A Bold Beginning

In the mid 1880s, the country was discovering Los Angeles. The population was 11,200 and was climbing to 70,000 when tight credit and a collapsed real estate market caused the boom to become a bust. By 1888, 1,000 people a month were leaving L.A.

Public leadership failed to respond, but three men — all recent immigrants to L.A. — stepped in and called a meeting in rooms above a stable at 1st and Broadway streets. At that meeting, Major Edward W. Jones was selected to chair the organizational meetings and became the first chair of what became the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.  

The organization rapidly became the driving force in all things related to L.A. The Chamber was friends to Republican and Democratic officials alike — as long as they would support Los Angeles. 

An early goal was to connect with Washington — an even more distant, national capital in those days — and lobby Congress to create a deep water port. At the same time a promotional campaign was organized that reached an estimated 10 million people in the first 25 years. With the movies filming scenes in L.A. beginning in the early part of the 20th century, L.A. became the most promoted city on the planet. By 1900, the population had climbed to 102,500. And by 1910, it had tripled to more than 300,000. 

Oranges and other agricultural products were a big focus for selling property, and as they said, “You buy the weather and health, and we’ll throw in the property.” 

Boosters made a population of two million their goal, but they needed a bigger and better source of water to support a population of that size. With that in mind, in the early 1900s, the Chamber vigorously supported the L.A. Aqueduct and the required legislation and bonds to fund it. 

The Chamber also recognized the need for good manufacturing jobs, and therefore, mobilized a national effort to secure plants and factories in the region. This effort extended to building markets both nationally and abroad for local products. Aiming to fuel more trade through the Port of Los Angeles, the Chamber focused on securing a shipping canal in Central America. In 1914, the Panama Canal opened and further connected L.A. to the world. 

By 1928, the framework for what we call Los Angeles was essentially laid out and the Chamber made that happen. The City reached the booster goal of a population of two million around 1950, but Los Angeles County had long before exceeded that vision. As was said in earlier days, the Chamber had “the vision to see, the faith to believe and the courage to do.”

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