Charles Hay and Cindy Jeffries
Greater Richmond area Chamber of Commerce Collection
Eastern Kentucky University ArchivesRichmond, Kentucky 40475-3102
This collection is open for research.
[Identification of item], Greater Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce Collection, 1931-1983, University Archives, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond.
9.25 cubic feet, 15,750 Items, 21 Boxes, 4 Wrapped Packets
The Greater Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce was established in late 1931. A group of concerned progressive minded civic and business leaders with conservative fiscal views desired a Chamber that could "deal effectively with local civic problems and it would be the instrument, thru which the business welfare of the city could be promoted."1 (See the Richmond Register, November 18, 1931, p. 1). Chamber's of Commerce experience rapid growth throughout the United States during the 1920s in response to greatly expanded business and industrial activities. Creation of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce was in part a response to this development and also a reaction to the growing economic depression which gripped Kentucky and the nation. Richmond Mayor William O'Neil, cashier of the Madison Southern Bank and active Chamber supporter, felt that the "time is here when Richmond and Madison County must present a united front to the world if we hope to hold the business we now have and get tnat which should come to us."2 (See the Richmond Register, November 27, 1931, p. 1)
The initial organizational meeting of the Chamber was held on November 17, 1931 at the Hotel Gibson. Postmaster Burton Roberts assumed the position of chairman for the organizational campaign. Roberts appointed five captains--George Fawkes, manager of Kentucky Utilities; G.L. Borders, insurance agent; William DeBardeleben, manager of Woolworth's; J.W. Elder, Elder Dry Goods Company; and H.B. Willoughby, Willoughby Coal Company-to seek members and solicit funds for the Chamber. A community dinner held at the First Baptist Church in early December 1931 helped to generate interest and growth in the new Chamber. By the time of the Chamber's first general meeting on December 14, 1931 there were approximately 160 individuals, firms and associations who had become charter members.
On December 23, 1931 officers and a Board of Directors were selected by the membership. Original Board members included--B.E. Willis, G. Marshall Brock, David J. Copeland, H. Bennett Farris, George W. Fawkes, J.W. Hamilton, W.P. Millard, Burton Roberts, George T. Ross, H.B. Willoughby, Allen H. Douglas, and Keen Johnson. The first offices elected were-President - H. Bennett Farris; Vice President - Burton Roberts; Treasurer Allen Douglas; and Secretary - Marshall Brock. A full time secretary, Frank H. Shaffer of New Castle, Pennsylvania, was also employed. Chamber headquarters were located in the Hotel Glyndon and remained there until 1975 when it was relocated to its present location at the corner of Irvine and First Streets.
Through the years the Chamber has experienced a remarkable degree of consistency and stability largely due to the able direction provided by its executive directors--C.D. Oldham, Howard L. Colyer and Sue Chenault. The Chamber has had four different names through the years--Richmond Chamber of Commerce (1932-1945), Richmond Board of Trade (1945-1961), Richmond Chamber of Commerce (1961-1975), and Greater Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce (1975-).
Although through the years the Chamber has witnessed many striking changes in the history of Richmond, its goals remain virtually unchanged. The Chamber has stood for improving the community's economic status by encouraging business and industry to locate in Richmond, it has actively promoted Madison County's unique historical and scenic tourist attractions, strongly encouraged the development of a county airport facility, helped to control fraudulent business and advertising schemes, and served as a liaison between the Blue Grass Army Depot and Eastern Kentucky University and the community.
In the summer of 1982, the Board of Directors of the Greater Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce voted to deposit permanently all their non-current files in the Eastern Kentucky University Archives. The records were removed from the Chamber's office on two separate occasions. At all times the Archives staff has tried to maintain the original order of the records. There are, however, several large gaps within the records. Subject files for the first twenty-five years of the Chamber's history are virtually non-existent, and the minutes of the Board of Directors meetings for the last decade are incomplete. Researchers will find some information in the Scrapbook Series that will help supplement these areas of insufficient documentation According to the provisions of the Agreement of Permanent Deposit the entire collection is open to research.
The major portion of the Chamber's records chronicle the economic history of Richmond during much of the twentieth century. Like most chamber's across the United States, the Chamber has actively promoted commercial and industrial development in Richmond. But the Chamber has also concerned itself with the social and cultural life of the community. Information in the Scrapbook Series is especially useful in documenting the Chamber's efforts to help develop Fort Boonesborough and White Hall as major tourist attractions. The Chamber injected itself into local, state, and at times national political issues. When threatened with the closing of the Blue Grass Army Depot, members of the Chamber vigorously lobbied state and national political leaders to keep the Depot open. The Chamber's records reflect these issues and others.
The Archives is indebted to Mrs. Sue Chenault, Executive Director of the Greater Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce, for helping secure the records.
The Minutes Series contains one box of materials arranged in chronological order covering the years 1931-1977. The minutes document the major decisions and policies made by the Chamber's governing body, the Board of Directors. There are significant gaps in the minutes from 1969 to 1977.
The Publication Series contains three boxes of materials covering the years 1963-1977. Most of the publications in this series are the Opportunity for Progress reports distributed by the Chamber of Commerce.
The Subject Series covers the years 1931-1980 and contains 16 boxes of materials arranged in alphabetical order by topic and chronologically within each subject. The bulk of the series consists of general correspondence of a routine nature from individuals or corporations requesting information about the economic, social, and geographic conditions of Richmond and Madison County. Of particular interest is the All Kentucky City Report correspondence which should be used in conjunction with the Opportunity for Progress publications found in the Publication Series. These reports provide abundant information about businesses, industries, social, political, and economic concerns of Richmond. In 1975 Richmond won the coveted All Kentucky City award and in 1977 was elected to the Hall of Fame. Most of the materials found in the Kentucky and United States Chamber of Commerce files primarily consist of publications from those organizations. The series reflects the conserted effort of Richmond's business andeducational leaders to attract industry to the community.
The Scrapbook Series consists of four wrapped packets consisting primarily of newsclippings from the Richmond Register covering the years 1934 to 1975. The materials cover a wide range of Chamber activities and document major developments in the history of the city of Richmond.
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