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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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DUBUQUE JAYCEES. The Jaycees (or Junior Chamber) is a worldwide community of young active citizens between the ages of 18 and 40 who share the belief that, in order to create positive change, they must take collective action to improve the community, the world, and themselves. Engaging in activities covering everything from local food drives to highly impactful international projects, members demonstrate social responsibility and improve themselves through participation, leadership and action. (1)

The goal of the Jaycees is to provide leadership training through community service. What sets the Junior Chamber apart from other organizations is a focus on individual development. While most volunteer groups offer community service and social activities, the Jaycees offers its members the opportunity to improve themselves. By chairing a local project, a young person can practice organization, delegation, time and resource management, public relations and motivational skills. Training programs are usually offered by the Jaycees, usually at no cost to the member, that also teach these skills. (2)

The whole Jaycees organization starts with a local chapter serving one or more communities. Chapter members are then automatically members of a state organization, as well as the national organization (U.S. Junior Chamber) and the International organization (Junior Chamber International or JCI). (3)

Henry “Hy” Giessenbier, Jr. (1892-1935) wanted to develop the business skills and the reputation of young men. On October 13, 1915, at the Mission Inn in St. Louis, Missouri, he gathered thirty-two young men 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. (4)

In 1916, the YMPCA changed its name to Junior Citizens at the request of Clarence H. “Daddy” Howard, a St. Louis industrialist and early benefactor of the Junior Chamber organization. The Junior Citizens affiliated with the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce in 1918. Following the first World War, a plan to form a national coalition of young men’s groups was widely circulated. The “St. Louis Plan” resulted in a gathering of twenty-nine organizations from around the country in January of 1920. This caucus on January 21-22, 1920 is the official date of birth for The United States Junior Chamber of Commerce. (5)

In the 1920s, the Junior Chamber of Commerce began the first national program, “Get Out The Vote”, designed to encourage citizens to participate in their government. Today governmental involvement remains a national concern.

In Dubuque a group was in operation in 1920 when it suggested the formation of a COMMUNITY CHEST to fund civic activities. (6) In 1921 it pledged its support to the Farm Bureau in making its annual picnic a success. (7) In 1924 the Dubuque Junior Chamber called for a new recreational park. (8) In 1925 the organization sponsored a banquet in commemoration of the football game played between the teams from the University of Iowa and Dubuque Senior High School. Dubuque Senior won by a score of 17-7. (9)

One of the Junior Chamber’s significant accomplishments was its role in the development of aviation in America. Many local organizations helped construct and develop airport facilities. The efforts of Junior Chamber chapters also resulted in the establishment of regular air mail service.

In the 1930s, the organization grew to nearly 700 chapters. A national publication, ACTION, began. Adoption of a new constitution, design of the official seal of the Junior Chamber and the establishment of the Distinguished Service Awards (DSA) program also took place. The U.S. Junior Chamber established the Ten Outstanding Young Men recognition program, now known as Ten Outstanding Young Americans. They worked hard to reduce urban traffic accidents in the ’30s through the “Safety With Light” program.

More significant was the role Junior Chamber groups had in conserving America’s natural resources. Cooperation between groups in Canada and the U.S. resulted in the Quetico Provincial Park in Canada and the Superior National Forest in northern Minnesota. Junior Chamber groups also worked with Garden Clubs, the Farm Bureau, Isaac Walton League and other groups to form the National Wildlife Federation. The Federation represents all conservation groups. Its purpose is to ensure adequate legislation for conserving our national resources at the state and national level.

The Dubuque Junior Chamber of Commerce was re-organized on June 29, 1938. Following a dinner at the Chamber of Commerce Building, forty-two young business and professional men voted to organize with thirty-three joining immediately. To allow others to become charter members, the charter roll was kept open for thirty days. It was designed to be part of the Chamber of Commerce but would have its own board of directors and program. (10)

Most of its members served in the military in the 1940s and the Junior Chamber of Commerce went on record in favor of compulsory military training at the organization’s 1940 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. While more than 85 percent of the membership was fighting in WORLD WAR II, local groups were conducting scrap drives, selling war bonds and assisting USO chapters to help in the war effort.

In June, 1941 the Dubuque organization sponsored a free baseball school at the Municipal Athletic Field. Based upon initial entries, it was expected that 200 boys would be involved in the seven day program. (11)

The organization was established in other countries in 1944 during a meeting in Mexico City, Mexico. Today, more than 100 countries are part of the organization known as Junior Chamber International (JCI).

A Junior Chamber project that bridged the 1940s and 1950s was a government reorganization. President Truman had asked former President Hoover to review the operation of government Hoover’s recommendations met with opposition from government officials, veterans and other groups. The Junior Chamber backed the recommendations because it felt the changes would benefit all Americans. The organization’s campaign on behalf of the Hoover Report enabled more than 80 percent of the recommendations to be enacted.

The Junior Chamber worked to obtain statehood for the territory of Alaska during the 1950s. Statehood for Hawaii was achieved shortly afterwards. Junior Chamber members were also concerned about the youth of America and so began the “Junior Citizens Crusade.”

The Crusade was designed to curb and prevent delinquency by offering constructive activities for youths, such as the Safe Driving Rodeo and other programs. The Junior Chamber worked to rehabilitate youth who strayed by establishing a uniform juvenile court system and by backing the “Big Brother” program.

In the 1960s, the Junior Chamber focused the country's attention on mental health and mental retardation. Their most significant activity of the 1960s was the organization’s efforts to create a Uniform Vehicle Code. Chapters surveyed local problems and worked to promote enactment of uniform laws by all states and to adopt similar municipal codes.

