Many reasons are given to explain just why the St. Louis Junior Chamber of Commerce called a caucus for January of 1920 to establish a national organization.

One factor was Hy Giessenbier and his keen desire for “a greater America.” Clarence Howard also provided stimulus for a nationwide movement, since he was a man of foresight and held progressive ideas far ahead of his times.

The role and personality of these two men … Giessenbier and Howard … are discussed here. However there was still another motivating factor for the formation of the USJCC.

March 4, 1920
All who ar ewilling to work!

This is summarized by one of the earliest members of the YMPCA, J. Orville Spreen. As he says:

“Inquiries from other cities had a great deal to do with the calling of the caucus after the war. St. Louis members were getting many questions from all around the country in regard to how to form similar groups. This is because Howard was spreading the word and Junior Chamber members in the Army had also told others about their organization in St. Louis. Clippings in the newspaper also attracted attention and, all-in-all, the time was just right for the formation of a national Junior Chamber.”

To answer these questions, a pamphlet describing the “St; Louis Plan” was sent to all those interested in forming a Junior Chamber. The St. Louis Plan described the existing organization and proved to be the chief model for most groups which sprang into existence.

Not only were the inquiries received from all parts of the country, but the St. Louis group itself was enjoying record success. membership was swelling and it was to be in excess of 3,000 by caucus time in january of 1920. This total was nearly triple that of any Jaycee chapter as late as 1966!

It was October 23, 1919, that an official decision was made to call a caucus to form a national Junior Chamber. Giessenbier was chosen to head the committee and the members were Thurman W. Payne, Galen Starr Ross, Erick Janssen, E. H. Hooper, W.T. McVeigh and Harry S. Gleick.

The official resolution of this committee read:

“Convinced that youth is no longer considered a handicap for participation in the solution of
the great municipal, state and national topics of the day, reposing implicit faith in their adherence to duty and impressed with the need of cooperation among the young men’s association of the United States to adequately perform the duty of participation., it is resolved that the Junior Chamber of Commerce of St. Louis , Missouri, realizing the need for a nationalization of the Junior Chamber of Commerce movement, and realizing further the strategic circumstances attending to its on location, size of membership and efficiency of organization locally, invite to St. Louis on a future date to be determined, representatives of all Junior Chambers interested, for the purpose of a preliminary caucus of arrangements for a national convention of Junior Chambers of Commerce delegates to be held in St. louis in June of 1920.”

Caucus invitations were extended to all existing young men’s groups and January 21 and 22, 1920 were set as the dates for this monumental St. Louis meeting which officially gave birth to the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce.

A boost for things came in December of 1919, as the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, of which Clarence Howard was now a national director, indicated its approval of the caucus.

When the proceedings opened on January 21, 1920, the official birthday of the national Jaycee movement, 30 cities were represented. Twelve of these cities had young men’s clubs, nine were represented by Chamber of Commerce staffs and the others sent delegates form assorted groups.

A 1920 photo shows delegates to the caucus for the formation of a national Junior Chamber of Commerce. Henry Giessenbier is third from the right in the front row.

St Louis delegates

Paul H. Young, newly elected head of the St. Louis Junior Chamber of Commerce was
taken ill at the time of the sessions and was replaced as the presiding officer of the
caucus by Vice President Robert C. LaMar. A letter by young was read at the keynote speech, however, and this pointed out:

“You are here, gentlemen, in the interest of a cause which, to my mind, is second to none. What movement could have for its purpose a more wholesome object than to vitalize the energy of youth for an active and intelligent participation in the affairs of
a city, state and nation?”

“The time has come when young men of the nation must assume the responsibilities of a more representative participation in the affairs of our great country.”

“To nationalize the Junior Chamber of Commerce idea that the nation may feel
the fullness of the energy of her young men applied through clearly defined constructive channels toward a common goal, a greater America, is our purpose.”

The entire purpose of the caucus was bet stated by Giessenbier in his opening remarks:

“Our meeting today has for its purpose, the discussion and formulation of such plans to mold together the Young Men’s Organizations of this country. That your organizations have taken official action upon our invitation is sufficient evidence of their acceptance and endorsement of such a national body. The proposed organization shall be national in its scope. It shall have for its prime purposes:

  • to increase and promote cooperation among young men’s business and civic organizations of the country;
  • to increase their efficiency and to create and foster the growth of such organizations;
  • to provide avenues of intelligent participation of young men in the study of city, state and national problems;
  • to advance their character and business efficiency of its members along clearly defined constructive channels;
  • it shall further propose to secure cooperative action in advancing the common purposes of its members;
  • to secure uniformity of opinion and concentration of action upon questions affecting the civic and commercial interest of the country;
  • this proposed organization shall at all times be non-religious and non-political;
  • it shall be an organization to render service.

I believe the great task that is assigned to us is to put into execution those purposes, and my fellow delegates, may I say that in your hands lies the destiny of a great organization. Let us build it to national recognition. Let us organize in it the interest of young men for a greater America. Let us not fail in this task.”

The caucus itself was concerned primarily with the adoption of a provisional constitution, the election of officers and the constitutional document was drafted by members of the St. Louis Junior Chamber and approved by a committee headed by Arthur Grigg of the Young Men’s Progressive League pf Galveston, Texas.

Since most delegates realized that the constitution was only a provisional one designed to serve until the June convention, there was a minimum of heated discussion on the convention floor itself.

