Developments were rapid following the January Caucus. Of primary concern were arrangements for the June convention, but the acquisition of a new home for the St. Louis organization also took the spotlight.
Early in 1920, again through the efforts of Clarence Howard, the large mansion of David R. Francis was turned over to the Junior Chamber and Boy Scouts. Francis, the United States Ambassador to Russia, pout the mansion in the hands of three trustees, Howard, Melville L. Wilkinson and Paul W. Brown, for a ten year period.
Henry Giessenbier (front row third from the left) poses for a group photograph with other St. Louis members of the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce.
This large home, which had been used to entertain presidents and kings, gave the St. Louis
Jaycees first class facilities, for they now had downtown offices with the Chamber of Commerce, plus the mansion for meetings, parties and other functions.
The home remained in the hands of the Junior Chamber until 1926, when its use was voluntarily surrendered. maintenance was simply too much of a strain on the local groups budget.
Nationalization of the the Junior Chamber movement was also progressing and Giessenbier took
a number of trips during the winter and spring to speak before young men’s groups in other cities.
It was important that representation at the June conclave exceed that of the caucus.
A big boost came in April of 1920 when further endorsement was given by the Chamber of Commerce of the United States meeting in convention at Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Howard and Giessenbier were both present for the Chamber convention and campaigned
intensely for backing for the Junior Chamber. Giessenbier’s work included a talk, his first, before
the national Senior Chamber.
In his “plug” for the Junior Chamber, Howard again stamped himself as a visionary. His
membership dreams were so rosy they have not yet ever been attained!
“How can anyone measure the great potentiality of this movement when it reaches the
goal of 500,000 young men joined together in a constructive program.
The Junior Chamber program has proved itself to be far more attractive to the normal healthy young man then the poolroom, dance hall or theater.”
Howard and Giessenbier were also able to present before the Chamber of Commerce a statement made by former President of the United States William Howard Taft:
“I think every movement of young men organized effectively to promote training in good citizenship and the study of all civic, commercial and industrial problems is to be encouraged. I hope you will succeed.”
Endorsement as strong as any to be received for nearly ten years was forthcoming in the following statement issued by the Chamber of Commerce:
“Be it resolved the the Chamber of Commerce of the UNited States heartily approves and encourages the Junior Chamber of Commerce idea and the formation of such organizations throughout the country.
Be it further resolved that the Chamber of Commerce of the United States express its appreciation for the splendid work being done by the Junior Chamber of Commerce in St. Louis where the idea originated.”
In 1920, the opinion of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States was much more important to the organization than it was as the decades passed. The chief reason for this was that as a new group, the Junior Chamber was in urgent need of all the support it could muster. Active participation in public affairs by young men was not as commonplace as it would grow to be and backing from such a conservative clan as the Chamber was much desired.
Just what type of Junior-Senior Chamber relationship was actually looked forward to in those days is open to question. It is definitely known that some leaders wanted the Junior Chamber to actually be a unit of the Senior body. Probably more Jaycees wanted close ties, monetary support and the prestige of a favorite son, all without strings attached.
Such a utopian relationship with the Chamber never resulted and through the year no official connection between the two bodies never materialized. The Junior Chamber did have a place on the Senior Chamber’s Board of Directors but no mention of the Chamber is included in the Jaycee Constitution and by-laws. Locally, there were Junior Chambers virtually dominated by the Chamber. More groups, however, have had little or no connection with the senior body.
Still the question of relationship with the Chamber of Commerce was to be important for many years, primarily because of the opposition by Chamber secretaries at the local level. The national Chamber itself never opposed the USJCC. Its position all through the 2’s was essentially one of mild vocal approval, not much else.
In the vast listing of events to follow, of many dealings with the Chamber, it helps to realize that relatively little was actually accomplished until 1929. In some cities, the Chamber opposed the Junior Chamber; in others it offered support.
As to the convention which was to meet on June 17-19 of 1920, all factors led to the good attendance which resulted. Visits by giessenbier, continual correspondence out of St. Louis and the mild endorsement of the Chamber of Commerce, all helped to swell the number of cities represented to 40.
It had been just five years since the YMPCA had its beginnings in St. Louis, but an impressive national convention was already a reality. Young men’s groups from many parts of the UNited States were to meet and when it was all over, 12 of these would join the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce as charter members.
The picture them is of many groups of varying types coming together at the call of St. Louis for the purpose of forming a national federation. A few of these clubs were in existence before 1915 but most of them had been formed since that date.
The eventual model of most Junior Chambers was for many years to be influenced by its thinking. The “St. Louis Plan” was to become widespread and earn for the city on the Mississippi the title of “Mother” of the Jaycee movement.
Young men had been organizing across the land but credit must be given to St. Louis for taking the first real steps to join them together in common effort.
Of the St. Louis leaders, special attention is due Henry “Hy” Giessenbier, Jr. and Clarence Howard. Their lives and personalities played a vital role in the shaping of the movement and stood for Junior Chamber ideas and actions at their finest.
The first convention of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce, held June 17-19 in St. Louis, Missouri, may have had more influence on Jaycee history than any other meeting since that time.
