Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Minutes (KC0274)
The origins of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce began with the founding of the Association for Public Improvement on October 21, 1856. Its goals were to look after the commercial interests of the city, encourage public enterprise and improvements, and in particular to attract railroads to the area. From the beginning the organization functioned as a traditional Chamber of Commerce, and on December 22, 1856, the founders adopted that name. Like many small communities hoping to grow, the promoters of Kansas City were eager to attract eastern money by offering public credit and bonds in exchange for stock in railroad companies. Unfortunately, the divisiveness of border warfare and the Civil War limited the work of the organization until after 1865, when the Chamber again tried to improve the community by attracting railroads to Kansas City. This culminated in the building of the Kansas City (Hannibal) Bridge across the Missouri River.
The Chamber found, however, that growth proved destructive as the enlarged business community made organization and consensus less easy to attain. Despite repeated attempts to reorganize, including efforts to replace it with the Board of Trade in 1869, the Chamber virtually disappeared during the post war years. Even the short-lived Merchant's Exchange, established as a substitute for the Chamber, failed because of a lack of consensus. By the mid-1880's a leadership again began to coalesce within a renewed, confident, and dedicated business community. The real estate dealers created an "exchange", the bankers established a clearing-house association, and the Mercantile Exchange formed as a credit bureau. These uniting activities set the stage for the first meeting of the Commercial Club of Kansas City on July 29, 1887.
The goals of the initial membership of fifty-seven businessmen were to encourage "good will" and to widen of Kansas City's trade territory. Within two years, the Club further defined its vision with the adoption of the slogan: "Make Kansas City a good place to live in." Standing committees were established on entertainment, arbitration, manufacturing, legislation, transportation, and labor. The Club also became the promotional center for the community, beginning with President and Mrs. Grover Cleveland's visit to the city in October, 1887; the building of the Exposition Building; and the Priest of Pallas parades and balls.
An important activity for the Club was tours to Kansas City's real, and hoped for, hinter-lands. Efforts to attract manufacturing to Kansas City again focused upon the city's position as a transportation hub, and included the encouragement of river navigation as a competitor to the railroads. Another concern resulted in the founding of the Kansas City Insurance Company to provide low-cost local alternatives to eastern insurance companies. Virtually every civic, political, and social occurrence in the community had connections to the Commercial Club, including the rebuilding in 1900 of the burned Convention Hall, the relief and rebuilding from the disastrous 1903 flood, and most of what is considered the heyday of the "Kansas City Spirit." Members paid active attention to local affairs and political issues, as well as their own business interests.
In 1916, the Commercial Club changed its name to the Chamber of Commerce of Kansas City acknowledging its role and position. Among its more important programs were the establishment of the city airport, hosting the 1928 Republican National Convention, the 10-Year Plan resulting in major public improvements, the construction of Kansas City International Airport, and the "Prime Time" initiative to bring national and international attention to the Kansas City region which led to the 1976 Republican National Convention being held in the city. The Chamber continues to play a vital and active part in the development of the Greater Kansas City community.
The minutes of the Chamber of Commerce provide an official overview of the discussions and actions of the organization. Included in most of the volumes prior to 1968, are not only the minutes of the Chamber's Executive Committee and Board of Directors, but those of the various standing and ad hoc committees of the organization. 1856-1991.
271 volumes (MICROFORM).
© WHMC-KC, University of Missouri
Monday, July 21, 2008
Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Kansas City
(816) 235-1543 WHMCKC@umkc.edu