History and legend often intermingle as time passes. Memories fade, and little source material is found to verify specific dates, times and accounts. That being said, the following is a fairly reliable version of the genesis of the Executives Association movement.
The seed was sown when three or four men met in San Francisco at noontime on a day in 1916, each on a totally different mission. When the question arose as to why it was not possible for them, and perhaps a few others, to band together for the sole purpose of assisting one another in propagating their business ventures…well, that was the fundamental principle which brought the concept to eventual fruition. It was an inventive notion: organizing 100 men, more or less, to meet regularly and exchange ideas that would benefit its members in their respective businesses.
L.E. Cummings, a printer and bookbinder in San Francisco, is credited with the idea of founding this organization of cooperative non-competitors. It is also possible he had read and was influenced by Benjamin Franklin’s Junto Club, an organization Franklin founded in the 18th century wherein influential people met regularly to discuss scientific ideas and gain business advantages — “to gain friends and influence.”
Although Cummings never put to pen or print the information as to what inspired him and how the idea arrived, he is undoubtedly the prime motivating factor and Founder-Member of the first executives’ association, which was known in the early years (1916—1925?) as the San Francisco Hundred Percent Club.
Between 1916 and 1922, clubs were founded in Vancouver, Long Beach, Victoria, Oakland, San Jose, Portland, Tacoma, San Diego, Spokane, Salt Lake City and Pasadena, and continued to grow. For 100 years, EASF has been an active association of business people, surviving two world wars, business set-backs and depressions.
From the original San Francisco chapter, the Executives Association movement has branched to some 100 throughout the United States and Canada, plus chapters in London, Rhodesia, South Africa and Australia. Together, these chapters represent over 5,000 members. These associations are autonomous, but allied in goals and spirit.
EASF, in conjunction with other Executives Associations, founded the International Executives Association (IEA) to facilitate the exchange of business information with other senior-level executives, establish contacts in other cities and expansion into new markets, encourage local and foreign trade expansion and facilitate cooperative business methods. Besides hosting an annual conference, All IEA members and their individual members are listed on their website.