Back to Basics
Our founder, Henry "HY" Giessenbier wanted to develop the business skills and the reputation of young men. He felt that young men could make a difference in business and in the community. This approach was unusual, because during this period most young men were out of school 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.
Hy Giessenbier felt that in order for young people to improve their prospects for social and career advancements they would first have to join forces socially. The Herculaneum Dance Club became the most popular in the city. This progressive attitude, that young men 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 Dancing 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.
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.
The official date of birth of The U. S. Junior Chamber of Commerce was January 21, 1920. Henry Giessenbier and a group of young men in St. Louis , Missouri established the Junior Chamber for personal reasons. They wanted to move ahead in their careers and their lives, but they faced a classic "catch-22." To advance they needed more experience, but the only way they could get more experience was to advance. They found they faced similar problems and had different solutions. That diversity became their strength. Coming from a variety of backgrounds, they discovered they possessed a wide range of talents, skills and abilities, with the natural leaders in the group able to find and use available resources.
With the help and guidance of established civic and business leaders, the St. Louis group determined its own needs and set about meeting those needs. To advance in their careers, members needed skills in planning, budgeting, training, communication and supervision. To gain those skills they channeled their collective efforts in a unified direction. Committees were formed. Chairmen elected. Goals set. Timetables established. Resources marshaled. Management and workers trained. Manpower took action.