The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
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Collection Title: Hattiesburg Area Chamber of Commerce Records
Collection Number: M216
Dates: 1906-1911, 1930-1933, December 1934-1935, 1937-1982
Volume: 5.5 cu. ft.
The Hattiesburg Area Chamber of Commerce began in 1906 as the Commercial Club of Hattiesburg. Its original purpose was "to procure by all proper and feasible means, the greatest development of Hattiesburg and this particular section of the State of Mississippi, along commercial manufacturing, agricultural and educational lines, and to foster a supreme respect for law and order, leading to a higher standard of municipal character." (from the Charter of the Commercial Club of Hattiesburg)
The twelve original incorporators were W.W. Crawford, L.L. Major, F.W. Foote, Ashby Foote, S.L. Heidelberg, M.G. Field, William Moffett, Jr., John Conner, A.C. Cherry, A.F. Thomasson, Victor M. Scanlan, and J.C. Ballard, who were all elected directors at the first meeting on Wednesday, April 25, 1906. Also elected at that first meeting were the following officers: president, W.W. Crawford; 1st vice president, A.F. Thomason; 2nd vice president,, L.L. Major; secretary and treasurer, A.C. Cherry. In addition, the Charter and By-Laws were adopted at that first meeting.
The Charter had already been approved by Governor James K. Vardaman on April 16, 1906, and had been recorded in the office of the Mississippi Secretary of State on April 24, 1906, and in the Chancery Clerk's office in Hattiesburg. The first members were admitted at the second meeting which was held May 4, 1906.
By 1909 the Club had a paid secretary who earned $50 a month plus expenses. By 1910, the Commercial Club had a membership of seventy-five.
From August 1915, until sometime after August 1916 (or possibly until sometime in 1918) the Club operated without a paid secretary. In July 1915, immediately after the secretary turned in his resignation, a long editorial in the Hattiesburg News stated that the Club had been a near failure for the last four or five years and that it should now "put up or shut up," i.e., do something or disband. The editor, F.D. Lander, who was a member of the Board of Directors, felt that for an effective organization which could "deliver the goods", "two things were needed: a secretary experienced in that line of work and the money to allow him to do his best work. At the annual meeting in December 1915, the president announced that for the first time in the history of the club it was free of debt.
On February 21, 1918, the Commercial Club, after a very successful membership drive, completely reorganized itself, adopted a new constitution and set of by-laws, elected a new slate of officers, and changed its name to the Chamber of Commerce of Hattiesburg.
In June 1933, the Hattiesburg Chamber was incorporated and in 1934 it affiliated with the state Chamber of Commerce. In 1937 the Chamber was instrumental in forming the Hattiesburg Community Council, whose purpose it was to coordinate the activities of the various civic, educational, recreational, cultural, and beautification organizations in the community.
The approach of World War II brought the organization of the Mississippi Camp Shelby Cooperative Association in November 1940, under the auspices of the Chamber. Its purpose was to create a larger interest in the economic welfare of south Mississippi and to prepare this section of the state for its large and increasing responsibilities to Camp Shelby.
In 1961 the Hattiesburg Chamber joined the Mississippi Economic Council. Also in 1961 the Park & Shop, Ride & Shop Division of the Chamber was organized for the purpose of relieving the parking and traffic problems in the downtown area of Hattiesburg. Then in 1965 the Forrest County Industrial Development Board was organized as a division of the Chamber and later employed its first director in 1966. It continues to be funded jointly by the city, the county, and the Chamber.
Recognition of the expanded concerns of the Chamber brought about a name change in 1967 to the Hattiesburg Area Chamber of Commerce and the solicitation of members of the whole county. It also meant an increased interest in agricultural matters.
In 1970, after a self study and inspection by representatives of the United States Chamber of Commerce, the local Chamber of Commerce was accredited, meaning it was cited as meeting standards of performance in planning, programming, and conducting a well-balanced, productive program of work.
In 1971 the Forrest County Industrial Development Board created a separate corporation, the Hattiesburg Area Development Corporation, which raised capital through the sale of stock to the local community. Proceeds were used to purchase land for the creation of an industrial park, which was then sold to the city.
The Hattiesburg Area Chamber of Commerce remains an on-going, viable organization, active in promoting the economic and industrial development of the Hattiesburg-Forrest County area.
The primary purpose of both the Hattiesburg Area Chamber of Commerce and its predecessor, the Commercial Club of Hattiesburg, has been the economic and industrial development of Hattiesburg and the surrounding trade area. During the early part of the twentieth century the major concerns of the Commercial Club were: locating South Mississippi College (forerunner of William Carey College) and the State Normal School (which later became the University of Southern Mississippi) in Hattiesburg, dissatisfaction with the freight rates being charged by the railroads to the merchants of Hattiesburg (which led to at least two legal actions before the Interstate Commerce Commission), good roads in Forrest County, making the Leaf River navigable up to Hattiesburg, and bringing new businesses and industries to Hattiesburg.
