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History of JCI

JCI founder Henry Giessenbier Jr. founded the Herculaneum Dance Club in 1910. In 1914, they merged with six other dance clubs to form the Federation of Dance Clubs and Giessenbier was elected President. However, he wanted to be part of something more focused on community engagement.


The Mission Inn, formerly located at the corner of Grand and Magnolia, in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A. was the birthplace of the Junior Chamber Movement. The Mission Inn was the first place where JCI founder Henry Giessenbier Jr. was able to put his dream to reality of forming an organization to study civic and business problems and provide opportunity to participate in civic community activities.
As President of the Federation of Dance Clubs, he led an important meeting 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.


The historic first meeting held in Mexico City, Mexico, was where Junior Chamber International was formed. The first National Organizations forming JCI were Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and the United States.


In February 1946, 44 delegates from 16 different countries attended the first JCI World Congress held in Panama City, Panama. Those nations represented at this first congress included Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, the United States, Guatemala, El Salvador, Hawaii, Honduras, New Zealand, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Uruguay. 
At this Congress, the delegates approved a temporary Constitution and set a list of purposeful resolutions and made the decision to leave the word “commerce” out of the new international organization’s name. The preamble to the JCI Constitution was also written at this time.


The groundbreaking ceremony for the first JCI Secretariat, later housing the US Junior Chamber Headquarters after JCI moved into it’s new World Headquarters in Coral Gables, Florida, U.S.A. in 1969, the 25th anniversary of JCI.
Past JCI President Phil Pugsley stated: “JCI is like a “slumbering giant, available to fight the cause of freedom but not yet organized sufficiently to do so effectively.” It has “tremendous potential as a major non military weapon of the free world.”
This fact led President Pugsley to work toward establishing a permanent JCI Secretariat in order to assist with JCI’s communications and keep all necessary records. They used a free office space offered by the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce in Tulsa, Oklahoma until the new building was constructed.


United States Vice President Richard Nixon presented a charter to the Vietnam Jaycees. Operation Brotherhood was a project that consisted of massive international fundraising to provide food, clothing and medical care for Vietnamese refugees. At the conclusion of the project, a total of 721,379 refugees had been treated and 5,023 surgical operations had been performed.


JCI enacted “Project Concern” to provide dental and primary medical care for underprivileged people in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Mexico and the Appalachian Mountains in the United States. It began in Hong Kong in 1962, and spread to other national organizations until it was adopted as an international project.


JCI President Carl Peterson met with UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim. Seated from the left are Waldheim, Peterson and JCI Representative to the UN Bernhard Musil.


Campaign posters of the candidates running for JCI office adorned the walls at the JCI World Congress in Montreal, Canada.


1988 JCI President Jennifer Yu and JCI Ten Outstanding Young People (JCI TOYP) Honoree Jackie Chan.


This newspaper describing the fall of the Berlin Wall was signed by JCI Presidents and presented to the Wirtschafts Junior Chamber in Germany at the 1989 JCI World Congress.