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Chamber of Commerce of the United States photographs and audiovisual materials

Creation: circa 1880s-2011
Accession: 1993-230
View selected items online in the Hagley Digital Archives.
View selected items online in the Hagley Digital Archives.


The Chamber of Commerce of the United States is the world’s largest business organization representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions. This collection contains photographs, negatives, slides, digital images, sound recordings, videos, and films that document the history of the Chamber from its founding to the twenty-first century. The materials provide a record not only of the activities of the Chamber but also of the political landscape surrounding key issues related to business. The collection focuses on the legislation, regulations, and litigation impacting the economy, immigration reform, pensions, health care, trade, Social Security, air quality, global warming, workplace safety, and taxes, as well as major industries such as energy, aviation, automobiles, agriculture, transportation,mining, shipping, and technology.


  • Creation: circa 1880s-2011



500 Linear Feet

Physical Description

approx. 20,000 photographic prints : b&w ; 8 x 10 in. or smaller. approx. 3,000 photographic prints : color ; 8 x 10 in. or smaller. approx. 600 photographic prints : b&w ; oversize (larger than 8 x 10 in.). approx. 35 photographic prints : color ; oversize (larger than 8 x 10 in.). approx. 50 cyanotypes : various sizes. approx. 3,000 contact sheets. approx. 3,000 negatives : b&w ; 120 mm. approx. 20,000 negatives : b&w ; 35 mm. approx. 5,000 negatives : color ; 35 mm. approx. 500 negatives : b&w ; various. approx. 300 negatives : color ; various. approx. 800 transparencies : color ; 120 mm. approx. 8,000 transparencies (slides) : color ; 35 mm. approx. 500 transparencies : color ; various. approx. 500 items. 15 sound tape reels : 7.5 ips. 2 sound tape reels : UD-35. 145 audio cassette tapes. 1 digital audio tape. 1 audio recording : CD. 1 phonograph record. 279 videotape (Beta Cam - large). 81 videotape (Beta Cam - small). 200 videotape (U-Matic). 300 videotape (VHS). 10 videotape (DVCam). 14 videotape (DVmini). 400 videodisc (DVD). 94 2" videotape reels. 879 1" videotape reels. 5 films (200') : 16mm. 381 films (400') : 16mm. 149 films (800') : 16mm. 120 films (1200') : 16mm. 3 films (2000') : 16mm. 3 films (1000') : 35mm. 6 films (2000') : 35mm. 10 albums. 33 posters. 2 plaques. 1 board game. 1 tee-shirt. 1 scroll box. 3 patches. 2 medallions. 7 buttons. 1 framed button collage. 1.02 TB (363,592 Files, 5,425 Folders).

Historical note

The Chamber of Commerce of the United States is the world’s largest business organization representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions. Chamber members range from small businesses and local chambers to leading industry associations and large corporations. The Chamber traces its origins to an April 22, 1912, conference of commercial and trade organizations called by President William Howard Taft. The goal was to form a national group to advise the government on issues facing industry and business throughout the country.

Chamber leadership is composed of the senior Management Committee and the board of directors. The committee is spearheaded by the Chamber President and CEO. Other members of the committee include the senior vice presidents in charge of the various groups and committees that make up the Chamber.

The board of directors is the principal governing and policymaking body of the Chamber. Directors determine the policy positions on business issues and advise on appropriate strategies to pursue. The chairman of the board is a one-year position, which requires frequent traveling all over the world, visiting local chambers of commerce, and meeting with policy decision makers.

Harry A. Wheeler (1866-1960), vice president and director of the Union Trust Company was unanimously elected temporary chairman of the Chamber. He eventually became the first Chamber president. The organization held its first Annual Meeting on January 21, 1913. At the Annual Meeting in 1919, Wheeler proposed that the Chamber establish a permanent headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The headquarters building occupies the site of the home of prominent 19th century politician Daniel Webster. It broke ground in 1922, having selected Cass Gilbert, designer of the Supreme Court Building and the Treasury Annex in Washington, D.C. The building was expanded in 1958 and then again in the early 1980s. The first floor of the Chamber is lined with a series of public meeting rooms, the largest and grandest of which is the Hall of Flags.

Three important leaders of the USCC have been Arch N. Booth, Richard L. Lesher and Thomas J. Donohue.

Arch N. Booth (1906-1985) joined the Chamber's Washington staff in 1943 as general assistant manager and became manager in 1947. In 1950, he became executive vice president, a position he held for twenty years. He became the chief operating officer in 1970. In 1974, at the end of the 62nd Annual meeting, Booth was named Chamber president and also continued his role as chief of operations and top staffer. He retired to Wichita Kansas in 1975.

