JCI members constantly seek ways to live JCI’s slogan: Be Better. They not only believe that improvement is possible, they believe it is their responsibility to initiate positive change both in themselves and in their local community. All members around the world share this sense of social responsibility and the initiative to take action to create a better future for all.
JCI Around the World
With over 5,000 Local Organizations in more than 100 countries and territories, JCI forms a vibrant international community of nearly 200,000 active citizens.
All members belong to a JCI Local Organization where they focus on finding solutions to improve their local community. Local Organizations are affiliated to National Organizations where
members coordinate activities on national and international scales. This structure links JCI members together to form a global grassroots movement creating global impact through local
Each year, members from all over the globe come together at the JCI World Congress. At this event, JCI’s critical mass of young people unite to share
experiences, understand the interconnectedness of our world and facilitate international cooperation. This global forum enables members to find new ways to take action in their local
communities and make globalization a positive force.
JCI also hosts four regional conferences each year: Africa and the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, the Americas and Europe. At these conferences, JCI conducts its affairs, hosts training, and gives members the opportunity to address global issues and show their commitment to becoming socially responsible leaders.
Approaching the 100th Anniversary of JCI's First Local Organization
In 2015, we’ll celebrate the 100th Anniversary of JCI's First Local Organization, originally established under the name of "Young Men's Progressive Civic Association (YMPCA)."
Almost a century ago, Henry "Hy" Giessenbier, Jr., and a group of young people decided to take responsibility for their personal and professional development as well as for the progress and welfare of their community by helping tackle difficult problems around them. Together with other 32 young men, Giessenbier established the Young Men's Progressive Civic Association (YMPCA), JCI's First Local Organization, at the Mission Inn in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 13, 1915.
Since 1915, countless dedicated young leaders like Giessenbier have ensured the organization's progress while contributing to the development of JCI members and the advancement of their communities. Their efforts and achievements must not be forgotten.
The historic information presented here is an effort to honor those leaders. Thanks to contributions from former JCI officers, staff members, members in general and collaborators, we have gathered significant historic details. JCI publications have also been used as reference. We hope JCI's history will serve to inspire future generations of JCI members to emulate their predecessors and take the organization to higher and higher levels of accomplishment.
The origin of JCI (Junior Chamber International, Inc.) can be traced as far back as 1910 to the city of St. Louis, Missouri, USA, where a young man named
Henry "Hy" Giessenbier dared to dream "impossible dreams." Giessenbier was born June 26, 1892, and was raised in St. Louis, Missouri. He was one of six children in the Giessenbier
The son of a German father and a kind-hearted mother was to rise out of this tapestry with a vision that would lead to the establishment of the world's foremost organization for young people. Henry Giessenbier was to create the structure that would motivate young adults across the country (and later, around the world) to blend their voices to create improvements in themselves and their communities.
In 1910, Giessenbier and his friends first formed the Herculaneum Dance Club with the main objective of advancing the social standing of its members. He frequently invited community leaders to speak to the group at its regular meetings. In 1915, Colonel Huse N. Morgan, a powerful orator, argued to the Federation the case for constructing a major parkway through the city. In so doing, he struck a responsive chord with Giessenbier who was realizing that there was more to life than dancing.
That objective changed when Giessenbier realized how much more young people could accomplish for their communities and for themselves if, inspired by noble ideals, they worked together. About a week later, the young banker was telling Morgan about an "idea" he had to organize a group of men, ages 18 to 30, with the purpose of: "... bringing the young men of our great city together into one grand body with that great purpose of fellowship, advancement and everything which would make a good boy a better boy, a good student a more proficient scholar and a good citizen a better citizen."
Morgan, whose parkway hopes would ultimately fail, recognized the potential in the 21-year-old's concept and offered his help. Following a trip to Cleveland to look into the young men's business club there, and investigating similar clubs in other cities, Giessenbier felt that none matched his lofty intentions.
Five years later, encouraged by Colonel Morgan, Giessenbier and 32 other young men formed the Young Men's Progressive Civic Association (YMPCA) on October 13, 1915. Giessenbier envisioned young people participating in the civic affairs of their communities to help and benefit people of all ages. YMPCA grew to a membership of 750 in less than five months. The association went on to dedicate itself to bringing about civic improvements and giving young people a constructive approach to civic problems.
Extending Locally and Nationally
The very next year, 1916, saw another name change as the YMPCA became "Junior Citizens," commonly called "JCs," which later became "Jaycees." Their work so impressed the St. Louis Junior Chamber of Commerce that they asked these young men in 1918 to adopt the name �Junior Chamber of Commerce� which was done despite some members objecting to the word Junior and some objecting to the word Commerce.
After World War I, Giessenbier contacted other cities in the United States with similar young businessmen's groups. St. Louis members had enthusiastically spread the news of their organization while off to war and, as a result, questions began pouring in from all over the country about how to form similar groups.