Not only was Giessenbier named first full-term president of the organization but a constitution was adopted and certain policies were formulated which carried weight for many years. The heated battle between Springfield. Massachusetts and dallas, Texas for the right to host the next convention (won by Dallas) also set a president which existed for decades.
HA 1920 chart shows the organizational arrangement of the fledgling Junior Chamber of Commerce.
Click on image to see a larger version.
Possibly the most important was the printing of the proceedings of the convention. The full published
minutes of this three-day meeting contain invaluable information including an outline of a model Junior Chamber which closely resembled the St. Louis group and this was made available in permanent form
with wide distribution as the “St. Louis Plan.”
That the importance of these printed proceedings is not exaggerated is pointed out clearly by an early
Jaycee leader, Bob Schirmer, who refers to the first convention volume as, “The Bible of the J.C. Movement.”
On hand for the convention were representatives from 41 cities an increase of 11 over the number
attending the January Caucus. Correspondence had continued between the Caucus and the June
Convention to stimulate more cities to visit St. Louis and see what the movement was all about. Young
men’s groups existed all over the nation and it was hoped that many would affiliate with the Junior
When the convention concluded, there were 12 paid members of the organization. Some of the other
groups had purposes divergent form the Junior Chamber, while still others simply were not interested
in any affiliation or such things as payment of dues.
For years, there were many organizations in the country which resembled Junior Chambers or even called themselves Junior Chambers, which did not join the national federation. Although such groups did little to strengthen the organized movement, they were still encouraged. Even a non-affiliated young men local groups helped make a better community, and that after all, was the purpose of the Junior Chamber idea.
The Convention, like the Caucus, opened with a greeting form Paul Young, President of the St. Louis
Junior Chamber. The only difference was that Young personally attended the convention. At the time
of the Caucus, he had been sick and a message from him had been read.
Other brief speeches to begin proceedings included words form Mr. Wilkinson, Giessenbier’s employer,
and State Senator S. P. Wilfley, a representative of Governor Gardner of Missouri. George Wilson, destined
to be the next president of the USJCC, also spoke in his reportedly typical poetic manner that was to
earn him the title of the “Golden Tongued Orator.”
Appointment of committees was made and these included special groups to consider pins, nominations,
model Junior Chambers and expansion and development.
Giessenbier then made a long and inclusive speech which clearly outlined the ideal program of a Junior Chamber and listed both community and national problems to be attacked. Community problems suitable for almost any local organizations were listed as follows:
- The promotion of safety in all phases of life.
- Development of park and recreational facilities.
- Improvement of housing conditions.
- Americanization of foreign immigrants.
- Promotion of all kinds of educational programs.
- The study of public markets.
National problems which Giessenbier thought deserved Junior Chamber attention were:
- The improvement of conditions for the farmer and better rural-urban relations in general thorough a keener understanding of agriculture’s problems.
- The backing of government expenditure for the development of America’s inland waterways.
In his speech, Giessenbier again demonstrated his real concept of the Junior Chamber movement, an understanding far in advance of his time. The planks suggested for local jaycee groups could still stand for the basis of a top-flight chapter, although Americanization of immigrants is no longer a major field.
Nationally, the subject of inland waterways as advocated by Giessenbier is somewhat outdated, although the building of the St. Lawrence Seaway falls into this category. Rural-urban relations continues to be one of the functions of the Outstanding Young Farmer program.
The treasurer’s report showed that of the 24 groups attending the Caucus, 12 had paid their $25 charter fees (about $250 in 2012 dollars) and were members of the national organization. The convention was to end with these 12 paid-up member groups.
The Chamber of Commerce of the United States (only 8 years older than the Junior Chamber and created by President Howard Taft) was well represented at the convention. A letter form Joseph H. Defrees, President of the Chamber, was read and Field Manager F.N. Shepherd gave an address. Both added impetus to the resolution adopted at the April Chamber Convention in which the Junior Chamber movement was approved and encouraged.
The message from Defeese stressed the fact that young men were taking wise action in forming their own civic group, since even if they were admitted as individuals to the Chamber of Commerce, they would have to be content with a back seat role for many years.
Since the Junior Chamber could not secure well-known outside guests, the speakers before the convention were local men who had achieved prominence in their respective fields. It was, nevertheless, a well-rounded program with speakers like Charles Nagel, who had been Secretary of Commerce and Labor under President Taft and founded the Chamber of Commerce; Dr. W.P. Gephart, Dean of Washington University’s School of Commerce and Finance; Neil Brown, Editor of America at Work magazine; and James E. Smith, President of the Mississippi Valley Waterways Association.
Messages were read from dignitaries who could not be present, however, and these included well wishes from Henry J. Allen, Governor of Kansas; Frank O. Lowden, Governor of Illinois; Samuel R. McCelvie, Governor of Nebraska; Edwin P. Morrow, Governor of Kentucky; and A.H. Roberts, Governor of Tennessee. Many of these Governors signed the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution giving women the right to vote.
