Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce - About us

Chamber History

Williamsport Lycoming Shamber of CommerceMarch 2010

This is the fourth in a series of articles taking a look back at the Chamber’s history in celebration of its 125th Anniversary.  The Chamber was founded on December 15, 1885 as the Williamsport Board of Trade.

(Note: Last month part of this column spoke about the Chamber Board supporting a public referendum in 1927 that called for the City of Williamsport to purchase the Williamsport Water Company. At the time I wrote that I could not find in the Chamber Minutes what the outcome of the vote was that year.  Well, I should have realized who would have the answer – my good friends at the J.V. Brown Library. Janice Trapp had a copy of the newspaper with the headline:  “Purchase of Water Works Authorized by Big Vote” forwarded to me. So, thanks Janice for that and all the good work the Library does every day!! And, as Paul Harvey would say:  “And that’s the rest of the story.”)

            As I have been researching the history of the Chamber, it becomes apparent that the more things change, the more they seem to remain the same.  Since the founding of the Chamber in 1885 the lives of the every day person has changed dramatically.  Think of the changes technology alone has brought upon us in the last 125 years.  Yet, as I read the minutes and annual reports, many of the issues that rule our life have not changed.  At the December 15 1932 Meeting of the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce after several business items and a commemoration of it being the anniversary of the Chamber’s founding, the following resolution was passed.  Read it and see if you are surprised how little has really changed:
            “Whereas,  It is estimated that the total expenditures of all governments in the United States, federal, state and local will amount to $15,000,000,000 in 1932, the federal government being responsible for 30%, state governments for 15% and local governments for 55%, an
            Whereas, The gross income of the American people for 1932 has been estimated as between $45,000,000,000 and $60,000,000,000, which means that the people will spend between 1/3 and 1/4 of their gross income either directly or indirectly for the support of government, and

            Whereas, In the past the citizens demand for more and better public service had been the chief factor in driving up government costs, it now becomes apparent that it’s the first duty of every citizen and every office holder to see to it that public expenditures are reduced and services curtailed if necessary to the end that the tax burden may be brought in line with the sharp deflation that has hit all private business and homes.
            THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, That the Directors of the Williamsport Chamber of Commerce urge our representatives in the federal, state and local governments to use their utmost endeavors to secure a reduction of essential governmental functions in order that the burden of taxation on our citizens may be lessened and the budget balanced and,
            FURTHER, BE IT RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be sent to our representatives in Washington, Harrisburg as well as to our county, city and school officials having jurisdiction over the making of appropriations and who are responsible to the people for collecting and administering public funds from tax sources and from whom the people demand relief from this great burden.”
            I believe that if I added some zeros and changed the percentages in the first and second paragraphs above to accurately reflect current numbers, the Board of Directors of the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce would probably unanimously endorse this resolution again. 
            Ironically, at the same Board meeting, the Directors passed another resolution decrying the fact that the United States Rubber Company was forced to close their plant in Williamsport because of cheap imports.  The Resolution stated, in part, “...Throughout the United States many other manufacturing companies have closed their factories or greatly reduced the number of their employees because of this ruinous competition, due to the disparity in exchange and the low wages and prices of materials in these countries…” The resolution goes on to urge all citizens and businesses to support American made products and American companies. 
            After reading these two resolutions passed in 1932 I am forced to ask “Don’t we ever learn?”  I suppose the old adage that says something like “Those who do not learn from history are forced to repeat it” is as true today as ever.