Chambers of Commerce

By: Carl A. Blasig

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: May 1, 1995

The first two chambers of commerce in Texas were chartered by the Republic of Texas. Houston founded its chamber on January 28, 1840, seventy-two years after the organization of the first chamber of commerce in the United States. The Galveston chamber was chartered on February 3, 1845. The United States census of 1850 listed thirty towns in Texas. Only ten towns had a population over 1,000, and Galveston, the largest, had only 4,177 residents. More than a decade after the Civil War, when Texas had seventy-five urban communities, several other cities organized commercial associations-Austin in 1877, Fort Worth in 1882, Gainesville in 1888, Hillsboro in 1890, Dallas in 1893, San Antonio in 1894, Marlin in 1898, Waco in 1899, and Port Arthur in 1899.

The commercial-organization movement gained full momentum during the first decade of the twentieth century. In 1900 Texas had 124 urban centers; forty-five additional towns appeared in the 1910 census. Growing urban populations awakened a competitive spirit among the businessmen of the various communities in quest of their full share of prosperity. Realizing the advantages of organized effort, businessmen in every city in Texas organized chambers of commerce before the decade ended.

While vigorously building their own communities, Texas business interests moved rapidly into a program of statewide cooperation. Chamber of commerce executives organized their statewide association in 1906. Two years later the Texas Business Men's Association was founded. It functioned successfully as the first statewide chamber of commerce until 1914, when its career was abruptly ended by a temporary court injunction secured by the state attorney general on grounds that the association engaged in politics. The charge was never proved, and the lawsuit was dismissed five years later. Local chambers of commerce had not been included in the injunction. Upon recommendation of the post-World War I Readjustment Conference, the Texas Chamber of Commerce was formed in April 1919 but was dissolved four years later because Texas businessmen preferred regional organizations. The powerful West Texas Chamber of Commerce was founded in February 1919. Although rudimentary commercial associations existed in other sections, additional regional chambers of commerce were not founded until 1926, when the present East Texas Chamber of Commerce was organized on March 24, and the South Texas Chamber of Commerce on November 16. The Lower Rio Grande Valley Chamber of Commerce began in 1944. Chambers of commerce have been the propelling force in promoting highways, transportation, industry, business, agriculture, tourism, new community facilities and services, and applying new techniques to keep abreast of constantly changing economic and political conditions. In 1988 the regional chambers of commerce merged to form the Texas Chamber of Commerce. In 1995 a further merger with the Texas Association of Business created the Texas Association of Business and Chambers of Commerce.

Carl A. Blasig, Building Texas (Brownsville, Texas: Springman-King, 1963). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Carl A. Blasig, “Chambers of Commerce,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 22, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995