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San Diego Chamber of Commerce Records

Identifier: MS-0040

Scope and Contents

The San Diego Chamber of Commerce Records document the Chamber's activities and major Chamber-sponsored events in San Diego, such as the 1915 World Exposition at Balboa Park, San Diego's 200th Anniversary celebration, and the establishment of the University of California, San Diego. The majority of the material is from the 1950s-1970s and deals primarily with industrial growth and education, both of which directly relate to the Chamber's commitment to "broad-based economic value." The collection consists of newspaper clippings, promotional materials for San Diego events and attractions, correspondence, county data, meeting minutes, and committee reports. It is organized into two series:  Committee Files and Subject Files.

The Committee Files (1826-1980) document the activities of individual committees or departments, and how these committees shaped San Diego and its economy. The series provides evidence of each committee's work with small local businesses and with the California Chamber of Commerce and the State Legislature to increase the overall prosperity of San Diego in general, and the small business community in particular. The series is made up of 62 alphabetically filed sub series.

Each committee sub series is typically composed of committee correspondence, meeting minutes, news clippings, member lists, and action reports. The Education Committee, Industrial Department, Parks and Recreation Facilities Committee, Research and Information Department and both of the oceanic committees are most extensively documented. The Education Committee, the Industrial Department, and the Parks and Recreation Facilities Committee contain several sub-series. The Education Committee sub-series documents different aspects of education, such as higher education, public schools, and special needs beginning in the 1950's. Consequently, there is little information regarding San Diego State University. The Industrial Department sub series reflects various types of local industrial development, as illustrated by the Industrial and Business Development Committee and the Industrial and Economic Sub-Committee. The Parks and Recreation Committee sub series record land development projects the Chamber was involved with, such as Balboa Park and Mission Bay, and various projects the Committee implemented, such as Plant-a-Tree Week. The collection contains limited documentation for the Atomic Energy Committee, the Information Department and the Tourist Committee. These gaps in committee information usually tend to reflect either how active the committee was, or the Chamber's main priorities and how successfully it was able to achieve them.

Both the Baja California Committee and Mexico Committee files contain some documents in Spanish.  There are also several notes throughout the Committee Files which are written in shorthand. 

The Subject Files (1907-1980) consist of alphabetized files pertaining to Chamber of Commerce projects and/or specific community events, such as San Diego's 200th Anniversary celebration. The Subject Files document local business licenses, the promotion of San Diego as both a major tourist attraction and as a place to live, internal chamber meeting minutes, member lists, community events, the United States Department of Labor, and the United States Chamber of Commerce. In addition, an extensive amount of newspaper clippings serve to highlight the Chamber's successes and failures, and track the Chamber's progress with certain projects. There is also a wonderful collection of promotional materials dating back to 1907. In short,  a wide-range of materials are documented in the Subject Files.


  • Creation: 1826-1980
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1907-1980


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in some or all of these materials have not been transferred to San Diego State University. Copyright resides with the creator(s) of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. The nature of archival collections is such that multiple creators are often applicable and copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine. In any case, the user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, obtaining publication rights and copyright infringement. When requesting images from Special Collections & University Archives for publication, we require a signed agreement waiving San Diego State University of any liability in the event of a copyright violation.

Historical Note

Alonzo Horton established the San Diego Chamber of Commerce on 20 January, 1870, making it the second chamber of commerce on the west coast. Initially, the Chamber sought to promote San Diego as a place to live; it even created the first City Directory in 1874. In order to endorse San Diego, it advocated events such as the 1915 World Exhibition in Balboa Park. It also encouraged the establishment of military bases in San Diego. In 1917, during World War I, the city approved the creation of a Marine base and Naval Hospital. Later, in 1919, the United States Navy made San Diego the home base of its Pacific Fleet. Eventually Point Loma became the site of the Naval Training Center, and Miramar gained prestige as a naval air station. In 1942, the Navy acquired land that would later become Camp Pendleton. Hence, San Diego had firmly established itself as a major military center, which increased the overall prosperity of the county.

