History of San Diego, 1542-1908

PART SIX: CHAPTER 7: The Chamber of Commerce

The very efficiency of the Chamber of Commerce as an organized agency for promoting the development of San Diego makes it unneces­sary to write its history with any degree of fullness. This is so because the great affairs with which it has been identified belong to the history of the city as a whole, and have therefore been dwelt upon elsewhere in these pages.

During its existence of thirty-six years, the Chamber of Com­merce has had an active and influential hand in all public efforts to increase transportation facilities by land and sea; in the pro­motion of all state and national legislation related to the material development of the Southwest; in all that has been attempted or accomplished in connection with harbor improve­ment and local coast defenses; and even in matters of such world-wide significance as the opening of Oriental trade and the construction of the Isthmian Canal.

A mere statement of its activities in connection with these large affairs conveys no adequate impression of the institutional value of the Chamber of Commerce. It fills an important gap between the machinery of the municipality and the ranks of pri­vate citizenship. Its functions are such as could not be per­formed by city officials, on one hand, nor by unauthorized indi­viduals, on the other. It is an organized body of the highest representative character, and as such speaks for the community upon a wide range of matters not within the purview of city or county governments. It is the forum in which all propositions for civic improvement, especially those of a commercial kind, are first discussed. It is the reception room which is always open to greet the city’s guests, to the humblest stranger. Its rooms supply a permanent exhibit of the utmost variety of local products, showing the country at its best. Possibly more impor­tant than anything else, the Chamber is a great bureau of pub­licity which keeps the world constantly informed of the needs and progress of San Diego. Its work under this head has become immensely effective in recent years under the manage­ment of Secretary H. P. Wood, and of his successor, Secretary James A. Jasper.

Like most organizations of the kind, the Chamber of Com­merce has had a somewhat uneven existence. It has seen days of growth, and days of decline. But latterly it has become so serviceable to the community, so strong in public confidence that membership is regarded as a duty of citizenship, while a call to office in the organization is considered a substantial honor.

The history of the Chamber dates back to the beginning of 1870, when David Felsenheld called a preliminary meeting at his store on the corner of F and Sixth Streets, where the Express building now stands. Formal organization was effected on Jan­uary 22d, Aaron Pauly being elected president; G. W. B. McDonald, vice-president; Joseph Nash, secretary; and A. E. Horton, treasurer. The constitution and by-laws were drawn up by a committee composed of G. W. B. McDonald, E. W. Morse, D. Choate, David Felsenheld, and Joseph Nash. The purpose of the organization was stated as follows in the preamble to the constitution:

“To take some practical steps to unite the business men of the city for the better promotion of the public interest; to aid in the development of our back-country, and make known its resources; to give reliable information of the commercial advantages of our harbor, and of our natural position as an overland railroad terminus on the Pacific Coast.”

The first important business transacted by the Chamber was the passage of a resolution instructing the secretary to commu­nicate with W. B. Webb of New York in regard to the need of a competing steamship line between San Diego and San Fran­cisco. As an inducement, Mr. Horton offered the free use of his new wharf at the foot of Fifth Street. While the offer was not accepted by them, the desired competition was obtained before the close of the year, the steamer William Taber being put in service between the two ports. Competition did not last, however, as the new line was soon absorbed by the Pacific Coast Steamship Company.

On May 5, 1870, the first advertising matter was issued by the Chamber. It took the form of a pamphlet prepared by D. Choate and E. W. Morse, and entitled Climate, Resources, and Future Prospects of San Diego. The first memorial drafted was addressed to the state legislature. It urged the passage of a bill authorizing boards of supervisors to levy special taxes for the construction of roads and highways.

One of the earliest and most successful enterprises with which the Chamber of Commerce became identified was the building of a turnpike to Yuma to accommodate the overland freight shipped from Arizona to tide-water. There was already a high­way in use between San Pedro and Fort Yuma, but the haul was 120 miles longer. A turnpike company was formed for the pur­pose of forwarding the work. Aaron Pauly was elected president; H. H. Dougherty, secretary; 0. P. Galloway, superintend­ent of construction; and C. J. Fox, civil engineer. Subscription lists were opened and $10,000 pledged in a short time, the citi­zens appearing to realize from the start the vast importance of the project.

Among the prominent names on this list were the following: John G. Capron, $1,000; T. J. Higgins, $100; E. W. Nottage, $100; Charles Gassen, $150; E. W. Morse, $100; George W. Haz­zard, $100; J. M. Pierce, $100; Steiner and Klauber, $250; J. S. Mannasse, $200; A. Pauly, $100. It is interesting to note that the sum of $6,000 was raised in San Francisco for this purpose.

