“From within the walls of the soul of this organization wherein the foundation of character and good citizenship are laid, I hope a message will come in the sometime of tomorrow that will stir the people towards the establishment of a permanent and everlasting world peace.”
– Henry Giessenbier (1892-1935).
Founder of Junior Chamber International
By the age of 18, Henry Giessenbier Jr. formed the Herculaneum Dance Club, a social outlet for the community’s youth. Unknown at the time, Giessenbier was laying the foundation for what would become a global movement. On October 13, 1915, the first JCI Movement was founded when 32 men joined to form the Young Men’s Progressive Association (YMPCA) at the Mission Inn located in their hometown of St. Louis, USA.
The Young Men’s Progressive Association members received acknowledgement from the broader community, however on November 30, 1915 official recognition of the organization was granted after enrolling as a member of the Mayor’s Conference of Civic Organizations. One year later, the YMPCA became known as the Junior Citizens and soon the Junior Chamber of Commerce, after affiliating with the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce.
In June 1920, with 41 cities present, the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce held their first official convention, where their first constitution was adopted and the first President, Henry Giessenbier Jr., was elected. Giessenbier closed the ceremony with his expressed goals for the organization: “We have definitely launched a great institution into the world of progress. Let us hope that from this institution will emerge citizens of loftier ideals, higher privileges, greater opportunities, purer patriotism, broader ideas of service and greater capacity for happiness.” — Founder, Henry Giessenbier, Jr.
In 1926, after gaining Charles A. Lindbergh, commercial aviation pioneer, as a member, the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce pursued to expand aviation throughout the United States by working to establish and promote airport construction, encourage air mail usage and mark towns for easy identification from the air. That same year, the Get Out the Vote campaign was initiated in which the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce became the first national organization to conduct a systematic campaign to educate citizens of their civic duty to vote. As a result, 12 million more individuals voted in the 1928 election than in 1924.