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New York Chamber of Commerce and Industry records, 1768-1984, bulk 1860-1973

Summary Information

Abstract

These records document the history of the New York Chamber of Commerce and Industry, beginning with its establishment in 1768. Tracking the wax and wane of the organization's influence over the next two centuries, the collection provides a first hand account of the Chamber's many contributions to New York City and State business and development. These records exist in a wide variety of formats, such as bulletins, correspondence, minute books, and printed materials.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1440
Bib ID 6621724 View CLIO record
Creator(s) New York Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Title New York Chamber of Commerce and Industry records, 1768-1984, bulk 1860-1973
Physical Description 185 linear feet (337 document boxes, 81 oversize bound volumes, 50 bound publications, 17 flat boxes)
Language(s) Material is in English.
Access

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

Arrangement

Arrangement

This collection is arranged in ten series. Series I: Administration, 1866-1980 Series II: Annual Reports, 1858-1975 Series III: Bulletins, 1909-1970 Series IV: Commerce and Industry Association, 1873-1978 Subseries IV.1: Administration, 1935-1973 Subseries IV.2: Bulletins, 1901-1976 Subseries IV.3: Committees, 1906-1978 Subseries IV.4: Correspondence, 1923-1974 Subseries IV.5: Meeting Minutes, 1897-1973 Subseries IV.6: Printed Materials, 1873-1973 Series V: Committee on Arbitration, 1820s-1973 Subseries V.1: Arbitration Cases, 1820s-1973 Subseries V.2: Case Correspondence, 1914-1930 Subseries V.3: Chairman's Files, 1865-1967 Series VI: Committees, 1822-1973 Subseries VI.1: Administrative Committees, 1864-1973 Subseries VI.2: General Committees, 1822-1973 Series VII: Correspondence, 1804-1984 Subseries VII.1: Administration Correspondence, 1859-1984 Subseries VII.2: Gwynne, Charles, 1916-1941 Subseries VII.3: Subject Files, 1804-1979 Series VIII: Member Meeting Minutes, 1768-1973 Series IX: Printed Materials, 1774-1977 Series X: Photographs, 1860-1980.

Description

Summary

The archival records of the New York Chamber of Commerce and Industry provide a thorough history of the organization, rendering a vivid portrait of the Chamber by means of committee records, minute books, printed materials, photographs, reports, and a wealth of correspondence. Materials originate mostly from the 19th and 20th centuries, though there are some notable items from the 18th century such as the first volume of Chamber of Commerce meeting minutes that dates back to 1768. Subject matter in the collection primarily focuses on New York City and State commercial and urban development, though it often extends to national and global business concerns. This collection is particularly notable because of the presence of the records of the Commerce and Industry Association, formerly the Merchants' Association, a commercial institution whose focus and constituency were comparable to that of the Chamber. The Chamber of Commerce merged with the Commerce and Industry Association in 1973 and thereby acquired the Association's historical records. Series IV is devoted solely to the records of the Commerce and Industry Association while the remaining nine series are divided according to format or purpose.

  • Series I: Administration

    The first series of the collection offers materials that reflect the administrative tasks of the organization. Because the subject matter is broad in scope, the series has been divided into small sections with each section heading arranged alphabetically. Records related to financial matters, the construction of the Chamber of Commerce building in lower Manhattan, and public relations materials such as press releases and printed distribution materials can be found in this series. Also present are the records of the Board of Trustees of the Real Estate, a designated group of Chamber members who dealt primarily with the property holdings of the Chamber; various affiliate organizations who shared membership with the Chamber and often maintained offices in the Chamber of Commerce building; and of particular significance, documents that detail the Chamber's eventual merger with the Commerce and Industry Association in 1973. Items related to the events hosted by the Chamber are especially rich—records of the Chamber's annual banquets, New York public school essay contests, and various luncheons and receptions honoring prestigious figures can be found here. This series also offers a few items of realia, notably several medals created especially for the Chamber of Commerce to commemorate specific accomplishments.

  • Series II: Annual Reports

    The annual reports of the Chamber of Commerce serve as a definitive record of business in the New York region, providing both national and local commercial statistics, yearly accounts of the industry, and special reports on New York trade, commerce, and finance. They also document the activities of the Chamber itself by highlighting noteworthy accomplishments and events of the past year through a compilation of speeches, reports, and narrative summaries. Series II offers a complete run of the Chamber's annual reports from 1858 to 1926; subsequently, only the years 1966-1975 are present.