In 1944, the Navy began construction on an aqueduct that would bring water from the Colorado River to San Diego. Two years later, the city completed the aqueduct with the use of bonds, which the Chamber helped to attain. During this time, the Chamber also assisted with the development of Mission Bay Park, which officially opened in 1949. Similarly, turning Old Town into a historic state park also proved to be a major undertaking for the Chamber. In the early to mid 1970's the Chamber helped to organize Old Town's anniversary celebration and the creation of Old Town's Seeley Stables Hazard Museum.

Besides water and land development, both the Chamber and the City hoped to establish San Diego as a center for research, industry, and education. The Chamber launched its "Build Industrial Growth" (B.I.G.) campaign in 1956 in order to bring industry and research to San Diego. Ads, paid for and created by the Chamber, promoted San Diego as a fast-growing industrial center. It encouraged entrepreneurs to send it their ideas and inventions, then the Chamber helped to find a manufacturer to produce the new item. Similarly, the Chamber set up seminars and conferences, and circulated informational material that dealt with creating and expanding new businesses. It even helped small businesses obtain licenses. The Chamber also heavily supported government legislation that promoted small business, industry, and education, and it encouraged the public to do the same.

Not everyone totally supported the B.I.G. campaign, however. Many San Diego residents wished to keep San Diego small. Los Angeles had grown rapidly, and not all San Diego residents wanted to mimic LA's explosive growth. After all, an increase in industry meant an increase in population, traffic, and cost of living. The Chamber's B.I.G. campaign proved successful, however, and San Diego's industrial sector prospered. In fact, by 1970, San Diego was California's second largest city with a city population of 696,769 and a county population of 1,357,854. Although the Chamber's push for industry led to a greater demand for housing, roads, and infrastructure, the Chamber addressed these new demands and lobbied for more schools, housing, and freeways.

San Diego's schools and universities also experienced a rapid transformation. Although San Diego State University had been established in 1898, the Chamber wanted to promote San Diego as a center of higher education, and therefore sought to promote the establishment of other universities in the San Diego area. The University of San Diego was founded in 1954, and shortly thereafter, the Chamber began to endorse the purchase of land for a future University of California site. Finally, in 1964 the University of California, San Diego was established. The Chamber even sought to make San Diego the California State University system headquarters, but this task proved unsuccessful. Community colleges and trade schools were also endorsed by the Chamber. It set up essay contests at junior high schools on the topic of free enterprise, and it created Business-Education Day, in which teachers could be exposed to various types of businesses and careers. The Chamber also set up a Career Development Services Committee to help San Diego residents find jobs.

Today, the Chamber remains a non-profit business advocacy group, and still plays a major role in public policy and economic development. It consists of 8 divisions: the Economic and Research Bureau, the Government Division, the Educational Division, the Motion Picture and Television Bureau, the Small Business Development Center, the Membership Division, the Military Affairs Division, and the Communications and Marketing Division.


