JCI (Junior Chamber International) is a worldwide federation of young leaders and entrepreneurs. We are 200,000 active JCI members and millions of JCI alumni participating in projects, meetings, learning programs and events. JCI thrives in more than 6,000 communities located in more than 100 countries throughout the world.
JCI members are 18- to 40-year-old professionals and entrepreneurs who have joined a local JCI chapter. We meet, learn and grow. We create positive change. We train to become better leaders. We organize projects in the areas of Business, Individual, Community, and International Development.
Building local, national and international networks, we draw on the experience of JCI alumni who have succeeded in various facets of life and who provide assistance when required. Representing countless occupations and skills, we are creative, bold leaders who are developing new skills, laying new foundations, and establishing new friendships and networks.
We believe in the advancement of the global community and the creation of positive change by improving ourselves and the world around us. We meet at local, national, and international events to exchange ideas and share best practices. We also learn from dynamic speakers and trainers at interesting and interactive seminars and presentations. We are growing personally and professionally because we are learning by doing, actively organizing projects and activities that benefit our communities and ourselves.
History of JCI
FROM DANCE CLUB TO LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT?
Henry Giessenbier’s Legacy to the World
Henry “Hy” Giessenbier wanted to develop the business skills and the reputation of young men. This approach was a bit unusual, as his era was one in which most young men were out of school and working by the age of fifteen, and their first jobs were the jobs they died in. If they were lucky, they might work their way into an executive position by the time they were in their forties. But Hy knew that twelve signers of the Declaration of Independence were under 35; Thomas Jefferson was only 33 when he wrote the original draft of the document!
So Hy decided to do something positive for the young men of St. Louis; he started a dance club. If young people were to improve their prospects for social and career advancement, they would first have to join forces socially. The Herculaneum Dance Club became the most popular in the city, because of Hy’s progressive philosophy. This progressive attitude, that young people can make a difference, became the hallmark of the Junior Chamber.
In 1914, the Herculaneum Dance Club merged with six other socially-minded groups to form the Federation of Dance Clubs; Hy was elected president. In this capacity, he led a meeting of the Federation on October 13, 1915, at the Mission Inn in St. Louis, Missouri. It was at this gathering that 32 young men agreed to form the Young Men’s Progressive Civic Association (YMPCA), developing their skills as leaders by tackling difficult civic problems. Today we recognize October 13 as “Mission Day” for chapters and observe the occasion with membership drives and special meetings.
Giessenbier wanted young men to make an impression early in life, so development of business and leadership skills was offered to members of the early movement. Those skills and other benefits are still offered today.
In 1916, the YMPCA changed its name to Junior Citizens at the request of Clarence H. “Daddy” Howard, a St. Louis industrialist and early benefactor of the Junior Chamber organization. The Junior Citizens affiliated with the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce in 1918. Following the first World War, a plan to form a national coalition of young men’s groups was widely circulated.
The “St. Louis Plan” resulted in a gathering of 29 organizations from around the country in January of 1920. This caucus on January 21 and 22 is the official date of the birth for The United States Junior Chamber of Commerce. Today, the commemoration of the caucus falls within Junior Chamber Week, which begins the third Saturday of every January.
In June of 1920, when the first Annual Meeting was held, Hy was elected president. Little did he realize how much effect the organization he started would have in America and around the world. He died on November 7, 1935.