Origin of the Chamber concept
The concept of various businesses joining together in a mutual effort to increase commerce had its beginnings in Europe hundreds of years ago. Primarily as a defensive tactic, traders banded together for protection against common enemies and to establish policies to govern trade. This was eventually extended as a means to exert influence on governments and legislation.
The first organization of businesses was evidently in Marseilles, France, where the first use of the term, “Chamber of Commerce” has been documented. This fledgling group was established by the city council in 1599 - over four centuries ago. The idea caught on and spread to Germany and eventually throughout Europe.
The concept comes to America
The modern Chamber of Commerce is more of an American development. The New York State Chamber is the oldest Chamber of Commerce in America, formed in 1768 and chartered by King George III in 1770. That makes it older than the Declaration of Independence, so Chambers of Commerce are not a new development.
The first local chamber was founded in Charleston, South Carolina in 1773. This was followed by New Haven, Connecticut and then to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1800. The trend spread rapidly across the country soon after. By 1870 there were 40 local Chambers of Commerce in the United States. Today there are over 5,000 Chambers of Commerce.
The purpose of the Chamber of Commerce has evolved from simply the protection and promotion of commerce to many of the things we have presented on this website. The primary function of protecting commerce remains the same, but it is interesting to follow the changes and adaptations of the Chamber functions through the years as chambers have adjusted to the changing needs of society. Today the role of Chambers of Commerce has expanded to address socioeconomic concerns and social needs, going far beyond its original intent several centuries ago.
The prosperity of individual businesses depends on the development of the community. The success of individual businesses serves to increase the prosperity of the community and the resulting prosperity bounces back to the benefit of the local business owner. It’s a win-win deal, as we have pointed out in other sections on this site.
President William Howard Taft sent a letter to Congress in 1911 addressing the need for a “central organization “in order to “keep purely American interests in a closer touch with different phases of commercial affairs.” A few months later the U. S. Chamber was born.
The U. S. Chamber of Commerce began in 1912 and today claims a direct membership of 300,000 businesses and 3 million in state and local chambers. The U. S. Chamber of Commerce is not the same as local and state chambers, which focus on local and state issues. The U.S. Chamber is concerned with national issues and dealing with the federal government.
The chamber concept functions on a global scale as well. The International Chamber of Commerce is the largest business organization in the world. Founded in 1919, it now has hundreds of thousands of companies under its umbrella in over 130 countries. With headquarters in Paris, it is a watchdog of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization.
The primary purpose of the ICC is to promote trade and investment, an open market for goods and services and encourage the free flow of capital.
Chambers require free enterprise and private initiative
America as a nation stands for freedom and the Chamber concept can only be found where private initiative and free enterprise exist. Chambers of Commerce serve a function internationally, nationally and locally, with a proven record of success for the benefit of local business and commerce, as well as on a much larger scale.
Historically and to this day the Chamber of Commerce remains the most trusted source of information on local businesses and services and the most dependable ally in commerce. There is no better partner for success than your local Chamber of Commerce.
History of the Chamber of Commerce