During his thirty-two year tenure, Booth helped build the organization by increasing membership, forming college-business symposiums to educate students on the importance of free enterprise, consulted with members in the United States and abroad, promoted citizen participation in the political process, and reorganized the Chamber’s internal structure.

Richard L. Lesher (1933-) served as Chamber president from 1975 to 1997. Previously, he had worked as assistant administrator for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) from 1966 to 1969, a private consultant from 1969 to 1971, and then president of the National Center for Resource Recovery from 1971 to 1975. As Chamber president, several programs were established under his guidance, including a nonpartisan political program to support pro-business candidates to Congress and the opening of a telecommunications center at headquarters in 1982.

Thomas J. Donohue (1938-) became president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 1997. Donohue worked with the Chamber in the Development Department, from 1976 to 1984, when he left to become President and CEO of the American Trucking Associations. Upon returning to the Chamber, Donohue played an instrumental role in leading a broad coalition of businesses and associations in drafting and passing the Y2K Act in 1999. Y2K was a problem for both digital (computer-related) and non-digital documentation and data storage situations which resulted from the practice of abbreviating a four-digit year to two digits.

As Chamber president, Donohue spearheaded the creation of the Campaign for Free Enterprise, a program to defend, protect, and advance the free enterprise system. A signature project of the campaign is Hiring Our Heroes, which identifies job opportunities for tens of thousands of returning military veterans and spouses. Donohue established the Institute for Legal Reform to advance legal reforms. In addition, he has expanded the activities of the National Chamber Litigation Center, the Chamber’s law firm, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

One of the earliest projects of the Chamber was publishing a monthly magazine, Nation’s Business, which focused specifically on business-related articles and illustrations and communicating the Chamber’s messages to business and government. The first issue was published in September 1912 and was originally printed in newspaper format and later as a magazine. Illustrations played an important part in the design. Nation’s Business used images by many of the country’s most prominent photographers, including Margaret Bourke-White, Lewis Hine, André Kertész, and Dorothea Lange. The Chamber hired freelance photographers and used newswire photos to provide photo illustrations for Nation’s Business and Chamber events. In addition, it used works by anonymous corporate and commercial photographers, as well as photographs from U.S. government agencies, such as the Soil Conservation Service and the Office of War Information. In the 1990s the publication had a staff photographer/editor. Arch Booth was publisher from 1950 to 1975. Nation’s Business ceased printing in 1999.

Throughout its long history the Chamber has formed several organizations with dedicated purposes related to various aspects of business. For example, the National Chamber Foundation (NCF), an affiliated corporation (now known as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation) was established in 1967. It was formed to analyze critical economic and policy issues facing the nation. The Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), a Chamber affiliate, was established in 1983 to work with business leaders, policymakers, and journalists to build the civic institutions vital to a democratic society. The National Chamber Litigation Center (NCLC), established in 1977, was created to advocate for fair treatment of business in the courts and before regulatory agencies.

The Chamber also has created several annual events. In addition to its Annual Meeting, in 1957 the Aircade for Congressional Action began. The purposes of the Aircade were to give local businesspeople a summary of what Congress was doing, ask questions about major issues, and teach citizens how to communicate more effectively with their elected representatives. The event was a daylong set of meetings held in dozens of cities across the country. Approximately twenty specialists from the Chamber’s various committees traveled with the Aircade to do Q&As with with businesspeople.

In 2004, the Chamber hosted the first major conference, formally called ACCESS, that focused on small business issues. The conference is now called America’s Small Business Summit.

Since 1989, the Chamber's prestigious Spirit of Enterprise award has been presented to members of Congress based on how they voted on key business issues outlined in the yearly publication, How They Voted. The Chamber's designated key votes are recorded floor votes on issues established as priorities by the Chamber on which the Chamber communicates its position to Congress prior to the vote. Members of Congress who support the Chamber's position on at least 70% of these key votes receive the Spirit of Enterprise award.

The Chamber often brings in high-profile speakers to address leaders of the business community, executives of major corporations, and representatives of trade associations. There were several speaker series that occurred on a regular basis, often monthly, including Policy Insiders, International Forum, and the Breakfast Bunch.

The Chamber communicates its message to the general public, the press, politicians and its members on a variety issues related to business. This is accomplished, in part through a multimedia approach, including radio, television broadcasts, films, print and electronic media.

In addition to Nation’s Business, the organization produced several other print publications such as The Business Advocate; Business Action; and The Washington Report. Radio broadcasts were popular in the 1940s through the 1970s. What’s the Issue? was a weekly radio program hosted by Arch Booth and later by Richard Lesher.