Still, principal interest was centered in the report of the committee on a model Junior Chamber and the adoption of a constitution for the organization. The model Junior Chamber committee, under L.J. Stewart of Springfield, Massachusetts, adopted a plan which was nearly identical to the existing Junior Chamber operation in St. Louis. The “St. Louis Plan” was thus the suggestion form which to cast the Jaycee dye. Giessenbier had been chief architect of the St. Louis mother group and his plans were to be the blueprints of the national organization.
The constitution was adopted with relatively little bickering and it had been formulated by a committee under Clay A. Phillips of Terre Haute, Indiana.
That first constitution essentially called for a weak federation of Junior Chambers. The purpose of the organization being to increase cooperation among existing chapters to boost their efficiency and promote growth and expansion of the movement.
Actually, the purposes of the national body has remained within this framework and decades of services fit these categories. The founders also hoped that as the organization grew larger it would be considered as the “voice of young men of America.” As the Junior Chamber grew larger and larger it more had the right to claim this distinction, which was the wish form the very beginning.
The constitution adopted called for an organization governed by a president, four vice presidents, a secretary and treasurer and a board of 12 directors. All were to be chosen for one-year stints, with the exception of the directors. Four of these were elected for one-year terms, four for 2 years and four for 3 years.
After 3 years, all were to receive three-year terms, thus making four men come up for election each year. This provision was to be short-lived. Within 6 years the terms of directors was cut to 2 years and then to one year. The organization even today has no officers who serve more than one year other than the executive director (which replaced the secretary position) who serves at the pleasure of the executive committee.
Individual specifications for membership were simple. Members were to be at least 18 years of age and not more than 35. These provisions were to cause considerable discussion over the years, especially the upper end requirement. From the first, however, a cut off age was recognized as necessary.
The charter fee was established at $25. Through the years, the fee has been raised, reduced and even waived. Individual dues were set at $0.25 per year with a chapter maximum of $250. (In 2012 dollars that would have been $25 per member and up to $2,500 per chapter. Charter fees would be $250).
Another key post established was that of the national councilor. Each local was to have one man so designated whose function was to keep in touch with the other national councilors and thus facilitate and exchange ideas between locals.
The counselors were to meet before conventions and make recommendations to the Board of Directors. Since they had no real power, the national councilors were destined for long years of somewhat ineffective work. They were eventually dropped from the constitution in 1938. In 1920, however, they seemed to be a good medium of exchange between the member groups.
The actual election of officers at the first convention took little time since key men named at the Caucus ere again chosen for full on-year terms. Two new vice presidents were John N. Floyd of Arkansas City, Kansas and Arthur Rauschkilb of Belleville, Illinois.
Directors were also chosen without contention and the report of Weber Fouts, head of the nominating committee, had been adopted without a change, except for a special petition placing Fouts, himself, in nomination as a director!
Selection of a site for the next convention was an entirely different matter and Springfield, Massachusetts and dallas, Texas battled for 12 ballots before the texans landed the 1921 meeting. The controversy is well described in the St. Louis Globe Democrat in an article headed, “Giessenbier Re-elected U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce Head” and “Dallas Gets 1921 Convention After Hot Fight with Springfield, Massachusetts, 12 votes to 6. Despite Telegram from Coolidge.”
The article goes on to say:
“After 12 ballots, Dallas, Texas, was voted the 1921 convention. Dallas and Springfield bitterly waged a wavering fight to secure the convention and it was only after Des Moines, Iowa and Terre Haute, Indiana, which had bee formerly in favor of Springfield, had split their ballot of two votes that Dallas secured the needed margin. The vote was 12 to 6.
Springfield, under Ray Wilber, had presented a most impressive invitation, including letters of recommendation from many famous men including Governor of Massachusetts and soon to be elected Vice President and eventually President of the United States Calvin Coolidge. Nevertheless, Dallas won the nomination, probably because even then it appeared that the midwest and southwest were to be jaycee strongholds in comparison to the New England area, where development of the movement was to be slow.
This tussle between dallas and Springfield was to be the first of many struggles to secure the Junior Chamber Convention. Over the years nabbing that particular “plum” has been as hotly contested as the presidency. Under the present constitution, the convention site is chosen by the Board of Directors rather than by the del agates from the floor.
Although nothing has been mentioned concerning it so far, the first convention had not been without its recreational attractions. These included a dance on opening night featuring “An artificial moon and plenty of liquid refreshments to keep your whistle wet”; a ball game and tour of industrial concerns on Friday and a banquet at the Statler Hotel on Saturday. This dinner was a joint affair with the entire St. Louis Junior Chamber of Commerce.
The Statler was convention headquarters but many meetings had been held at the David R. Francis home, headquarters for the St. Louis Junior Chamber of Commerce.
The first annual convention was appropriately closed with remarks by Giessenbier in which he stated:
“We have definitely launched a great institution into the world of progress. Let us hope from this institution will emerge citizens of loftier ideals, higher privileges, greater opportunities, purer patriotism, broader ideas of service and greater capacity of happiness. It may then be that America will enjoy to the fullest extent the continental unity of devotion dedicated toward the up building of a greater American republic.”
The United States Junior Chamber of Commerce was officially on its way with a bank balance of $48.21 and a million dollars worth of dreams.