Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Berkey, Charles A.

Charles A. Berkey was the founder of the first Exchange Club in Detroit, which became a national organization. Born in Pennsylvania on March 28th, 1870, Berkey was a jeweler who learned his trade working in Chicago, Massachusetts, and Detroit. In 1900 he started his own business in Detroit, the Berkey Cash Jewelry Company, which became the Charles A. Berkey Company in 1906.

In 1896 Berkey began regularly meeting with other local businessmen for lunch. After fifteen years of meeting, the men decided that they could better serve the Detroit community. In 1911 they created the Exchange Club. The organization focused on each member using his or her own means or talents to improve the quality of life in their local communities. The word ‘exchange’ was chosen at Berkey’s suggestion, as he had initially wanted to meet with others to exchange ideas about how to better serve their community.

Three other cities, Grand Rapids, Michigan; Toledo, Ohio; and Cleveland, Ohio, also saw the benefits of Exchange Clubs and shaped their own. In 1917 members of these four clubs came together and founded the National Exchange Club as a nonprofit organization, with Berkey serving as their first president.

Charles A. Berkey was an active member of the Exchange Club until his death in 1942 at the age of 72. Hundreds of exchange clubs have since been chartered in the United States with tens of thousands of members. The ideals Berkey brought to those early lunch meetings continue to help and grow communities around the country through the modern-day National Exchange Club.