40.66 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

I. Committee Files, 1826-1980

      1.  Advertising Committee, 1958-1970

      2.  Advisory Committee, 1962-1977

      3.  Advisory Council of the Supplementary Education Center, 1966-1967

      4.  Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee, 1947-1971

      5.  Ambassadors, 1963-1965

      6.  American Chamber of Commerce Researchers, 1962-1972

      7.  Atomic Energy Committee, 1965-1966

      8.  Baja California Committee, 1969-1970

      9.  Bay Crossing Committee, 1935-1963

      10. Build Industrial Growth (B.I.G.) Committee, 1956-1966

      11. Blue Ribbon Committee for Charter Review, 1965-1969

      12. Blue Ribbon Pilot Committee, 1962-1969

      13. Board of Port Commissioners, 1963-1969

      14. Business-Education Day Committee, 1953-1963

      15. California State Chamber of Commerce, 1946-1972

      16. Career Development Services Committee, 1966-1967

      17. Census Tract Committee, 1944-1974

      18. Chamber City Charter Review Task Force, 1969-1974

      19. City Industrial Development Committee, 1956-1962

      20. Community Health Committee, 1965-1972

      21. Comprehensive Health Planning Association, 1966-1974

      22. Construction Industries Committee, 1956-1964

      23. Department of Corrections, 1963-1969

      24. County Fair Committee, 1949-1962

      25. Department of Defense, 1955-1963

      26. Economic Research Bureau, 1959-1981

      27. Executive Committee of the Economic Research Bureau, 1953-1970

      28. Education Committee, 1928-1978

            a) General Committee Files, 1928-1978

            b) Citizens' Advisory Committee, 1968-1975

            c) Growth Needs Expansion Task Force Group, 1971-1973

            d) Higher Education Sub-Committee, 1965-1973

            e) Honors Employment Sub-Committee, 1956

            f) Public Schools Sub-Committee, 1960-1973

            g) School Contest Advisory Committee, 1958-1960

            h) Speakers' Sub-Committee, 1964-1971

            i) Special Education Sub-Committee, 1963-1969

            j) Tuition Task Group, 1974-1975

            k) University of California Sub-Committee, 1959-1973

      29. Education Contest Committee, 1962-1969

      30. Department of Employment, 1955-1972

      31. Department of Engineering, 1952-1962

            a) General Files, 1960-1961

            b) Engineering Personnel Survey Sub-Committee, 1952-1962

      32. Evaluation-Steering Committee, 1966-1972

      33. Export-Import Committee, 1946-1965

      34. Harbor Department, 1946-1969

      35. Health Sciences Council, 1966-1974

      36. Housing Committee, 1953-1965

      37. Industrial Department, 1924-1975

            a) General Committee Files, 1953-1971

            b) Industrial Advisory Committee, 1960

            c) Industrial and Business Development Committee, 1924-1975

            d) Industrial Coordinating Committee, 1959

            e) Industrial Development Committee, 1949-1975

            f) Industrial Development Corporation, 1949-1964

            g) Industrial Development Council, 1959-1960

            h) Industrial Development Steering Committee, 1940-1968

            i) Industrial and Economic Development Committee, 1953-1972

            j) Industrial Health Education Committee, 1959

            k) Industrial Information Committee, 1960-1961

            l) Industrial Promotion Committee, 1953-1961

            m) Industrial Relations Committee, 1956-1957

            n) Real Estate Sub-Committee, 1956-1957

      38. Information Department

      39. Labor and Statistics Department, 1947-1975

      40. Local Affairs Committee, 1956-1960

      41. Manufacturers Committee, 1962-1969

      42. Mayor's Host Committee, 1956-1966

      43. Mexico Committee, 1954-1978

      44. Narcotics Task Force Committee, 1968-1971

      45. Oceanographic Coordinating Committee, 1966-1970

      46. Oceanographic Development Committee, 1964-1972

      47. Old Town San Diego State Historic Park Advisory Committee, 1926-1976

      48. Parks and Recreational Facilities Committee, 1934-1974

            a) General Committee Files, 1947-1974

            b) Balboa Park Sub-Committee, 1956-1973

            c) Mission Bay Sub-Committee, 1934-1974

            d) Open Space and Planning Division, 1958-1974

            e) Plant-A-Tree Sub-Committee, 1957-1958

            f) San Diego Beautification Committee, 1954-1957

      49. Populations Projections Study Committee, 1957-1967

      50. Public and Governmental Affairs Division, 1972-1975

      51. Recreational Development Committee, 1955

      52. Research and Information Department, 1927-1979

      53. San Diego Chamber of Commerce, 1947-1970

      54. San Diego Citizens' Scholarship Foundation, 1963-1975

      55. San Diego City Council, 1955-1969

      56. School Contest Advising Committee, 1962-1975

      57. Tourist Committee, 1953-1954

      58. Tract Housing Committee, 1960-1965

      59. University of California Committee, 1910-1973

      60. United States International University (USIU) Committee, 1974-1975

      61. University Task Force Committee, 1959-1973

      62. Water Committee, 1924-1978

II. Subject Files, 1907-1980

Source of Acquisition

San Diego Chamber of Commerce

Accruals and Additions

1978-016, 1980-008, 1981-008, 1985-009

Related Materials

Economic Research Bureau Records

San Diego Junior Chamber of Commerce Records

Coronado Chamber of Commerce Records

East San Diego Chamber of Commerce Records

Lemon Grove Chamber of Commerce Records

San Diego Chamber of Commerce Records
Amanda Lanthorne (Intern)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections & University Archives Repository

5500 Campanile Dr. MC 8050
San Diego CA 92182-8050 US