The First Credit Union Day

Jan. 17 was selected because it was Ben Franklin’s birthday.

October 21, 2010

On Jan. 17, 1927, the Credit Union League of Massachusetts celebrated the first official holiday for credit union members and workers. It selected Jan. 17 because it was the birthday of America's “Apostle of Thrift,” Benjamin Franklin, who early credit union founders believed symbolized “the life and teaching embodied in the spirit and purpose of credit unions.”

Ironically, rapid growth within the North American credit union movement meant people were either too busy to celebrate or too new to the movement to recognize the significance of the celebration. After a brief trial period, Credit Union Day quietly disappeared.

A second chance

In 1948, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) initiated a new national Credit Union Day celebration. CUNA and CUNA Mutual Insurance Society set aside the third Thursday of October as the national day of observance.

By then, many more of America's credit union leaders believed there was a need for an occasion that would bring people together to reflect upon credit union history and achievements and to promote the credit union idea across the country.

Credit unions, chapters, and leagues were encouraged to celebrate the new holiday in some way. It was to be a time for raising funds for movement causes and to pay homage to the men and women who had dedicated their lives to credit union development.

Sending a message around the world

During the 1950s, CUNA’s World Extension Department provided technical assistance and philosophical guidance for credit union development worldwide. So many countries had established credit union movements by 1964 that CUNA formally expanded its mission and launched CUNA International.

New movements joined the credit union family each year, and more people were interested in celebrating their uniqueness and unity with a special holiday that could be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of religion, political beliefs, cultural differences, or language.

Many credit unions and leagues began to distribute publications, banners, slogans, and kits, and Credit Union Day became an international celebration.

By 1971, substantial worldwide credit union progress led to the creation of World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) to assist others in establishing and maintaining viable credit union movements in countries across the globe.

In Canada, Australia, Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, New Zealand, Great Britain, and the South Pacific, national and regional credit union federations and confederations were established to support and endorse credit union development.

WOCCU created the first International Credit Union Day materials more than 30 years ago, and it continues to provide such resources to credit unions and associations throughout the world today.

As your credit union joins in this unique and exciting celebration, remember that you are joined by more than 186 million members in 97 countries who also recognize and celebrate the credit union difference.

Source: World Council of Credit Unions