It’s Your Business, the Chamber’s weekly debate program premiered on seventy-three television stations on September 8, 1979. The debate program featured Chamber President Richard Lesher as a permanent panelist. Topics generally were on legislative or regulatory issues.

In 1982 the first private business advocate satellite television network in history, BizNet, the American Business Network, covered the organization's Annual Meeting. BizNet was a communications system designed to influence legislation and rally support for American business objectives. It produced the series Living Legends, which profiled successful businesspeople. The series was part of the news show, Nation's Business Today, and was aired on ESPN. BizNet also produced BizNet News Today and Ask Washington.

Scope and Content

This collection contains photographs, negatives, slides, digital images, sound recordings, videos and films that document the history of the Chamber from its founding through to the twenty-first century. The materials provide a record not only of the activities of the Chamber, but also the political landscape surrounding key issues related to business. The collection focuses on the legislation, regulations and litigation concerning the economy, immigration reform, pensions, healthcare, trade, social security, air quality, global warming, workplace safety, and taxes; as well as major industries such as energy, aviation, automobiles, agriculture, transportation, mining, shipping, and technology.

The collection is arranged into thirteen series: Chamber photographs; Nations Business photographs; Negatives and slides; Digital images; Ephemera; Audio; Breakfast Bunch audio; Video; Living Legends videos; TV spots videos; film; It’s Your Business videos; and Video (1” open reels).

The Chamber photographs series contains ten subseries: Annual Meetings; Arch Booth files; Chair trips, events and albums; Chamber President’s portraits and press photographs; Chamber staff and board members; Meetings and events; People and portraits; Posters; Subject files; and Washington D.C. area and Chamber Building.

The Annual Meeting subseries is arranged chronologically and dates from 1946 through 1979. Photographs were taken at the Annual Meeting and document the four-day conferences that took place at headquarters and surrounding hotels. The meeting consisted of a variety of panels, speakers, breakfasts, luncheons and dinners focusing on business issues such as taxation, private pensions, energy, labor, strikes, and education.

Three large general sessions occurred throughout the four days. The First General Session typically began with a Marine Band and flag ceremony. These three sessions had notable keynote speakers, often U.S. Presidents or Vice Presidents.

The Annual Dinners were black-tie affairs, which also had notable keynote speakers and entertainment (e.g. singers and musicians). Other sessions were panels or forums with multiple presenters and appeared to run concurrently with other events. Breakfasts and luncheons were also themed sessions with speakers.

The Chamber Board met at the Annual Meeting, and the outgoing chairman ceremoniously passed the gavel to the incoming chairman. Awards and recognitions were presented, and photographers documented the meeting. These images were then used in various Chamber publications such as Business Action, Washington Report and the Chamber’s Annual Report.

Arch Booth files contain photographs primarily of Arch Booth at Annual Meetings and other USCC events, trips and functions. The subseries is arranged chronologically and dates from 1953 to 1975.

Chair trips, events and albums subseries contains photographs of the board chair’s travels to state and foreign chambers in 1985 and from 1997 to 2011. The materials are arranged chronologically by chairman and by trip or event. A bulk of the images are from Chairman Bill Little's and Chairman Steve Van Andel’s trips. At the end of the Chair’s tenure, a leather-bound presentation album was produced documenting the year in office. The albums contain digitally printed photo-collaged pages, which use photographs and documents to depict the chair’s accomplishments. These albums date from 2001 to 2009.

The Chamber President's portraits and press photographs subseries contains images of every Chamber president from 1912 through to 1997. For some presidents, there is only a portrait photograph; however, for many, there are a number of images at various events or other press photography shoots involving the president’s spouse or family. Except for photographs of Arch Booth, which document his career with the Chamber prior to becoming Chamber president in 1974, most images of the presidents seem to have been taken while in office.

Chamber staff and board members subseries is arranged alphabetically by last name. The materials are primarily formal portraits and headshots; some are group photographs or slightly more candid. Although the images date from 1944 to 2005, the bulk of the photographs are from the 1970s and 1980s.

Meetings and events subseries contains photographs taken at a variety of Chamber occasions including press conferences, staff meetings, board and committee meetings, conferences like the Business Outlook Conference and the Aircade, as well as visits from U.S. Presidents Eisenhower and Reagan. The photographs in this series date from 1945 to 1980.

People and portraits subseries contains photographs of prominent business leaders, U.S. Presidents, foreign business and political leaders and celebrities. This subseries is arranged alphabetically by last name and dates from 1944 to 1999, with a bulk of the materials dating from the 1950s and 1960s.