  • Series III: Bulletins

    The monthly bulletins of the Chamber of Commerce, which make up the third series of the collection, capture a distinctive picture of the Chamber's purpose and actions. This series contains a comprehensive set of bulletins from 1909 to 1963, as well as a few supplemental materials from the 1950s to 1970s. Each bulletin contains information on news and activities of the Chamber, meeting minutes, reports, and library additions. Their initial audience was the organization's members, though they were later printed by the thousands and distributed monthly to libraries, business organizations, public officials and students of economics both domestically and abroad. Eventually, the Chamber began binding bulletins in yearly editions, and members received a personalized copy. While each individual monthly bulletin contains a table of contents, the bound volumes are also indexed for ease of use.

  • Series IV: Commerce and Industry Association

    The fourth series in the collection is arguably the most complex. It is comprised of the records of the Commerce and Industry Association, an organization similar to the Chamber of Commerce in purpose, which eventually merged with the Chamber in 1973 following a decline in both organizations' membership and corresponding influence. Researchers should note that these records date back to 1873; therefore documents from the Merchants' Association, an earlier incarnation of the Commerce and Industry Association, are included. This series is divided into six subseries according to format or purpose; because of this, each individual subseries closely mirrors the series in the New York Chamber of Commerce and Industry collection as a whole.

  • Series V: Committee on Arbitration

    The Committee on Arbitration was a significant body of the Chamber of Commerce, although its importance varied greatly throughout the Chamber's existence. Because the Committee retained such a large portion of its records, it was designated as its own series, Series V, apart from the Subseries VI.2: General Committees. Established during the formative years of the Chamber, the Committee on Arbitration was appointed to hear and rule on disputes on mercantile and marine matters. The Committee on Arbitration was instrumental in securing legislation to create a Court of Arbitration, and was widely recognized for its role in developing arbitration systems in commercial and civic associations nationwide. Series V is divided into three subseries according to the original order of the material.

  • Series VI: Committees

    Series VI documents the activities of the Chamber's administrative and general committees. Formed to address a specific subject or function, committees were comprised of voluntary members elected by the Chamber's membership. Committee records contain correspondence, reports, and meeting minutes, both bound and loose.

  • Series VII: Correspondence

    The correspondence records found in Series VII are divided into three subseries. While Subseries 1 and 2 deal primarily with the correspondence of the Chamber's officers, the correspondence in the third subseries is a group of subject files that were compiled by the organization in the second half of the 20th century.

  • Series VIII: Member Meeting Minutes

    The minutes contained in this series, which date back to the Chamber's founding in 1768, offer an intimate look at the key functions of the organization and its involvement in New York City and State business and development throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. These meetings centered on issues that were of significance to local and national commerce, pinpointing how current events would affect business practices. Members used these gatherings as a time to draw attention to their concerns and establish a collective position among the Chamber constituency. Prominent guests were a regular part of each meeting and included state and local politicians, foreign dignitaries, and national luminaries--Herbert Hoover, John D. Rockefeller III, and Frank Lloyd Wright are among several of the iconic figures invited to address the Chamber's monthly meetings over the years. Minutes run continuously from 1768 to 1933 and are documented in oversize bound volumes. Subsequent years are inconsistently represented and are recorded as typescript; minutes from the 1940s are lacking entirely. Administrative documentation and candid photographs for several 20th century guest speakers can be found respectively in Series I: Administration and Series X: Photographs.

  • Series IX: Printed Materials

    The printed materials of Series IX encompass a diverse assortment of small pamphlets, leaflets, and booklets intended primarily for limited circulation among a targeted audience. Committee reports, tributes to members, and annual compilations of national chambers of commerce are examples of some of the items found here. A significant portion of Series IX is devoted to a selection of pamphlet publications which have been bound in volumes according to date of issuance. Each volume contains pamphlets on an assortment of topics such as currency, commercial law, defense, and quarantine laws; fold out maps often serve as illustration. Printed materials are organized according to their subject matter or title. For the Chamber of Commerce's more formal publications that were intended for wider distribution, researchers should consult the New York Chamber of Commerce and Industry Publications collection.

  • Series X: Photographs

    The final series in this collection is comprised largely of photographic prints, though a few photographic slides and glass plate slides are present. A significant portion of these items lack any identifying information and several are undated. Photographs are arranged alphabetically according to subject; a few are oversized. Of particular note are photographs from the Chamber's annual banquet, candid shots of guest speakers at the organization's monthly meetings, and portraits of Chamber members throughout the years.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the President of the New York City Partnership and Chamber of Commerce or his or her designated representative.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); New York City Chamber of Commerce and Industry records, 1768-1984; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Related Material

New York Chamber of Commerce and Industry Publications Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University. http://www.columbia.edu/cu/libraries/inside/projects/findingaids/scans/pdfs/NYCCPublications.pdf

New York Chamber of Commerce Building Architectural records 1901-1966, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/archival/collections/ldpd_7084607/index.html

The New York Chamber of Commerce Portrait Collection, New York State Museum

http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/research_collections/collections/history/nycc/

The Chamber of Commerce of New York. Columbia University Libraries.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Papers processed Jillian Cuellar and Katie B. Henningsen 2008-2009.

