Our History

Junior Chamber History

Henry Giessenbier

The Junior Chamber Movement is now in its second century of changing the lives of its members and the communities in which we exist.

The Junior Chamber was initially formed as a dance club in St. Louis, MO, led by Henry Giessenbier. They came to a consensus that if young people were to improve their prospects for social and career advancement, they would first have to join forces socially.

Logo of the Young Men's Progressive Civic Association (YMPCA) the precursor of Junior Chamber International

In 1914, the group merged with six other dance clubs, and, in 1915, they formed the Young Men’s Progressive Civic Association (YMPCA). With the help and guidance of established civic and business leaders, they built the organization. Membership swelled from 32 to 750 members in just five months.

Lectures, speakers, and training sessions provided the group with needed knowledge, but some method was needed for members to apply what they had learned. Service to their communities provided the answer.

Community service allowed members practical application of the insights they had learned. It was then the Junior Chamber movement started to achieve its goal – building better leaders.

In 1916, the YMPCA changed their name to Junior Citizens, after affiliation with the St.Louis Chamber of Commerce. The United States Junior Chamber of Commerce officially formed in 1920.

Over the years, Jaycees have been involved in many local, national and international issues. In the 1920s, the Junior Chamber began its first national program, “Get Out the Vote”, designed to encourage citizens to participate in government.

In the ’40s, the Junior Chamber went on record in favor of compulsory military training. While more than 85 percent of our membership were fighting in World War II, local groups were involved in conducting scrap drives, selling war bonds, and assisting USO chapters to help the war effort. Chapters in communities close to war industry, such as Ypsilanti, MI, helped secure or build housing for the influx of workers in their areas.

In the waning months of World War II, representatives gathered in Mexico City to bring together the national Junior Chambers from across the world, founding JCI – Junior Chamber International

In recent years, Jaycees from around the world have focused on ending the root causes of endemic poverty by working towards the United Nations’ Millennial Development Goals, and currently, Sustainable Development Goals.

JCI Michigan History

In September 1924, representatives from Flint, Pontiac, Jackson and Saginaw met at the Old City Club in Jackson, for the purpose of establishing a Michigan Junior Chamber of Commerce. Guests from Toledo, Detroit and Chicago attended at the invitation of the Jackson Junior Chamber. Kalamazoo and Bay City, who already had active chapters, did not send delegates.

Martin P. Luthy, Executive Secretary of the Jackson Chamber and President of the Jackson Junior Chamber, was named chairman of the By-Laws Committee. Serving with him were Clarence Smith of Pontiac, Elton Viets of Flint and Robert Frantz of Saginaw.

The 50 delegates voted to operate under the direction of a three man committee, Luthy, Smith and Viets, until the first convention scheduled in the fall of 1925. Project reports on Reforestation, Civic betterment, Get out the vote and Social activities were presented to the delegation.