Chamber History and Overview

As long as commerce has existed, traders have banded together. The first purpose of their association was perhaps to seek common protection against enemies. Eventually they established codes to govern trade, and then later they attempted to influence legislation. These early associations of traders have little in common with the Chamber of Commerce of the Millennium.

The first known use of the term “Chamber of Commerce” occurred in Marseilles, France, where such an organization was established by the City Council in the late 17th Century. European Chambers of Commerce differ considerably from the American organization. Although they are associations of business people, they operate frequently as quasi-public agencies, vested with administrative and judicial powers with respect to trade. The oldest Chamber of Commerce in America is that of the State of New York, organized in 1768 and charted by King George III in 1770. The second oldest is in Charleston, South Carolina, formed in 1773. By 1870 the number of local Chambers of Commerce had increased to forty. The early American Chambers, like their European counterparts, were organized for the protection and promotion of commerce. The establishment of the New York State Chamber for example, was a direct result of the obnoxious Stamp Tax Act.

In their role as associations of business professionals, the early Chambers of Commerce undertook its role to promote the sales of goods. They organized markets, enforced rules of trade and protected goods in transit, but their activities were limited to those directly concerned with commerce. The true community organization came later when business professionals realized that their own prosperity depended upon the development of a prosperous, healthy and happy community.

Prior to 1912, most local Chambers were primarily interested in attracting new industries to their community. Civic and commercial development took second place. Gradually Chambers came to recognize that industrial growth was dependent upon civic and commercial development. In fact, so much emphasis was placed on civic problems that many Chambers began to assume the character of civic associations. Their membership was all-inclusive and their program was largely one of promoting facilities. By 1925, it was perceived that Chambers, in order to be true to their purpose, must remain primarily business organizations and express the view of business.

Another major change took place with the advent of the New Deal in 1933, when governmental affairs at all levels became major items in the Chamber of Commerce programs. The Chamber of Commerce became the interpreter between government and business, and conversely, between business and government. In this field of activity, the Chamber of Commerce is assuming growing responsibilities and achieving increasing usefulness.

In 1965 the Chamber became interested and concerned about socio-economic problems. Businesses became interested in housing, welfare, education opportunities and job development for the unemployed, trying to raise the standards for all of them. Thus, appropriate programs were developed in this new field.

In the United States, there are nearly four thousand Chambers of Commerce, most of which serve local communities. There are also thirty-six State Chambers of Commerce, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Chamber Executives may belong to a National Professional Association and state Associations.

The Madera District Chamber of Commerce can trace its beginnings back to 1911, originally known as the Madera County Chamber of Commerce incorporated on October 24, 1911. The current Madera District Chamber of Commerce became incorporated under the laws of the State of California by filing its Articles of Incorporation through the State of California Secretary of State’s office on the 9th day of October, 1970.

A Chamber of Commerce is a voluntary organization representing all segments of the business community with the potential for marshaling the energies and efforts of its membership toward the accomplishment of common goals for a better community.

The Chamber advances the business community and stands to be the “home guard” of the free enterprise system. Our local projects include community service events, visitor development, public relations, retail promotions, economic development, legislation action, agribusiness and other projects working for solutions to community needs and problems.

The Chamber works through volunteer groups that analyze problems, develop solutions, and take action to achieve solutions. A professional staff is employed to assist committee members and carry out the day-to-day functions of the organization.

A Board of Directors elected by the membership determines the policies and procedures and employs an CEO/President who is responsible to the board for carrying out its administrative functions.

Since the Chamber is a voluntary organization, costs for operation and expense are proportioned among its members. Individual firms, representing all types of business, industry and professional fields, share a mutual desire to achieve a better community, thus making the Chamber of Commerce membership a tangible investment in the present and future welfare of both individuals and their community. The Chamber of Commerce is not governmentally funded. The main source of income is from membership and other fundraising activities.


  • Pay your annual membership dues promptly. This helps you by ensuring that you continue to receive your benefits in a timely manner, and it helps everyone in the organization because the financial base is there to provide the programs.
  • Join a committee if there is a program or project you are interested in.
  • Provide us with feedback, such as responding to our surveys or offering us any suggestions you may have regarding how to improve our services.
  • Ask us…if you have a question about what we are doing, why we are doing it, or even why aren’t we doing something, let us hear about it so that we may respond.
  • Let us know when you have a concern, suggestion, or when things are going well.
  • Attend events when you can, or if you can’t – support your fellow members in other ways.
  • Support other Chamber members – shop Chamber businesses first. Refer to your membership directory, or call the office for information on who is in the Chamber that can fulfill your needs.
  • Tell your business associates about the benefits of Chamber Membership and if they aren’t members themselves, offer them the opportunity to join your organization! We would be more than happy to meet with them.

The rewards of belonging to the Chamber are full-time representation and year-round results as the organization carries out the job that no individual, business or agency could alone achieve. Through serving on committees, coordinating activities and attending functions, every member has a voice in an organizational effort that is mutually beneficial to the community and themselves.

 NOT A MEMBER? Join now!

For a complete Membership Packet or any additional information regarding the Madera Chamber, please call (559) 673-3563 or email Toni Jordan.

For more information, contact the
Madera District Chamber of Commerce
120 North E Street, Madera, CA 93638-3215
(559) 673-3563

President/CEO, Debi Bray

Administrative Assistant, Toni Jordan