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Chamber of Commerce of the United States records

Creation: 1912-2015
Accession: 1960


The Chamber of Commerce of the United States has matured into the largest lobbying group in Washington. Formed in April of 1912 at the request of President William Howard Taft (1857-1930), the Chamber's commitment to be the voice of business is well documented. The records contain articles of incorporation, bylaws, resolutions and minutes of annual meetings. Presentations to Congress, speeches by members, and conferences hosted by the Chamber. Numerous publications give insight into the concerns facing American businesses in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.


  • Creation: 1912-2015



133 Linear Feet

Historical Note

The Chamber of Commerce of the United States traces its origins to an April 22, 1912 conference of commercial and trade organizations called by President William Howard Taft (1857-1930). The idea was to create an organization that could represent the interests of the business community in Washington, D.C. The Chamber of Commerce of the United States held its first annual meeting on January 21, 1913. During the First World War it organized more than 400 War Service Committees to assist the Council of National Defense that worked closely with the War Industries Board. After the armistice, the Chamber began lobbying Congress to lift the wartime economic regulations. During the post-war strike wave, the Chamber was a moderate voice within the business community as it refused to lend its support to the open shop movement.

The 1920s were a decade of dramatic growth for the Chamber, which by 1929 had more than 16,000 affiliated business organizations. During this decade, it worked closely with Herbert Hoover (1874-1964) and the Department of Commerce in order to set up voluntary codes of fair competition. It became an active supporter of the employee representation plans that flourished during the decade. In 1926 the Chamber built its present headquarters building on Avenue H in Washington, D.C. The building was designed by prominent architect Cass Gilbert (1859-1934).

After the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) the Chamber initially supported the NIRA, but when the New Deal began to adopt a reform agenda with the passage of the Wagner and Social Security acts, it became a leading voice expressing business' opposition. During World War II, the Chamber worked closely with the Roosevelt administration as it cooperated with the government agencies that were regulating production, prices, and wages. During the post-war years the Chamber resumed its opposition to the expanding role of the federal government. By the early 1960s its political action committees were among the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington.

Through its existence, the Chamber of Commerce of the United States has been steadfast in the belief that private enterprise and small business have the ability to better human progress given the opportunity. This was evident in their backing of the Small Business and Federal Government Competition Enhancement Act which insured that all small businesses could compete for, and receive, defense contracts. Their proposal of a Trans Alaska Pipeline during the oil embargo of the 1970s was so strong that on November 16, 1974 Congress approved the pipeline which employes nearly 800 workers. The National Endowment for Democracy and the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), a Chamber affiliate, were created by the State Department Authorization Act of 1983 and continue to champion the idea that democratic and economic reform are necessary to grow economies.


Series I. Administrative Records (1912-2011) consists of founding documents, bylaws, board of directors and executive committee meeting minutes, board member files, records documenting the design and construction of the Chamber's headquarters building. Cass Gilbert correspondence, sketches, and drawings show the relationship between architect and client. Proceedings of the annual membership and national council meetings give insight to the process of policy formation. Presentations to Congress, correspondence to the White House, and commemorative pens, bookmarks, key fobs, member pins and emblems have been preserved.

Series II. Vertical Files (1927-2006) consists of topics of interest and concern such as the Aircade Committee of the early 1960s, the McKinsey Report, and NAFTA.

Series III. Transcripts (1914-2007) includes speeches and talks given by members, and files from the series Living Legends which profiled successful businesspeople.

Series IV. Publications (1912-2011) contains numerous pamphlets covering issues such as post-war readjustments, economic conditions, and health care. There are bound volumes (1912-1980) of published material by the Chamber that cover a wide range of topics. The early publications explain what the Chamber of Commerce is and why American business needed to be involved. In the 1920's, the publications focused on world events and the economic situation in America. Other publications Around the Patio and Chamber Chatter are strictly for employees and members. Congressional Action, Daily Consular and Trade Reports, and The Association Executive Register are newsletters the Chamber used to keep members engaged. Retirement income planning for Chamber employees and sales managers reports are also included.

Series V. Conferences and Courses (1927-2003) lists sessions that were held on subjects ranging from industrial relations to transportation and urban problems, that give perspective to business community positions on key issues in industry.

Series VI. Radio,Television and Telephone (1941-1992) - In a 1941 broadcast the Chamber of Commerce of the United States began its electronic communications with the business world. BIZNET began as the telecommunications service of the Chamber, with It's Your Business as the flagship program first airing in 1979. Nation's Business Today, which premiered in 1985 on the ESPN cable network, was the only live daily business news program originating from Washington. Washington Dialwas the 1970's brilliant idea of a call-in information hot line for the latest news on Congressional issues.

Series VII. Recognition Awards (1955-1962) were to encourage the development of well balanced programs in local chambers of commerce by recognizing and congratulating successful programs that had effective activities.

Series VIII. Financial Records (1912-1960) include cash and expense ledgers (1912-1913) and the Nation's Business expense ledgers (1917, 1930-1960).

Scope and Content

The records of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States are primarily executive documents, reports and publications from the Washington headquarters.

Administrative records highlight the formation of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States. Founding documents provide insight to the early days, and the principles upon which it was built are well documented. Bylaws include the Chamber's mission statement and objectives, meeting procedures, and the collection of annual dues. Minutes of the board of directors and executive meetings (1912-1963) and proceedings of annual meetings (1912-1949) are included. As are proceedings of 1929 National Business Survey Conference describing conditions in most major industries, a 1929 report on the Federal Reserve System, and a 1945 war survey.

Construction and decoration of the new Chamber building, the involvement of architect Cass Gilbert, and the Chamber’s 100th Anniversary, are a few topics of interest in the subject files. Commemorative pens, bookmarks, key fobs, member pins and emblems have been preserved. The vertical files were maintained by Chamber staff to keep information readily available on topics such as The Citizens Committee on Paperwork Reduction, American Forest Week of 1927, Communism, and NAFTA. Speeches and remarks given by members have been preserved, as well as Presentations and Statements to Congress (1949-1995) that document the Chambers position on issues in front of Congress.

The publications portion of this collection is by far the largest. The determination of the Chamber of Commerce to use all media avenues available is evident in the number of conferences and courses offered to members, in addition to the diversity of topics addressed on radio and television programs. Recognition awards issued by the Program of Work encouraged Chamber of Commerce leaders to develop balanced programs in their organizations through national recognition of local chambers that had successfully conducted programs with positive and effective results.

The National Chamber Litigation Center and the Institute for 21st Century Energy demonstrate the forward-thinking mentality that has maintained the Chamber’s influence in shaping government policies. Additionally, Departmental and Legislative Bulletins document the Chamber's major policy initiatives and lobbying activities. The Financial records contain 18 oversize ledgers that track the finances of the Chamber of Commerce, and Nation's Business.

Access Restrictions

Records subject to 25-year time seal from the date of creation due to privacy/security reasons.

Litigators may not view the collection without approval.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may apply.

Language of Materials


Additional Description


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


Additions to this collection are expected over time.

Separated Material

Chamber of Commerce of the United States photographs and audiovisual materials (Accession 1993.230), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Chamber of Commerce of the United States records
Michael H. Nash
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
Script of description:

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA