Little Bits of History

Chamber of Commerce

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 5, 2014
Chamber of Commerce

Chamber of Commerce

April 5, 1768: New York City formed the first Chamber of Commerce in the colonies. In some places, these are also called a board of trade but regardless of the name bestowed, it is a form of business network used to further the interests of businesses. The first chamber of commerce was founded in 1599 in Marseille, France. The idea didn’t immediately take root and it was another 65 years before another popped up in what is now part of the Spanish Netherlands – Brugge. This is the world’s oldest English speaking chamber. The oldest continuously operating English speaking one is the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce which was founded in 1783.

These groups do not have any government functionality but they can work to lobby for laws or regulations to improve business. They do not have any active process in writing laws. They can range in size from just a few dozen members to over 300,000 as in the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry. There are some who speculate that China has even larger groups. These can be stand alone groups which are concerned with purely local issues or they can join together and even coalesce into an international organization.

In the US, they are not to be confused with the Better Business Bureau which can actually bar members if there are a number of valid complaints against the business. Instead, the Chamber membership is purely voluntary and their main focus is to protect the businesses involved rather than the BBB whose focus is to protect the consumer from shoddy business practices. Chambers of Commerce can help with economic development of a region through their lobbying effort as well as help with tourism and visitors bureaus.

Twenty New York City merchants met at Bolton and Sigel’s Tavern on this day and formed the first Chamber in what would become the US. The tavern was in a building leased from Samuel Fraunces and is today called Fraunces Tavern. The New York Chamber of Commerce was designed to protect and promote the businesses of New York City, not yet a raging business metropolis. They moved their headquarters to the Royal Exchange in 1770 and were granted a royal charter from King George III in that year. During the Revolutionary War, the chamber split along party lines with some loyalists and some patriot members. The patriots fled the city during the war years and returned only at the end of hostilities. When the British evacuated in 1783, the patriot Chamber members returned and took up lodgings in the Merchants’ Coffee House and were issued a new charter the following year.

Money, not morality, is the principle commerce of civilized nations. – Thomas Jefferson

Perfect freedom is as necessary to the health and vigor of commerce as it is to the health and vigor of citizenship. – Patrick Henry

Not just in commerce but in the world of ideas too our age is putting on a veritable clearance sale. Everything can be had so dirt cheap that one begins to wonder whether in the end anyone will want to make a bid. – Soren Kierkegaard

What prudent merchant will hazard his fortunes in any new branch of commerce when he knows not that his plans may be rendered unlawful before they can be executed? – James Madison

Also on this day: Joseph Lister – In 1827, Joseph Lister was born.
Salt March – In 1930, Gandhi reached the sea and gathered salt.
Wedding Bells – In 1614, John Rolfe married Pocahontas.
Big Heads – In 1722, Easter Island was discovered by Europeans.


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