The records of the Chamber reflect something of the excite­ment occasioned by the controversy over the tide-lands, and tell of a stormy meeting held January 21, 1871, when Editor Tru­man of the Bulletin appeared to press the charge made in his newspaper, to the effect that two of the city trustees had “packed” the Chamber in order to obtain its endorsement of a big land steal. Truman seems to have held his own, as resolu­tions were passed declaring that more care should be taken in admitting members.

The Chamber was very active in connection with the move­ment for turning the San Diego River into False Bay, and its influence was strongly and persistently used in behalf of the Texas & Pacific during the whole period in which the town had hopes of Scott’s ill-fated enterprise.

Next to its work in behalf of railroad promotion, the constant activity of the Chamber in urging harbor improvement was probably its most important service. Despite the fact that the Bay of San Diego was at that time the only port on the coast of California outside of San Francisco, considerable difficulty was experienced in maintaining its position. After gaining rec­ognition as a port of entry in 1872, we find in the minutes of March 4, 1880, notice of the appointment by President George W. Hazzard of a committee, consisting of Douglas Gunn, A. Klauber, and J. S. Gordon, to memorialize Congress relative to permitting San Diego to remain a port of entry. This effort was successful.

After a long agitation of the subject of more frequent mail service between San Diego and northern points, there occurs in the record of a meeting, November 24, 1876, a resolution of thanks to Senator A. A. Sargent for having secured for San Diego a daily mail service.

The matter of proper fortifications for the harbor was taken up at an early date by the Chamber of Commerce and never permitted to drop until adequate military protection had been provided. The defenseless condition of the harbor was empha­sized with no uncertain force and endless repetition, communi­cations and many memorials urging the necessary appropria­tions being sent to Congress. October 4, 1883, General Scofield wrote from Washington that a two-company post had been decided upon for San Diego, and this has since been maintained.


In the same year a curious proposition was made to the Chamber of Commerce regarding the waters of that portion of the bay region known as False Bay. G. S. Pidgeion had invented a tide-power machine, capable of producing enormous horsepower from the inrush and outrush of the 12,000,000,000 cubic yards of water taken in and emptied from False Bay every eight hours. This power was to be distributed throughout the city for every known purpose. Messrs. Gunn, Marston, and Silliman were appointed an investigating committee. Their report was favorable to the enterprise, whereupon a mass meeting was called under the auspices of the Chamber of Commerce. Horton Hall was crowded to the doors. Inventor Pidgeon explained his device at great length. He wanted $200,000 capital to start the enterprise, and prophesied that its inception would mean “the making of San Diego,” inasmuch as his plant would supply power for factories of all kinds at a ridiculously low figure. The Chamber of Commerce appears to have been quite favorably impressed with the scheme, but whether expert mechanics and engineers reported the device faulty or whether the inventor himself gave up the enterprise is not recorded in the minutes of the Chamber. At any rate the Pidgeon Tide Power Company never materialized.

With the growth of the city and the harbor, the need of better fortifications was recognized by the Chamber of Commerce. Con­siderable correspondence passed between the Chamber and the War Department relative to the allotment of land for this pur­pose. July 11, 1890, Senator W. M. Stewart received a commu­nication from Secretary of War Proctor offering to accept all North Island as a gift to the government for fortification pur­poses. This letter was sent to the Chamber and the “offer” was promptly rejected.

December 3d of that year resolutions were adopted instruct­ing Congressman Bowers to urge greater fortifications in the neighborhood of Ballast Point at the entrance to the harbor. The Chamber also called attention to the fact that San Diego’s location and strategic importance demanded the establishment of a 10-company post. Congressman Bowers found an able ally in the person of Senator Stanford. It was not until 1894, how­ever, that an appropriation was finally secured for San Diego harbor defenses. Congress atoned for its delay by setting aside nearly half a million dollars, and the result is the Fort Rosecrans of today.

HOMER H. PETERS. A prominent Chicago business man who became interested in San Diego in 1903 and whose enterprise in several directions contributed materially to the city’s growth. He served for a time as vice president of the Chamber of Commerce.

Long continued efforts were made by the Chamber, seconded by the whole people, to induce the great Japan steamship line, known as the Nippon Yusu Kaisha Company, to make San Diego its sole American terminus upon a guarantee of a shipment of at least 4,000 tons of freight per month through this port. No satisfactory arrangements were made, however, and the Japan­ese steamers never ran for any considerable length of time. The Pacific Mail Steamship Company also withdrew its steamers, although it had a contract with the government to touch at San Diego on every trip for freight, mail, and passengers. In the latter case the government seemed powerless to enforce its own contract. This state of affairs elicited much unfavorable com­ment from the press throughout this country.

