chamber of commerce, local association of business people organized to promote the welfare of their community, especially its commercial interests. Each chamber of commerce usually has an elected board of directors, and its work is done through committees. Among the activities frequently carried on by these committees are industrial surveys and efforts to attract new industries to the city, the provision of information and advice to government on topics ranging from labor disputes to taxes, and the promotion of tourism in cities.
The chambre de commerce of Marseilles (1599) was the first organization to use the name; the idea spread through France in the 17th and 18th cent. The first to be formed in Great Britain was on the island of Jersey (1768). In America the first was the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York, organized in 1768. By 1870 there were 40 throughout the United States.
The local chambers are federated in the United States Chamber of Commerce (founded 1912), which maintains at its Washington, D.C., headquarters a technical staff and lobbies in the interests of its member organizations. Its membership includes 3 million companies, 3,000 state and local chapters, and 830 business associations; American chambers are located in 82 foreign countries, and those of other countries have offices in the United States. The International Chamber of Commerce (founded 1920) promotes open international trade and investment. Its headquarters are in Paris.
See also trade association.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.