The Chamber of Commerce of West Philadelphia, a branch of the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia, was founded in 1939 by a group of local businessmen and women led by Harry O. J. Childs. The group represented companies doing business in the district, comprising all of Philadelphia west of the Schuylkill River. Board members were chosen to represent the major businesses and institutions within the area while proprietors of small, independent businesses were encouraged to join as regular members, and to participate in Chamber activities and committees.
The Chamber worked closely with the major educational institutions in West Philadelphia including the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and the Philadelphia College of Pharamacy and Science. The Chamber also worked with several local high schools to develop vocational training for students.
The Chamber's primary purpose was political advocacy on behalf of businesses in the region. In the early years, the Chamber was concerned with capital improvements, particularly mass-transit as well as road and highway construction. The Chamber also maintained a special relationship with the major transportation hub within the district, the Philadelphia International Airport.
The Chamber aligned itself with the Greater Philadelphia Chamber politically, and generally supported Republican candidates for city-wide office. The Board consistently opposed increases in city and state taxes on businesses. By the late 1960s, rising crime and high business taxes had raised the cost of doing business in the district. These factors led to a substantial relocation of businesses out of the West Philadelphia area and the Chamber launched concerted membership drives to attract new members. In the end, the predominantly white Chamber's political clout appears to have been steadily eclipsed by the rise of competing advocacy groups, such as the Urban League, who worked on behalf of the largely African-American population of West Philadelphia.
COLLECTION OVERVIEWThe collection includes the minutes from most meetings, financial records, committee files and correspondence, resolutions, press releases and policy statements from the Board on behalf of its members, and a nearly-complete collection of the Chamber's Awards Banquet programs.
The records have been divided into five series:
Series 1. Administrative. Constitution and By-Laws, 1967-1979. Minutes of meetings, including executive committee, Board of Directors, annual membership, and special committees not covered in Series 2. Also includes record of attendance at meetings, and notices of upcoming meetings.
Series 2. Committees. Records of the Chamber's individual committees: Ad-Hoc Committee on Vacant Buildings, Awards, Education, Finance, Membership, Nominating, Publicity, and Self Evaluation.
Series 3. Public Affairs. Records of actions taken by the Chamber with regards to matters of public concern. Also includes records and literature from other community and governmental organizations describing or explaining individual programs or initiatives.
Series 4. Correspondence. Routine correspondence not otherwise covered by Series 2 or 3. Contains letters from members notifying the Board of Directors of a change in membership status, as well as queries from non-members about business and employment opportunities in the area, or questions about a particular member business.
Series 5. Annual Awards Banquet. Includes a collection of the official program from the Chamber's Annual Awards Banquet as well as records pertaining to the conduct of the banquet.
Deposited by the organization through Alan B. Gross, President, 3624 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19104, December 1981 and November 1983.