Important stipulations in the constitution adopted at the caucus included wide latitude for member groups in regard to age of members and the name of their organizations.

At this time, the names used by the cities represented varied widely ranging from Port Arthur, Texas Board of trade to the Young Men’s Business Club of New Orleans to the Under Forty Division of the Detroit Board of Commerce to the Strollers Club and DeHirsch Club of Dayton, Ohio!

The age requirements in these clubs were far from uniform. Some accepted teenagers and others would accept men up in their 40’s.

Both these points, name and age, were to be controversial subjects for many years but the caucus successfully sidelined any real trouble. As Giessenbier explained:

“The trend of opinion was that the National Association should not have the power to dictate what the age limit should be. That should remain for the discretion of the local organizations. It shall remain with them to determine who is a young man and who is not. The name was also left entirely to their discretion.”

The purpose and group membership requirements of the the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce, as adopted in the provisional constitution, were identical to those pinpointed by Giessenbier’s stirring speech. This message had been accepted despite the fact that the representative groups were not at all similar in their operation.

Among the key figures at the caucus in addition to Giessenbier and the other St. Louis stalwarts were George Wilson of Dallas and Ray T. Wilber of Springfield, Massachusetts. They were destined to follow as second and third presidents of the USJCC.

A telegram received from Franklin K. Lane, then Secretary of the Interior, who had been made acquainted with the whole plan, read as follows:
“Mr. Clarence Howard has told me of the splendid work you are doing, particularly in Americanization; that you are trying now to spread this good work throughout the country and have called a caucus to meet in St. Louis this week. I take this opportunity to congratulate you on what you have done and extend to you all good wishes for your further and more wide-spread success.”

The January 22, 1920 edition of PUSH highlights the national Junior Chamber caucus held in St. Louis.
Click on the image to view a larger “readable” version.


The election of officers at the caucus saw:

President Henry Giessenbier, Jr. win by acclamation.

First Vice President – Burton Bunch of El Paso Texas.

Second Vice President – George Wilson.

Third Vice President – Ray T. Wilber.

Secretary – W.R. Simmons of Terre Haute, Indiana.

Treasurer – Thurman W. Payne.

The first Board of Directors was composed of:

Leon Johnson – Anderson , Indiana

Alfred S. Andrews – Canton, Ohio

H.T. Hill – Chicago, Illinios

W.A. Mara – Detroit, Michigan

John N. Floyd – Arkansas City, Kansas

H.L. Hammett – New Orleans, Louisiana

Arthur Grigg – Galveston, Texas

Sam M. Degen – Pittsburg, Kansas

D.B. Shrouds – Terre Haute, Indiana

E.W. Mentel – Kansas City, Missouri

Lawrence Weber – Elyria, Ohio

N.A. Thompson – Tulsa, Oklahoma

These men were to serve until June and the First National Convention of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce.

The caucus was concluded with a banquet at the main ballroom of the Hotel Statler with approximately 750 attending this dinner climaxing with a monumental meeting which witnessed the birth of the National Junior Chamber movement.


Name of Group City Representatives
Junior Chamber of Commerce Anderson, IN Leon Johnson
Tom Nichol
Junior Chamber of Commerce Arkansas City, KS John N. Floyd
Leo W. Johnson
Belleville Commercial Club Belleville, IL George E. Wuller
Arthur Rauschkilb
Julius F. Seib
Junior Chamber of Commerce Canton, OH Alfred S. Andrews
W.W. Cogan
Chicago Association of Commerce Chicago, IL H.T. Hill
Chamber of Commerce Cincinnati, OH
The Strollers Club & DeHirsch Club Dayton, OH L.M. Levin
Jacob D. Meyers
Junior Chamber of Commerce Des Moines, IA Russell Carroll
Detroit Board of Commerce Under Forty Division Detroit, MI W.A. Mara
The Junior Department Chamber of Commerce El Paso, TX Burton Bunch
Young Men’s Business Club Elyria, OH Lawrence Webber
Harold H. Perry
Harold E. Agate
Young Men’s Progressive League Galveston, TX J.A. Boedeker
Arthur Grigg
Young Men’s Bureau, Little Rock Chamber of Commerce Little Rock, AR J.F. Bindley
Little Rock Chamber of Commerce Little Rock, AR S.C Couch
Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce Minneapolis, MN W.A Cady
Young Men’s Business Club New Orleans, LA W.L. Hammett
Alvin Johnson
Chamber of Commerce Pine Bluff, AR J.F. McIntyre
R.R. McIntyre
Chamber of Commerce Pittsburg, KS Roy Thompson
Port Arthur Board of Trade Port Arthur, TX Abe Goldberg
George T. Craig
Seattle Chamber of Commerce Seattle, WA O.J.C. Dutton
Junior Chamber of Commerce Springfield, MA R.T. Wilber
Junior Chamber of Commerce St. Louis, MO Henry Giessenbier, Jr.
Thurman W. Payne
Junior Executive Club Terre Haute, IN D.B. Shourds
W.R. Simmons
Marcel Urban
Commercial Club/Secotym Club Tulsa, OK N.A. Thompson
Junior Chamber of Commerce Dallas, TX George O. Wilson
Representatives were also on hand from the following cities but the names of the men representing these cities are not known:
Caruthersville, MO Cleveland, OH Moline, IL
New Haven, CT New York City Board of Trade Philadelphia, PA

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