Prior to World War II the major objectives of the chamber were: promoting industrial development to replace the declining lumber industry, securing hard-surface roads and national highways in the Hattiesburg trade area, and relieving unemployment in Hattiesburg and the surrounding trade area. World War II took care of the first and last of these objectives, but virtually halted the highway program.
Following the War, emphasis was put on securing industries, promoting agriculture, and developing the airport and local highways (particularly farm-to-market). Parking and traffic problems in the business district also received the Chamber's attention. In addition, efforts were made to have Camp Shelby made a permanent military installation.
In 1950 as the war situation in Korea became threatening, the Chamber worked on getting Camp Shelby reopened, procuring other military installations and obtaining military industries. Efforts to secure new industries and assist in the expansion of existing industries continued apace. This has continued to be the primary concern of the Chamber in the ensuing years. The organizational records contained in this collection generally document these activities and concerns.
The records in this collection consist of minutes, membership records, and financial records for the years 1906-1911 and 1930-1982. They fill one handwritten journal, 124 folders, and one oversized ledger, all of which are contained in 12 boxes. The first folder in box 1 is an historical folder containing a list of presidents (through 1986), a list of living past presidents (as of May 1985), a photocopy of the synopsis of the 1910 report of the secretary of the Commercial Club, and copies of various newspaper articles about the Commercial Club and the Chamber of Commerce, as well as some handwritten notes listing newspaper articles about the Commercial Club.
The minutes of the Board of Directors of the Chamber begin with the 1906-1911 handwritten minutes of the Commercial Club of Hattiesburg, forerunner of the Chamber. After a sizeable gap they continue again from 1930-1933, then December 1934-1935, and finally from 1937-1977. They frequently include minutes of the annual meetings and occasionally include minutes of various committees. They also include, but very infrequently, the president's annual report. When these reports are present, they are regularly included in the Board minutes and, beginning in 1945, so are the auditor's annual reports. From time to time legal papers of various kinds (contracts, etc.) are made part of the minutes. Occasionally newspaper articles are also incorporated into the minutes. These minutes fill the first five boxes of the collection and are arranged chronologically.
The membership records (in ledger form) cover the period 1958-1982 and include separate pages for the Forrest County Industrial Development Board for 1966-1967. These records list the dues paid by each member during the period of their membership. They are contained in boxes 6-8.
Financial records are located in boxes 9-10 and 12 oversize ledger. The General and Special Ledger (in box 12) covers 1944-1950 and also contains the cash journal for the "Keep Hattiesburg Ahead Drive" of December 1948. Other general ledgers cover the years 1946-1979. Also part of the financial records is the estimated budget for 1949; income tax and unemployment tax returns for 1949-1962, 1964, 1966-1967, and 1972-1978; and the auditor's reports for 1944, 1947-1948, 1951, 1953, 1955-1964, 1966, 1968-1972, and 1974-1977.
Box II contains several minor series in rough chronological order. The three most important of these series are the Mississippi Camp Shelby Cooperative Association, the Post-War Development Fund, and the Park & Shop, Ride & Shop Division Records. In the first folder is a 1931 letter from W.O. Tatum (then president of the Chamber) to T.S. Jackson (then secretary of the Chamber) transmitting copies of three telegrams that Tatum had sent to the Mississippi Railroad Commission and to the Illinois Central Railroad making "vigorous protest" against moving the passenger station from one location to another in Hattiesburg. Folder 2 contains some 1940-1941 records of the Mississippi Camp Shelby Cooperative Association. These consist of a photocopy of a November 1940 newspaper clipping describing the organizational meeting, minutes covering November 1940-March 1941 (including Executive Committee and Board of Trustees minutes), and its charter of incorporation, by-laws, and a resolution to acquire more land for Camp Shelby. Ledgers covering the one-month campaign to raise money for the Post-War Development Fund are in folder 3-7. Folder 8 contains financial records of the Chamber of Commerce Building Fund for 1961, 1963-1964, and 1967-1969.
Records of the Park & Shop Division of the Chamber (box 11, folders 9-14) include proposed by-laws; rules and regulations; operators agreement; minutes for 1961, 1963-1975; financial records for 1963-1977; and reports of the Park & Shop stamp program for 1969-1978. Folder 15 contains the bound, 32-page 1964 report of the Hattiesburg-Forrest County Joint Committee Report on Industrial Development Council. The treasurer's monthly reports for November 1977-December 1978 (missing November 1978) are in folder 16. The minutes of the Hattiesburg Community Council (folder 17-19) cover 1941-1946 and include a photocopy of a newspaper article about the Council and its ten years of service. The last folder in this box contains an unidentified black-and-white portrait photograph of a gentleman, probably made in the 1920's or 30's.
Missing from the collection, are the 1918 constitution and by-laws, most of the president's annual reports, and the minutes of the Forrest County Industrial Development Board. The Chamber has published periodic bulletins; however, none are in the collection and very little is known about them.