In the United States, the first chamber was founded for the State of New York to rally against the Stamp Act of 1765. By 1890 there were forty local Chambers in the U.S. These early organizations were founded to protect and promote commerce, and gradually emerged as civic leaders as business people realized that their prosperity depended on the development of a successful, prosperous community. Today there are over 5,000 Chambers in the U.S. Since the 1960’s their role has expanded to become more involved in city development, urban renewal and planning, while maintaining the original mission of promoting and protecting commerce.
In Monterey, the “Monterey” Chamber of Commerce evolved from a Merchants’ Association that was formed early in the 1900’s. In January 1908, the minutes of the Chamber meeting report that, by decree of the Superior Court of the County of Monterey, the name of the Merchants’ Association had been changed to “Monterey Chamber of Commerce.”
Just a few of the Chamber’s many early projects included beautifying public areas, filling mud holes in strategic places, exterminating rats, expanding street lighting in the downtown area, working with neighboring Pacific Grove on possibly forming a joint High School, inviting organizations to come to Monterey for conventions and celebrations, purchasing local maps for distribution to tourists, organizing community parades and celebrations, paying for repairs to the First Theatre, exhibiting at the State Fair, raising funds to establish parks and ball fields for children, supporting plans for a new library, lobbying for the designation of Pinnacles as a National Monument, and working with the Federal government for the construction of a breakwater in the Monterey Bay.
Over the years, the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce has promoted civic and economic improvement, spearheaded street and beach clean-up programs, promoted tourism and historic preservation, focused attention on transportation issues, and fostered civic pride. It has promoted school bond and library bond tax measures. It established a “Citizen of the Year” recognition program. In the 1940’s it established a Better Business Bureau to help consumers make good choices about the reliability of local businesses and services. It launched programs to encourage local shopping. It developed cooperative relationships with other business organizations and Chambers of Commerce. It signed a Sister City contract with the Nanao, Japan Chamber and traveled with a delegation of City leaders to the Japanese fishing community. In the early years, it operated an office and visitors’ center where people can learn more about the community and its many attractions. The Chamber expanded in 1949 to serve the entire area encompassing the nearby cities of Carmel, Del Rey Oaks, Marina, Pacific Grove, Marina, Sand City, and Seaside as well as the neighboring unincorporated areas including Big Sur, Carmel Valley, Carmel Highlands, and Pebble Beach. It continues to work toward a successful, vibrant business and social climate on the
The Founders of the Monterey Chamber of Commerce
The Chamber’s first slate of officers included President, Leroy D. Lacey; 2nd Vice President, Dr. E.K. Abbot; 3rd Vice President I. N. Swetman; Secretary William Sandholdt, Jr.; and Treasurer, J. H Phillips. Harry Greene was head of the Promotion Committee.
William Sandholdt, a lawyer, journalist, and later a primary developer of Moss Landing served as Chamber Secretary in its founding years. He was active in State and local politics, and was the feisty editor of a local daily paper, The Monterey American which he used as a platform for his political views, often clashing with some of the municipal government. Sandholdt is recognized as the force behind the adoption of the City Manager form of local government. One of his hard-won battles was a long-term lease of the municipal wharf to a private steamship company in favor of a City-operated municipal wharf. In 1919, Sandholdt consolidated two local newspapers under the name of Cypress-American, which he sold in 1923 to the publisher of the Peninsula Herald.
Leroy D. Lacey, first President of the Monterey Chamber of Commerce, was the son of a pioneering family whose family operated a blacksmith and livery business. Lacey was a harnessmaker a butcher during this business career and served on the Board of Directors of the First National Bank of Monterey. He is best known, however, as an ardent and tireless civic leader. The preservation of Monterey traditions and historic places were his particular interests. He served as chair of the City’s Planning Commission, raised money to match state funds for the purchase of the Custom House, and was active in the Monterey History and Art Association.
Dr. Edwin K. Abbott was the Chamber’s Second Vice President when it was established in 1908. He occupied a position of importance and influence in the medical community and at one time held the rank of being the oldest physician in continuous practice on the Peninsula. He served as president of the Monterey County Medical Society and served as a director of the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History.
Dr. J.H. Phillips served as treasurer for the founding Monterey Chamber of Commerce. He was a respected optometrist and optician and a respected member of the professional community whose practice was located at 328 Alvarado. His home was located at 624 Van Buren Street.
Issac N. Swetman served as Third Vice President of the founding Chamber. He was in the lumber business and was affiliated with The Union Supply Company, which was located at the NW corner of Hoffman and Lighthouse in
Charles Salterback was a 40-year resident of Monterey, who arrived here from New Jersey in 1906 and was First Vice President and of the founding members of the Monterey Chamber of Commerce. He made his home at 410 Clay Street, and for many years was affiliated with the Climax Furniture Company on Alvarado Street. He served on the Monterey Public Library Board of Trustees in 1910.
The Board of Directors voted in 1982 to change the name of the Monterey Chamber of Commerce to the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce to reflect the regional nature of its membership. In 1996, the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau was formed as an independent organization to conduct county-wide destination marketing and provide visitor services. The Convention and Visitors Bureau operates two visitor centers in downtown Monterey. Today the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce is nearly 800 members strong and operates as a nonprofit 501(c)(6) business association located in the Ryan Ranch Office Park. The Chamber is committed to serving the business interests of the entire Peninsula by strengthening the regional economy, promoting the community, providing networking opportunities, representing the interests of business to government, participating in political action, and supporting a sustainable future.