History

Prepared by Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce 
with the Brooklyn Historical Society

 

Founded on February 6, 1918, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce was, even then, a “modern” organization that spoke to the needs of Brooklyn’s business community. The early Brooklyn Chamber saw itself as protector and promoter of the commercial and industrial interests of the city, which would develop and keep alive an active, civic spirit, and guard and improve the living conditions and social welfare of the citizens of the community.

One of the Brooklyn Chamber’s earliest efforts to link business and community began in 1922 with the Manufacturers Industrial Show highlighting Brooklyn’s leading producers. Held at the 23rd Regiment Armory, the exposition involved more than 200 Brooklyn manufacturers. The show attracted thousands of Brooklynites each day, with one afternoon set aside for visits by students and teachers of high schools and technical schools.

The Brooklyn Chamber was at the forefront of social change when in February 1922, it voted to open its membership to 16 women. Eight months later, the Brooklyn Chamber had 57 female Members. One involved Member, Dr. Eliza Mosher, organized the Cleaner Brooklyn Committee. At the time of her death in 1928, Dr. Mosher was the oldest practicing woman physician in the U.S.

In 1925, 325 Brooklyn Chamber Members traveled 9,000 miles to educate America about Brooklyn on the Brooklyn Chamber's transcontinental Trade and Good Will Trip. The nine-month trip covered the "Middle Western States."

By 1927, less than 10 years after its founding, the Brooklyn Chamber was the second largest in the U.S.  By the 1930s, with the onset of the Depression, the Brooklyn Chamber worked to bolster Brooklyn businesses and address unemployment. The Brooklyn Chamber developed the All Brooklyn Progress Movement.

The Brooklyn Chamber's partnerships with other borough organizations dates back to the 1940s when the Brooklyn Dodgers President Larry Mac Phail insisted that visiting National League baseball clubs stay in Brooklyn hotels while they played against the Dodgers.

In 1964, the Brooklyn Chamber produced Everybody Knows Brooklyn, a full-length film showcasing the borough and its neighborhoods.  An early attempt to promote tourism in the borough, the Chamber distributed a “Passport to Brooklyn,” which held a 15-cent subway token. During the 1965 World's Fair, RCA broadcasted Everybody Knows Brooklyn on its network.

In the 1970s, the increase in crime across the city caused Brooklyn's merchants to take unified action. With the assistance of the Brooklyn Chamber, shopkeepers on Livingston Street formed the Livingston Street Committee that worked with the local police precinct chiefs to increase officers on patrol.

In 1976, the ten-year old Downtown Brooklyn Development Association (DBDA) merged with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. Later that year, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm spoke about “revitalizing Brooklyn” at the Chamber's Annual Meeting. The Chamber took heed of the Congresswoman's advice and began shaping programs to serve specific business populations.

In the 1980s, the U.S. Small Business Administration recognized the Brooklyn Chamber and its Minority and Women’s Business Development Committee for its outreach efforts, technical assistance and referrals on behalf of its minority and women-owned businesses.

By the late 1990s and into the 21st century, the Brooklyn Chamber embarked on promoting emerging industries with a series of programs such as BKLYN DESIGNS, Brooklyn Goes Global, Good Help and Brooklyn Eats, which all continue as signature programs of the Chamber to this day.  Over the past three years, the Chamber has experienced unprecedented growth, exceeding over 2000 Members and launching several exciting initiatives across the borough such as Brooklyn Made, Chamber-On-The-Go, and Explore BK.  

As Brooklyn continues to dramatically evolve, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce consistently works to offer top-quality services and new opportunities for its Members, and to advance the borough through outstanding promotion, support and advocacy as Brooklyn’s leading economic development organization.