In the 1970s, the organization helped create the National Center for Voluntary Action, but also played a vital role in other areas of public concern. An alcohol abuse program, “Operation Threshold,” contributed to an understanding of the problems associated with alcohol consumption. “Operation Red Ball” saw the Junior Chamber distribute more than five million fire protection stickers in 1972 alone as part of a program to aid fire departments in locating children and invalids during household fires.

During the 1980s, the organization faced many turning points. The membership voted in 1984 to expand their membership requirements by admitting women, ages 18-35 as full voting members. In 1987, another vote revised The U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce age limits to 21 through 39, expanding Junior Chamber opportunities to even more people. In the 1980s, the Junior Chamber continued to support America’s Olympic Athletes; raise funds to fight muscle destroying diseases; be concerned with the conduct of government in this country; further improve communities by developing parks and playgrounds that are safe to use, becoming involved with efforts to house the homeless and feed the hungry, while developing their own personal skills as leaders; and extend the hand of the Junior Chamber to other communities to help more young people than ever before create a lasting effect.

In the 1990s the Junior Chamber was involved in Project Home Front helping families touched by Desert Storm and the war in the Gulf. The Junior Chamber also took advantage of the development of the movement in the Eastern Bloc countries, with the promotion of the Junior Chamber to a united Germany and in the Soviet Union.

In 1990, the name of the organization was officially changed back to “The U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce”. In 1992, the national "Wake Up America" program urged communities to get involved in politics by coordinating voter registration campaigns, hosting debates, and embracing pertinent community issues. Junior Chamber members responded to devastating hurricanes in the southeast with national support. In 1993, GreenWorks! environmental education and community action programs were adopted by the USJCC. Jaycees Against Youth Smoking (JAYS) was adopted as a national program. In 1994, the Junior Chamber Mission Inn Foundation program was launched. This program is ongoing and will build a nationwide network of care facilities for children and adolescents affected by HIV/AIDS. In 1995, The Jaycee Alliance was formed as a non-partisan, educational grassroots governmental advocacy organization to give Young American Adults a voice in government. The organization recognized the upcoming boom on the internet, and with the intent of “Connecting Jaycees Across America”, launched its own website in 1995. The address was changed to www.usjaycees.org in 1996. Social Security Reform Town Hall Meetings were also started around the nation.

The local projects of the Jaycees include the 1970 restoration of WASHINGTON PARK. During the $60,000 project, new trees, flowers, and shrubs were planted. New lights designed to look like antique gas lamps were placed in the park. A new steel 3/4 size replica of the original gazebo built by BRADLEY IRON WORKS, INC. was placed on the site. This restoration was made possible by the Dubuque Jaycees. The Dubuque Jaycees also put together a time capsule using a donated grave vault. Boxes were handed out to the public who were asked to place items in the boxes and return to the Park when they would be placed in the time capsule. Once the boxes filled the vault it was sealed and buried right next to the southern side of the gazebo under the rock with the plaque that explains it is not to be opened for 100 years. The opening is set for the year 2076. The group has annually decorated the park with a holiday theme. (12)

Jaycee projects have also included a community garden. The aim was to provide opportunities that are not feasible through private business or city ventures and to help neighborhoods grow in self-sufficient and sustainable ways. The Dubuque Jaycees have provided beverage service at Dubuque Main Street’s free Friday night concert series "Dubuque…and All That Jazz!" This project helped to fund many Jaycees community projects. The Jaycees also provided beverages at the America's River Festival and the Chili Cook-Off. The Dubuque Jaycees presented the 29th Annual Fireworks and Air Show Spectacular on July 3rd, 2014. On August 23, 2014, more than 130 athletes converged on the Port of Dubuque for the 1st Annual Hooley Hustle 5K Run/Walk. An estimated $3,000 was raised and donated back to local organizations. (13) The group has for many years converted the former UNION PARK into its "Haunted Forest" for Halloween. (14) This project began in 1973 with a "six-room contraption on 17th and Elm" and moved to different sites annually. (15)

In 2018 the Dubuque Jaycee’s Chapter decided to purchase a new home Located on the corner of Iowa St and 9th, the organization based all of our operations out of this facility.



1. "Who Are the Jaycees?" Jaycees Dubuque Junior Chamber, Online: http://www.dubuquejaycees.org/learn/who-are-the-jaycees/

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. "City to Join in Drive for Municipal Fund," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, June 6, 1920, p. 18

6. "Junior Chamber to Aid Farm Picnic," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, June 12, 1921, p. 22

7. "City to Join in Drive for Municipal Fund," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, June 6, 1920, p. 18

8. "Junior Chamber Favors New Park," Telegraph-Herald, October 13, 1924, p. 8

9. "Senior Gridders Tendered Banquet," Telegraph-Herald, December 16, 1925, p. 2

10. "Junior C. of C. Organized Here," Telegraph Herald, June 30, 1938, p. 1

11. "Entries in Baseball School Soar" Telegraph Herald, June 25, 1941, p. 8

12. "Washington Park," Wikipedia. Online: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Park_%28Dubuque,_Iowa%29

13. Jaycees: Dubuque Junior Chamber

14. "Dubuque Jaycees' Haunted Forest Set to Begin," Telegraph Herald, October 17, 2002

15. "Old Haunts," Telegraph Herald, Online: http://insurancenewsnet.com/oarticle/2011/10/30/old-haunts-%5Btelegraph-herald-dubuque-ia-%5D-a-293478.html#.VHVhitYkMU0