The Jaycee KidCare I.D. Program was organized to provide identification to aid in the recovery of missing children.
  • 1996 – The Jaycees Wake Up America Tour Bus began a journey through the 48 contiguous states promoting programs and membership.  Social Security Reform Town Hall Meetings program initiated.
  • 1997 – Junior Chamber Center for Entrepreneurship and Career Advancement name changed to Junior Chamber for Business Advancement.  Two new programs, National Business Network and Virtual Networking, added to encourage Junior Chamber members to business network via the Internet both nationally and internationally.
  • 1999 – JAYS program reintroduced as an educational program to inform children about the dangers of smoking.  Value Investing and Career Advancement added to the Junior Chamber Center for Business Advancement.


  • 2000 – The first woman was elected as National President.  Junior Chamber Center for Business Advancement develops Web-based video seminar training.
  • 2001 – Name changes to The United States Junior Chamber
  • 2002 – Jaycees’ Citizen Corps Program launched.  Over 700 Chapters pledge 10 hours of community service for homeland security.  The United States Junior Chamber National Service Center relocates to the War Memorial Fund’s new U.S. Junior Chamber Headquarters.
  • 2003 – Bylaw passed to allow collegiate chapters
  • 2004 – Bylaw change established membership age as 18 through 40
  • 2005 – Established relationship with American Cancer Society to promote Relay for Life events. Tennessee & Iowa Jaycees provided 19 tractor-trailer loads of supplies to Hurricane Katrina and The United States Junior Chamber raised over one million in support.
  • 2008 – Support pledged to Operation Hope.
  • 2009 – Adoption of Riley’s Toys Foundation as program granted national exposure to the program.  Hasbro Toy Company then agreed to match the number of toys donated when shipments were made to Africa.


  • 2011 – Moved the National Service Center from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Chesterfield, Missouri to integrate the USA and international staff at JCI