Posters subseries contains large images mounted on foam core or board, which appear to have been on display at the Chamber at some point. The images are of various members of Congress, portraits of businesspeople, and other industry leaders speaking at the Chamber. These posters are dated 2000 to 2003, although at least two contain historical b&w images.

Subject files subseries contains photograph files that presumably belonged to the secretary or assistant to Arch Booth. The files primary arranged chronologically, then alphabetically. The files date from 1961 to 1975, with the bulk of photographs from 1968 to 1973. The images are generally committee meetings, organizational events, conferences, and people giving testimony.

Washington D.C. area and Chamber Building subseries includes construction, interiors, exteriors and detail images of the USCC headquarters from its first construction through to the 21st century. There are also numerous images of views around Washington D.C. including the Capitol Building, Supreme Court Building, monuments and statues. These images date from circa 1920 to 2003, with a bulk of the materials from 1925 through the 1960s.

Nations Business photographs series consists of more than 15,000 original photographs that were taken for publication in the magazine. The images date from the 1890s to 2004, with a bulk of the material dating from the 1940s through the 1960s. Most photographs contain the photographer's notations on the back. There are eighty-two subseries based on how the photographers categorized the photographs. The category was written on the back of the photograph in the upper left-hand corner.

The eighty-two subseries are arranged alphabetically by topic. The photographs illustrate various sectors of the U.S. economy, including transportation, agriculture, energy and manufacturing. These images include employees on-the-job, production facilities and final products in the petroleum, coal, metal, mining, chemical, aircraft, textile, shipbuilding, and automobile industries.

There are also many photographs related to U.S. military actions, training and equipment, including World Wars I and II. Other images depict street scenes, everyday life, and economic activity organized by country, state and city, with many images of New York City, and over sixty-seven countries, particularly those in Europe and the Middle East. Many of the prints show the crop lines indicating the portion of the image that the editor wished to reproduce in the magazine.

The Negatives and slides series is made up of files that presumably were kept by the Chamber staff photographers. Each photography assignment was given a job and/or negative number, which is almost chronological. The original order has been maintained, files are arranged by the job/negative number (which do not appear in the finding aid but has been recorded). The images date from 1981 to 2001, with some images from 2003.

Many of the negatives have had contact sheets and selected prints made, these have been separated for preservation. Where there are contact sheets and/or prints of negatives, they are are listed below the negatives they are of. The content of the images are Chamber events, meetings, conferences, press conferences, political leaders, Chamber staff, the Chamber building and tapings of broadcasts such as Quality Learning Series and It’s Your Business. Events include, congressional meet and greets; International Forum; Policy Insiders; Moot Court; Spirit of Enterprise awards; board meetings; holiday parties; the World Economic Forum; and the National Chamber Litigation Center (NCLC) Supreme Court briefings.

Digital images series is a continuation of the Negatives and slides series. The file formats are primarily JPEGs, some TIFFs, CR2, NEFs (i.e. raw files) and a couple of PowerPoints and MOV files. The materials are organized by the job/negative number (which does not appear in the finding aid but has been recorded). The order is almost chronological, dating from 2000 to 2010. The content of the images is the same as the content of the Negatives and slides series; images of Chamber events, meetings, conferences, press conferences, tapings of broadcasts, political leaders, and Chamber staff. The titles are provided from the metadata embedded in the digital image files.

The Ephemera series includes two plaques, a T-shirt, medallions, patches, and buttons. There is also a board game called “See How They Run,” which includes instructions and does not appear to have missing pieces. These materials date from 1979 to 1982.

Audio series contains sound recording of Chamber events and a few radio broadcasts. These include the Cuba press conference; Profit: The Bottom Line; Electronic Retailing Association; and one program of What’s the Issue? The audio recordings are primarily cassette tapes, some reel-to-reels and one phonograph record. The series is arranged alphabetically, and the recordings date from 1970 to 1995.

The Breakfast Bunch audio series contains audiocassette tapes of the keynote address at these monthly events. The tapes are arranged chronologically and date from 1979 to 1992. It is not a full run, tapes are sporadic.

Video series contains video recordings of many Chamber events and broadcasts. The videos are arranged alphabetically, first by sponsored events, then by unsponsored events.

For ease in browsing the list, all videos sponsored by the National Chamber Foundation (NCF) now known as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, are also listed in alphabetical order (under “N”); however, NCF appears after the title instead of before.

The videos date from 1982 to 2009 and are in a variety of formats including Beta Cam -large, Beta Cam -small, U-Matic, VHS, DVCam, DVmini, and DVD. Videos are housed together by format; therefore, the box numbers are not concurrent.

