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National Exhange Club History

It all started in 1896, when a group of men, cross section of Detroit’s business and professional community, Charles Berkeyfirst met for no more noble purpose than to eat lunch. Initially, the meetings were occasional and informal. The men were friends who simply enjoyed the pleasure of each other’s company. They swapped stories, compared views and advised each other on the conduct of business. The idea of recruiting representatives from the varied businesses and professions gradually developed until the group. Known as the Boosters’ Club, took on many attributes of a luncheon club.

One of the energetic members of the Boosters’ Club was Charles A. Berkey, a Detroit wholesale jeweler, who carried the spirit and principles of this group into the formal organization of the first Exchange Club. On March 27, 1911, Mr. Berkey, honored as the founder of Exchange, assembled the men who formed the original Exchange Club. The first meeting of the new organization was held at a noon luncheon in a small room of the Penobscot Inn in downtown Detroit.

According to the earliest records available, and the recollection of Mr. Berkey, the organization meeting was attended by 12 men: Mr. Berkey, E.O. Geissler, H.A. Stormfeltz, Walter S. Coneley, Dr. E.B. Smith, J.E. Blackmore, E.A. Loveley, Wells D. Butterfield, Waldo F. Moore, Dr. Robert Beattie, I.L. Wood and E.A. Waterfall.

At this meeting, following the suggestion of Mr. Berkey, the name “Exchange” was selected because it best exemplified the intent of the group, which believed that progress comes from an interchange of ideas, opinions and experiences. Officers were elected, and plans for the constitution and bylaws were drafted.

A course of activity was also charted. The club’s first officers were: E.O. Geissler, President, E.A. Loveley, Vice President, Wells D. Butterfield, Treasurer, and Waldo F. Moore, Secretary.

The meeting adjourned for one week, with the understanding that each member would bring another, in what amounted to Exchange’s first recruitment effort. Also, the treasurer was to be prepared to receive the first membership dues.

men“At that first meet, it was suggested that, as I had been instrumental in bringing the men together, I should be their first president,” remembered Berkey. “Believing that I could do the club more good by remaining out of office at the time, I suggested the names of the men who composed the first set of officers.”

“Thus, without any thought of this organization ever becoming of great national significance, the first Exchange Club was launched. I presume that we went about the selection of members much the same as it now is being done in the forming of a new club. While we had in mind the representation of businesses and professions, our first thought was to select representative men not only in their respective lines, but in citizenship as well. The idea of most importance to us was that we would take only members in whom we could place implicit confidence … who lived up to the old-fashioned idea of truth and integrity, in their relationships with one another,” Mr. Berkey said of the formation period.

Within a month of its first meeting, the new Exchange Club had increased to 36 members, outgrown its meeting place and published the first Exchange Club membership directory.

(History courtesy of the National Exchange Club.)