In 1896, when the agitation in favor of the creation of an arti­ficial harbor at San Pedro began, the Chamber adopted an attitude of aggressive opposition. It was believed that an expendi­ture of many millions for such a purpose within 100 miles of a great natural harbor was wholly without justification, while involving a keen injustice to San Diego. Many leading news­papers, including the New York Times, supported the Chamber in its contention, but the San Pedro movement prevailed over all opposition.

The efforts of the Chamber in behalf of a great naval dry­ dock, of a coaling-station, and of a naval training school have been intelligent and persistent. More than once, representatives were sent to Washington in the interest of these measures, while the congressional delegation has been constantly urged to action. Much preliminary work has been done, and it seems to be only a question of a little time when final results will be achieved. The latest work undertaken by the Chamber in connection with the harbor is the dredging of the bar to an average depth of 30 feet for a width of 1,000 feet.

H.P. WOOD. An enthusiastic and effective worker for San Diego who, while Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, did much to build up the organization. Now Secretary of the Promotion Committee of Hawaii.

The annual reports submitted by the presidents of the Cham­ber of Commerce embody very good accounts of the city’s com­mercial progress, but nearly everything of historical moment is mentioned elsewhere in these pages. It is interesting to note that the feverish prosperity of boom days brought nothing but depression to the Chamber of Commerce. It was reorganized after the boom and gradually acquired a stronger position than ever before. In 1890, under the able management of John Kas­tle, the Chamber was taken out of debt and placed upon a sound financial basis. In January, 1905, A. E. Horton, D. Choate, and E. W. Morse were elected honorary life members. Since then Mr. Choate and Mr. Morse have passed away.

After its reorganization in 1889 the Chamber was domiciled in a ground-floor store-room in the Tremont House on Third Street between C and D. In 1891, it removed to the Grand Hotel, now the “Worth,” on F Street between Third and Fourth. Afterwards (in 1895) the headquarters were moved to the Marshall-Higgins block, corner Fourth and C Streets, where they remained until March 1, 1898, when they removed to quarters on the ground floor of the Grant building, corner of Sixth and D Streets. They have recently been removed to the second floor of the same building, where they are now located, occupy­ing the rooms left vacant by the removal of the Y. M. C. A. to its new building.

JAMES A. JASPER. Who has had a prominent part in journalism, politics, and county administration, and who, as Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, rendered memorable service by bringing the organization out of debt.

One of the most agreeable and useful functions of the Chamber is the entertainment of distinguished visitors, especially the representatives of foreign navies who frequently come to the port. In this way, the Chamber has doubtless done a great deal to secure the good will of influential men and interests for San Diego. Indeed, if the Chamber stood for nothing except the organized hospitality of the community—a hospitality extended alike to the most distinguished citizens of the world and to the humblest stranger who finds his way to San Diego—it would still rank among the most useful institutions. But it is much more than this. It has had a part in all good work which has been done for the city and county over a period of more than a generation, and has itself initiated very much of this good work.

During a large portion of its history, the Chamber has been exceedingly fortunate in the kind of men enlisted in its service. It has been able to command not only the support, but the earn­est devotion, of many of the strongest citizens, who have regarded it as the most important instrumentality in promoting local development. In later years, the office of secretary of the Chamber of Commerce has risen to great importance. The effi­ciency of the organization depends in large measure upon the energy, ability, and character of the man who fills this place. The Chamber has been fortunate in this respect during the period which had made the heaviest demands upon its resources. H. P. Wood, who served as secretary from 1899 to 1905, was a true builder of the organization and a successful promoter of its work. He was succeeded by James A. Jasper, whose intimate acquaintance with the people and the country, and long experi­ence as journalist and county official, peculiarly fitted him for the place. He signalized his entrance to the office by arranging to pay off the debts of the organization. He was succeeded in January, 1907, by John Scott Mills.


By no means the least important history of the organization is that contained in the following complete list of its officers:

From its organization in 1870 to the year 1907.

1870—Jan. 20—President, Aaron Pauly; Vice-President, G. W. B. McDonald; Secretary, Joseph Nash; Treasurer, A. E. Horton.

1870—Mar. 3—President, Aaron Pauly; Vice-President, Dr. D. B. Hoffman; Secretary, Joseph Nash; Treas­urer, J. W. Gale.

May 5—Joseph Nash resigned as Secretary and David Felsenheld was elected.

May 30—J. W. Gale resigned as Treasurer and Charles Dunham was elected.

1871—President, G. W. B. McDonald; Vice-President, J. S. Gordon; Secretary, C. J. Craig; Treasurer, C. Dunham.