The content of the videos includes events of the Association Leadership Series; Association Executive Leadership Series; Policy Insiders; International Forum; Quality Learning series; Brazil-U.S. Business Council; U.S.-India Business Council; Business Civic Leadership Center; Institute for Legal Reform; Center for Corporate Citizenship; CEO Close-Up; CEO Leadership Series; Energy Summit; ACCESS conference (now known as America's Small Business Summit); Aviation summits; and the National Chamber Litigation Center (NCLC) Supreme Court Press Briefings.

Living Legends videos are arranged chronologically and date from 1988 to 1992. These include interviews with prominent business leaders such as Robert O. Anderson, Charles Brown, James E. Burke, Liz Claiborne, Howard J. Morgens and Thomas J. Watson Jr. among many others.

TV spots videos (VHS) series is arranged chronologically and dates from 1990 to 2002, with one recording in 1987. Chamber representatives were often interviewed or asked to speak to the press. This series contains television segments in which a Chamber representative appeared or when there was a news report about the organization.

Film series contains films by the Chamber generally on specific business topics. Titles include but are not limited to: The Atom Comes to Town; The Story of Creative Capital; Once Upon a Time; The Magic Key; and People, Products and Progress. There are many reels, trims and cuts from the film production company, Francis Thompson Inc. using the titles Grassroots and Chamber II. There are some films of events the 1976 Apollo flight footage and the 1977 Annual Meeting. This series is arranged alphabetically, and films date from 1948, 1958, and from 1962 to 1977. A few films have discussion guides or other associated documents which are housed separately from the films for preservation, but are listed underneath the appropriate film.

It’s Your Business videos are arranged chronologically by episode number. The early episodes are 1" and 2" open reel video tape, the later episodes are on U-Matic, Beta Cam - large and small. The television show aired from 1979 through 1998. It is not a complete run, each year is missing an episode or two. This series also includes special episodes and advertisements that were aired during commercial breaks.

Hagley Museum and Library does not have playback equipment for the 2" open reel videotape.

The Videos (1” open reel) series is arranged alphabetically and includes various Chamber broadcasts from 1982 to 1989. There are several recordings of episodes and promos for Ask Washington and Biznet.

Existence and Location of Copies

Select images from the Nation's Business photographs series can be viewed online in Hagley's Digital Archives:

Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.

Litigators may not view the collection without approval.

Negatives, slides, and film material (Boxes 97-154 and Film Cans 1-472) are located in remote storage. Please contact staff 48 hours in advance of research visit at

Hagley Museum and Library does not have playback equipment for the 2" open reel videotape.

Use Restrictions

Literary rights retained by depositor.

Language of Materials


Additional Description


On Deposit from the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America.

Separated Materials

Chamber of Commerce of the United States records, (Accession 1960), Manuscript and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Electronic Records

Checksums and disk images were created and copied to the Audiovisual Collections directory.

The following disks have no checksums due to an error message ("Access violation of module md5summer.exe"). Additionally, disks 069 and 129 have no disk image directory (excel doc).

DA_COC_2012_002_069 (also no disk image directory) DA_COC_2012_002_078 DA_COC_2012_002_080 DA_COC_2012_002_081 DA_COC_2012_002_082 DA_COC_2012_002_083 DA_COC_2012_002_084 DA_COC_2012_002_118 DA_COC_2012_002_119 DA_COC_2012_002_120 DA_COC_2012_002_122 DA_COC_2012_002_123 DA_COC_2012_002_129 (also no disk image directory) DA_COC_2012_002_131 DA_COC_2012_002_132

Disk DA_COC_2012_002_308 has checksums and a disk image but may be damaged as it took a very long time to complete these processes.

Disk DA_COC_2012_002_309 does not have checksums or a disk image because it could not complete the checksum or disk image processes. There was no error message- both processes just froze.

Disk DA_COC_2012_002_318 has checksums, but stalls on 48% during the disk image process, so there is no disk image.

Disk DA_COC_2012_002_331 does not have checksums or a disk image because the disk is damaged and will not read on the drive.

It should maybe also be noted that disks 308, 309, 318, 331 all have some sort of visible physical damage.

There is a physical disk case for what should be DA_COC_2012_002_755, but there was no disk in it.

All of these "problematic" disks have been moved into a folder titled Problematic Disks in Audiovisual Collections's folder for Chamber of Commerce disk images.

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Chamber of Commerce of the United States photographs and audiovisual materials
Laurie Rizzo and Chase Markee
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
Script of description:

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Audiovisual Collections Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA