History of JCI

JCI’s history spans 100 years

JCI’s story starts in 1915 in St. Louis, Missouri U.S.A. when Henry Giessenbier called a meeting attended by 32 young men to set up an organisation called ’The Young Men’s Progressive Civic Association’.  The object of the organisation was to promote the sale of city bonds to finance the laying out of roads and parks in the city.

The organisation went on to dedicate itself to bringing about civic improvements and giving young people a constructive approach to civic problems. The local Chamber of Commerce in St Louis was so impressed that it asked these young men to adopt the name of ‘Junior Chamber of Commerce’.

In August, the organisation’s name was changed to Junior Citizens, and it was at this time that the initials JC were first used.

Over the following years, especially during the 1920s, Henry Giessenbier spread the message about Junior Chamber mainly in America. The Young Men’s Section of the Winnipeg Board of Trade, founded in 1923 in Canada, was the first Junior Chamber type organisation outside the United States although not formed as part of the Junior Chamber movement.

1925 – JCI comes to the UK
In 1924, Sir Gilbert Vile and Mr R.B.Dunwoody, President and Secretary respectively of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, attended an international meeting of chambers of commerce in America. They saw the work of the Junior Chamber in America.

Mr Dunwoody spoke at the annual dinner of Lincoln Chamber of Commerce:

“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, in 1925, Lincoln Junior Chamber of Commerce was formed. Birmingham Junior Chamber of Commerce was formed in 1927, followed in the same year by Sheffield and then by Nottingham in early 1928.  Later in 1928, these four chambers became the founding members of The British Junior Chambers of Commerce (BJC), otherwise known today as JCI UK. In 1928 junior chambers were also formed in Northampton and Oldham.

Portadown was formed as the first chamber in Northern Ireland.

The membership moved away from being exclusively male to include female members and, in 1938, Mary Orgil was elected as President of Walsall Junior Chamber of Commerce.  Also in the mid 1930s and attempt was made to form an international organisation but this did not prove successful.

Glasgow formed as first chamber in Scotland

In a meeting in Mexico, JCI was formally founded by eight different national organisations.

The first World Congress of JCI took place in Panama City.

At the second World Congress of JCI in Dallas USA Mr A R Cotton (Birmingham) was the first Briton to be elected as an International Vice President of JCI

Scottish Junior Chambers broke away to form their own national organisation now known as JCI Scotland.

The JCI Senate was formed through the efforts of Phil Pugsley, the 1951 JCI President, at the 7th JCI World Congress in Melbourne, Australia. (The granting of a Senatorship is the highest honour within JCI and awards life-long membership to an individual member).

The first permanent World Headquarters was established at the United States Jaycees War Memorial Headquarters Building in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Philip Van Slyck was hired as JCI’s first full-time Secretary General.
Also in 1953 the first JCI European Conference was held in Paris.

The rapidly growing World Headquarters moved to its own building in Miami Beach, Florida, USA.

JCI UK hosted the JCI European Conference in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Cork and Dublin formed national organisation now known as JCI Ireland.

The first crayfish-party in Halmstad, Sweden. This is the oldest ongoing JCI event apart from the World Congress. JCI UK Senators are regular attendees.

JCI UK hosted a JCI conference in Belfast (this was an additional conference separate from the European Conference for that year).

JCI UK hosted the JCI European Conference in Southampton.

The World Headquarters was built in Coral Gables, Florida, USA to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Junior Chamber International.

At the 38th JCI World Congress in Taipei, the organisation’s name was changed from Junior Chamber International to Jaycees International.

JCI UK hosted the JCI European Conference in Birmingham.

JCI UK hosted the JCI European Conference in Sheffield.

At the 39th JCI World Congress in Sydney, Australia, the organisation’s name was again changed from Jaycees International to Junior Chamber International (JCI).

1989 was an historic year for JCI as membership was extended to the Eastern Block countries of Estonia (USSR), Poland and Hungary.

JCI UK hosted the JCI World Congress in Birmingham.

First European Academy for incoming Local Presidents took place in Gothenburg, Sweden.

JCI Head Quarters was relocated to St. Louis, Missouri.

JCI UK hosted the JCI European Conference in Birmingham.

JCI rebranded so that world-wide, all National organisations began with Junior Chamber International, followed by its geographical area. So, the British Junior Chambers of Commerce became JCI UK and was adopted at local level too with local chambers adding JCI before their town or city name.

JCI London hosted the European Capital Meeting, an ‘unofficial’ JCI conference of Junior Chambers based in capital cities in Europe.

JCI celebrated 100 years since Henry Giessenbier launched JCI.

JCI UK has played an active part in international affairs and has provided at least 13 International Vice Presidents. We have not had a World President yet, but it’s still early days!

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