Finding aid written by Jillian Cuellar and Katie B. Henningsen February 2009.

Revision Description

2009-03-25 File created.

2009-25-03 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.

Genre/Form

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
Addresses Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Annual reports Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Autograph albums Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Business records Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Bylaws Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Case files Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Clippings (Information Artifacts) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Invitations Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Leases Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Membership lists Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Memorial works Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Menus Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Pamphlets Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographic prints Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Press releases Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Programs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Reports Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Slides (photographs) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Visitors' books Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
architectural drawings (visual works) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
minutes (administrative records) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

Subject

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
Arbitration and award -- United States -- Cases Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Bernheimer, Charles L (Charles Leopold), 1864-1944 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Boards of trade Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Bush, Irving T., 1869-1948 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
City planning -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
City planning -- New York Metropolitan Area Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Cohen, Julius Henry, 1873-1950 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Commerce and Industry Association of New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Commerce associations Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Court of Arbitration (New York Chamber of Commerce) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Cruger, John, 1710-1791 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Deeds Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Hundred Year Association of New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Industries -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
International commerce and arbitration Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
International commercial arbitration Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Interstate commerce -- United States Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Merchants -- New York (State) -- New York -- History -- 18th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Merchants' Association of New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
New York Chamber of Commerce Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
New York Chamber of Commerce and Industry Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
New York Chamber of Commerce. Committee on Arbitration Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
New York City Partnership Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Partnership for New York City Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Port of New York Authority Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Sailors' Snug Harbor (Institution) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Scrapbooks Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Transatlantic cables Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Transportation -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Usury laws -- New York (State) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Usury laws -- United States Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

The New York Chamber of Commerce and Industry, founded in 1768 by twenty New York City merchants, was one of the first commercial organizations of its kind in the country. Formed around the premise of serving the needs of the local business community, the Chamber eventually became one of the industry's strongest advocates. Over the years, its activities attracted the participation of a number of New York's most renowned business leaders, including former New York City Mayor and the Chamber's first president, John Cruger, Samuel F.B. Morse, John Jacob Astor, Peter Cooper, J. Pierpont Morgan, and multiple members of the Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, and Murray families; notable figures such as Thomas Edison, Andrew Mellon, and Herbert Hoover were elected to honorary membership. The Chamber aimed to unify the voice of commercial industry in New York, allowing a respected forum for dialogue among its members which would often result in an amalgamated effort towards action and resolution. The prominence and power of its members garnered distinction for the organization, placing the Chamber in a unique position to command the attention of government bodies both locally and nationally. Collectively, the organization was able to agitate for legislation that would provide a favorable climate for the growth of business in New York City and State, in turn encouraging the development of a complex urban environment in which commercial industry could thrive.

The Chamber's founding members first met on April 5, 1768 at Bolton and Sigel's Tavern, now known as Fraunces Tavern, to form a mercantile union that would defend and promote their collective interests. Organized under the name the New York Chamber of Commerce, the society moved its home base to the Royal Exchange in 1770, and was granted a royal charter from King George III incorporating it as "the Corporation of the Chamber of Commerce in the City of New York in America.".

At the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, the membership was divided into Loyalist and Patriot factions. Patriot members, including John Cruger, the first President of the Chamber, left New York City after the British invasion of 1776 while their Loyalist counterparts continued to hold meetings and transact business in the City. After the British evacuation in 1783, the Chamber's returning Patriot members quickly established control over the organization and relocated to the Merchants' Coffee House building. The Chamber was issued a new charter in 1784 reincorporating it as "the Corporation of the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York." In 1793, the Chamber again relocated; this time to the Tontine Association across the street from the Merchants' Coffee House. Member participation began dropping steadily after the turn of the century, and by 1806 meetings were suspended due to lack of attendance.

In 1817, Chamber President Cornelius Ray called for resumption of the organization's business. New officers were elected and the membership base was increased by thirty-six during the first meeting. This marked the beginning of a new era for the organization. As of 1827, the Chamber had claimed the Merchants Exchange Building as its headquarters; however, the Great Fire of New York in 1835 forced members to relocate once more, this time to the Merchants Bank on Wall Street. Though many of the Chamber's prized historical objects and documents were saved from the fire, including member portraits, minute books, and the Chamber's official seal, the original charter is believed to have perished.