A pamphlet describing the "St. Louis Plan" was sent in response and caucus invitations were issued to all existing young men's groups. When the proceedings opened in St. Louis on January 21, 1920, 30 cities were represented. With the adoption of a provisional constitution until a convention could be held in June, and the election of officers, the national Junior Chamber movement was born.
The caucus-adopted constitution permitted wide latitude for member groups in regard to age of members and the name of their organizations. Names varied greatly from the Strollers Club and the Young Men's Business Club of New Orleans to the Under Forty Division of the Detroit Board of Commerce. Some clubs accepted men in their 40s, while others welcomed teenagers. These points would cause controversy and debate for years to come.
Giessenbier won election as provisional president of the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce (USJCC) by acclamation, and was joined by other officers from St. Louis; El Paso and Dallas Texas; Terre Haute, Indiana; and Springfield, Massachusetts. The United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (now JCI USA) was established with 29 clubs from around the nation. Henry Giessenbier was elected as the first President of the national organization.
The first local organization outside the United States that had similar nature with that of the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce was the Winnipeg Board of Trade, which was established in 1923.
In 1924, Sir Gilbert Vyle and Mr. R.B. Dunwoody, President and Secretary respectively of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce had attended an international meeting of chambers of commerce in America and had seen the work of the Junior Chamber there.
Mr. Dunwoody speaking at an annual dinner of Lincoln Chamber of Commerce said �In the United States they are forming Junior Chambers of Commerce where lads and youths may be enrolled for the study of industrial and commercial questions and prepared for the future to become members of the Senior Chambers and useful citizens. There is a great future, in my opinion, for such a movement and I hope to see it started in connection with our chambers here.�
Shortly after, on May 14, 1925, Lincoln Junior Chamber was formed, thought to be the first actual Junior Chamber outside the United States, although as we have seen above a similar type of organization had been formed in Winnipeg. Birmingham was formed in 1927, followed the same year by Sheffield and by Nottingham in early 1928.
By the time officials from the U.S. Junior Chamber visited England in 1928, there were already eleven functioning chambers. In 1929, Douglas Jelley, President of Northampton Jaycees visited the United States for the first time, which was followed by a visit by a delegation of three Sheffield Members led by W.G. Ibberson to the annual convention of the U.S. Junior Chamber in Brooklyn in 1930. Because the national organization did not have, in the early days, the present structure of a full team of national officers carrying out functional responsibilities, many national activities were conducted by assigned chambers on behalf of the organization.
The first formal attempts to form an international organization came at the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1932 when an International Executive Committee was formed. However, even the U.S Junior Chamber was not sure whether this was a separate organization or one of their own committees. The U.S. Junior Chamber official history does not record that the group evolved into anything more than a loose grouping of member nations with the U.S., Canada, England, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia and Colombia. In 1936, at the national conference in Liverpool representatives from several countries determined to form an International Junior Chamber, but this appears to have been overlooked when JCI was eventually formed.
In 1940, a resolution was passed by JCI USA approving a program to further mutual interests among countries in Central and South America. This led to the establishment of JCI organizations in Mexico City, Guatemala City, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama City in 1943.
A meeting took place in Mexico City in December 1944 which was billed as an Inter-America Meeting at which representatives of the U.S.A. and seven Latin American countries attended and it was at this meeting that the decision to form Junior Chamber International (JCI) was taken. It was resolved to hold a further meeting in Panama City in 1946.
New Zealand was unable to attend and asked the Chicago President to protest on their behalf about not having been included in the original decision to form an international organization as they had been active pioneers in international cooperation. The British delegation failed to attend having only got as far as New York.
The establishment of JCI as an international organization had begun. In 1944, the first international conference was held in Mexico City. Raul Garcia Vidal of Mexico was elected JCI's first President. The countries that originally formed JCI were Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and the United States of America.
The First JCI World Congress
Junior Chamber International would come into formal being at the First World Congress in Panama at the end of February in 1946. It was attended by 44 delegates from 16 different countries. Presided over by Erasmo Chambonnet of Panama, since JCI President Raul Garcia Vidal was ill and unable to attend, the delegates approved a temporary Constitution and set for themselves a list of purposeful resolutions which all in attendance agreed to follow.
Erasmo Chambonnet of Panama was elected the second JCI President at that JCI 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 JCI Headquarters was established. In 2002, after more than 30 years in Coral Gables, Florida, the JCI Headquarters moved to Chesterfield, Missouri.
Over the years, the organization developed and became known as "Junior Chamber," "Junior Chamber of Commerce," "Jaycees International," and their multiple translations in various languages. Since 2004, however, JCI organizations worldwide are incorporating "JCI" in their names.
~ C.W. Brownfield