The roots of STARFLEET can be traced back to the desire of one John Bradbury of Lufkin, TX to join a Star Trek fan club. Bradbury had contacted the Star Trek Welcommittee and found out that there were no fan clubs near him. So he and ten friends decided to start their own, and on October 5, 1973, Commander John Bradbury and Lieutenant Commander Jay Wallace launched the USS Enterprise in Lufkin, TX.
Like many current STARFLEET chapters, the crew of the Enterprise held parties and fundraisers and as word spread, the club grew. In less than five months they went from 11 members to 51, mostly in Lufkin, TX and surrounding communities. They published a simple newsletter every quarter called the Log of the USS Enterprise to keep members informed of Star Trek news, new members, and club events and status.
Crewmembers held a variety of positions aboard "ship" and new positions were created as needed and desired. Issue #3 of the Log of the USS Enterprise was published on April 4th, 1974. It noted that missing a meeting without a "good excuse" was grounds for disciplinary action and Commander Bradbury implored people to attend meetings, especially the May ones. Though Log #3 makes no mention of this, it is now obvious that Commander Bradbury was preparing to take the USS Enterprise "national" and he wanted folks there to witness the birth.
The club we now know as STARFLEET was born on May 6, 1974. Commander John Bradbury stepped down as Commanding Officer of the USS Enterprise and was named the new Chief of Staff of Starfleet Command with the rank of Commodore. Lieutenant Commander Jay Wallace moved up from the Executive Officers position to take command of the Enterprise and was promoted to Captain.
On May 6, 1975, STARFLEET was officially proclaimed by Commodore Bradbury. On May 23, 1974, the first issue of the organization's newsletter (then called Starfleet Communications) announced that "The USS Enterprise has been reorganized, effective Stardate 2538.0. (5/6/75) It will henceforth be known as STARFLEET, due to directives determined during reorganization."
Commodore Bradbury also announced that members of the Enterprise would hold the rank of Lieutenant or above if an Officer, and Ensign if just a crewman. Crewman could choose their own position, while Officers would be assigned theirs. Essentially, Officers were the first Department Heads and were expected to attend meetings and be hard workers.
For those members of the Enterprise who were out-of-town (and therefore ineligible to be Officers), Commodore Bradbury announced that they could form their own club provided they recruited a total of ten members for that club. The clubs would be defined along Texas county boundaries (our first "Regions") and the list of approved chapter names came from Franz Josephs Star Fleet Technical Manual.
An annual membership in the new STARFLEET was $3.00, which was $1.00 more than it had been to be a member of the Enterprise. You received six issues of Starfleet Communications (up from what would have been four with the Enterprise), a rank and position, and a membership packet. Essentially, what you still get today. When formed, STARFLEET had thirty-three members, nineteen of whom were officers, twelve crewmen, and two out-of-town members (who were now know as Starfleet Representatives).
It seems that the newsletter has been the bane of STARFLEET since Day One. When Issue #2 of Starfleet Communications was published two months later, Commodore Bradbury noted that the newsletter had to be downsized due to excessive printing costs. STARFLEET also started their first serious recruiting drive, sending a "census" form to all of the fan clubs listed with the Star Trek Welcommittee. STARFLEET Academy was defined in the fall of 1975, with people paying $3 to receive a series of course lectures in the mail. After studying the lecture at their leisure, they returned it to the Academy and the member was sent a test (no "open book" tests here!) to take along with the next lecture. Once a member completed a test, they received a commission (if a STARFLEET member as, unlike today, membership in STARFLEET was not required to attend the Academy) and a certificate of completion.
The Enterprise/STARFLEET celebrated their first anniversary on October 5, 1975. Issue #4 of Starfleet Communications welcomed two new chapters to STARFLEET; the USS Constitution under the command of Captain Judy Spencer, in Coppell, TX and the USS Constellation, based in Memphis, TN, under the command of Captain Mike Pettijohn. They would soon be joined by the USS Intrepid in West Palm Beach, FL and the USS Lexington in Malakoff, TX. With five chapters, STARFLEET Command was renamed STARFLEET Central and regions started to define states as well as counties. With the rise in chapters and members, so did correspondence to HQ. Starbases were created in areas with thirty or more members to help receive and answer these letters. By mid-1976, Starbases started to reflect their current duties acting as the central administrative unit of a Region. Starbase 1, under the command of Commodore Mark Bilbo, was formed to administer the central United States and Canada. Starbase 2 administered the Western United States and Starbase 13 administered the Eastern United States.
STARFLEET that celebrated their second anniversary in 1976 was different from the one that celebrated its first. Admiral Bradbury noted that there were four hundred and two members across thirty-two states and provinces. These members comprised thirteen starships, including the USS Eagle, which remains the longest-serving commissioned chapter in STARFLEET.
Responding to the excess of senior officers in the Fleet, Admiral Bradbury announced new rules for promotions, shifting from the former time-in-grade based promotion system to one based on merit. He also capped ranks for various units, including Lieutenant Commander for planets (what shakedown ships are today) and Commander for starships (other than the CO). An official Department Head organizational chart was also published for chapters to follow.
Issue #10 of Starfleet Communications heralded both a change to a larger, more newszine format and a reduction in the publishing schedule from six issues to four per annum. With the Heavy Cruisers listed in the Star Fleet Technical Manual rapidly being taken by new chapters, a new listing of available names was posted. Also, "planets" were replaced with "outposts" to define proto-chapters (we now know them as "shakedown chapters").