By 1849, membership had surpassed the two hundred mark, and the administration became increasingly consumed by management concerns. Elected officers authorized the hiring of an official clerk and librarian to assist the elected Secretary in overseeing day-to-day functions. The administrative staff was vital to the operation of the Chamber, answering outside inquiries on the organization's work and fielding appeals for guidance and counsel from commercial organizations across the country, all the while facilitating dialogue among the Chamber's constituency and countless committees. The outreach efforts of the administration, in addition to the prestigious projects the organization was involved in, quickly established the Chamber as a model for other chambers of commerce, both domestically and abroad.

As its membership increased in size and prestige during the 1800s, the Chamber's power grew accordingly and the organization proved to be instrumental in the realization of several initiatives integral to the development of both New York City and State. In the interest of serving regional commerce, the Chamber heavily promoted the construction of the Erie Canal in the early 1800s and the establishment of the first transatlantic cable in 1858. The Chamber became progressively more involved in trade and commercial concerns at the national and international levels, and began releasing annual reports in the mid-1800s which outlined the condition of mercantile affairs and noted important changes relative to trade in the national business market. Perhaps one of its most recognized contributions to the business industry was its role in arbitrating commercial disputes among regional merchants. The Chamber's creation of a Court of Arbitration, a body recognized by the State to oversee commercial disputes, and its own Committee on Arbitration, whose records and purpose often overlap with the Court's, are both indications of the Chamber's commitment to settling mercantile disagreements and furthering its goal of providing merchants with an agreeable environment in which to conduct business.

The Chamber also lent its support to major public works within New York City--the expansion of the City's water and waste management system, construction of a rapid transit system, and quality commercial education for area businessmen were all projects championed by the Chamber. The defense and management of New York ports and harbors were also of concern; the eruption of the Civil War in the United States prompted the Chamber to gather funds and successfully petition both the Executive and Legislative branches of the United States, the New York State Legislature, and the New York City Council for an allocation of money for the defense of the New York Harbor. In addition to these large scale ventures, the organization was involved in numerous smaller projects over the years, including construction of a lighthouse in Martinique, overseeing the Nautical School of the Port of New York, and developing measures to protect the City's population during cholera outbreaks in the 1890s.

Many of these accomplishments can be attributed to the work of the Chamber's standing committees which began to appear in great numbers by the second half of the 19th century. Committees were an essential component of the organization; they allowed members to focus on a broad range of issues relevant to commercial industry in the New York region and nationwide. Standing committees often concentrated on a general sector of commerce such as finance, conservation, public service, or taxation laws, while ad hoc special and sub-committees focused on these topics in finer detail. The proliferation of committees at various points in the Chamber's history can be directly linked to contemporary affairs; certainly, the occurrence of particular events throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, such as debates on the National Budget, natural disasters, or urban entertainments, can often be traced by the existence of corresponding Chamber committees.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Chamber's administration grew again as it faced a progressively more complex business environment; the administration now included the elected positions of Executive Vice President, Assistant Secretary, and Assistant Treasurer. The result of the Chamber's growing influence and prosperity was the 1902 completion of construction of the Chamber of Commerce building at 65 Liberty Street in lower Manhattan. Illustrating the Chamber's importance at the national level, both President Theodore Roosevelt and former President Grover Cleveland spoke at the building's dedication. The top floor of the new building, the Grand Hall, was lined with the Chamber's collection of over 200 member portraits and it was here that most business was transacted, including regularly occurring member meetings. The Chamber's wealth and prestige continued to swell exponentially, and in honor of the Chamber's significant projects and influential membership, increasingly opulent annual banquets were held. Invitations were delivered by messenger and hand engraved by Tiffany and Company, whose founder was also a member.

Following this period of economic and civic prosperity leading up to the 1920s, the Chamber began a gentle descent, slowly losing members and influence. The Chamber began considering the possibility of merging with other New York City commercial organizations as early as the 1940s. An agreement was reached in 1973 between the Chamber and the Commerce and Industry Association, formerly the Merchants' Association, to merge the two parties into one organization: The New York Chamber of Commerce and Industry. However, this new incarnation of the Chamber did little to alleviate the organization's declining revenue and dwindling authority. In 1979 the Chamber left its headquarters at 65 Liberty Street and moved in with the New York City Partnership, an affiliate organization founded by Chamber member, David Rockefeller. In 2002 the two organizations formally merged to form the Partnership for New York City and the Chamber ceased to exist.