1872—President, G. W. B. McDonald; Vice-President, W. W. Stewart; Secretary, S. W. Craigue; Treasurer, C. Dunham.

1873—President, J. S. Gordon; Vice-President, J. M. Pierce; Secretary, W. W. Stewart; Treasurer, C. Dunham.

1874—President, J. S. Gordon; First Vice-President, A. H. Gil­bert; Second Vice-President, S. W. Craigue; Secretary, W. W. Stewart; Treasurer, C. Dunham.

1875—President, W. W. Stewart; First Vice-President, E. W. Morse; Second Vice-President, Jos. Tasker; Secretary, M. A. Luce; Treasurer, C. Dunham.

1876—President, W. W. Stewart; First Vice-President, E. W. Morse; Second Vice-President, W. A. Begole; Secretary, W. R. Porter; Treasurer, C. Dunham.

1877—President, J. M. Pierce; First Vice-President, A. H. Gil­bert; Second Vice-President, W. A. Begole; Secretary, W. W. Bowers; Treasurer, Jos. Tasker.

1878—President, J. M. Pierce; First Vice-President, W. A. Be­gole; Second Vice-President, A. H. Julian; Secretary, George W. Marston; Treasurer, Jos. Tasker.

1879—President, Charles S. Hamilton; First Vice-President, E. W. Morse; Second Vice-President, W. L. Williams; Secre­tary, S. Levi; Treasurer, Jos. Tasker.

1880—President, George W. Hazzard; First Vice-President, A. Klauber; Second Vice-President, J. M. Pierce; Secretary, S. Levi; Treasurer, J. S. Gordon.

1881—President, George W. Hazzard; First Vice-President, E. W. Morse; Second Vice-President, George W. Marston; Secretary, S. Levi; Treasurer, J. S. Gordon.

1882—President, S. Levi; First Vice-President, J. H. Simpson; Second Vice-President, G. G. Bradt; Secretary, D. Cave; Treasurer, W. S. Jewell; Librarian, J. M. Pierce.

1883—President, Arnold Wentscher; First Vice-President, George W. Marston; Second Vice-President, M. S. Root; Secretary, C. H. Silliman; Treasurer, George W. Hazzard; Mr. Wentscher resigned a few weeks after his election, and G. G. Bradt was elected president.

1884—President, George W. Marston; First Vice-President, J. H. Simpson; Second Vice-President, John N. Young; Secretary, C. H. Silliman; Treasurer, George W. Hazzard.

1885—President, D. Cave; First Vice-President, J. H. Simpson; Second Vice-President, E. W. Morse, Third Vice-President, Jos. Winchester; Secretary, J. H. Simpson, Philip Morse; Treasurer, George W. Hazzard.

1886—President, J. H. Simpson; First Vice-President, Philip Morse; Second Vice-President, D. C. Reed; Third Vice­-President, J. S. Gordon; Secretary, L. S. McLure; Treas­urer, John N. Young.

1887—President, G. G. Bradt; First Vice-President, Judge George Puterbaugh; Second Vice-President, J.W. Burns; Secretary, F. R. Wetmore; Treasurer, Theo. Fintzelberg.

In 1888 a new Chamber, called the Chamber of Commerce of San Diego County was formed, and for a time there were two. They were consolidated in October. G. G. Bradt was President of the old organization, and J. A. McRea of the new one.

1888—President, G. G. Bradt, J. A. McRea; First Vice-Presi­dent, Douglas Gunn; Second Vice-President, J. W. Burns; Recording Secretary, F. R. Wetmore; Financial Secre­tary, Theo. Fintzelberg; Treasurer, John Ginty.

1889-President, Douglas Gunn (resigned and John C. Fisher succeeded); Vice-President; Second Vice-President; Secretary, J. C. Amendt (later George N. Nolan); Treasurer,

1890—President, John Kastle; Vice-President, Frank A. Kim­ball; Second Vice-President, F. H. Cunningham; Secre­tary, George N. Nolan; Treasurer, C. D. Long.

1891—President, Daniel Stone; Vice-President, Douglas Gunn; Second Vice-President; Secre­tary, Benjamin Lake; Treasurer, Theo. Fintzelberg.

1892—President, Daniel Stone; Vice-President, F. A. Kimball; Second Vice-President, H. P. McKoon; Secretaries, Con­rad Stautz, F. H. Bearne, and R. H. Young.

1893—President, H. P. McKoon; Vice-President, John Sherman; Second Vice-President, Charles S. Hamilton; Secretary, R. H. Young; Treasurer, George W. Dickinson.

1894—President, H. P. McKoon (died August 19, 1894, and was succeeded by John Sherman); Vice-President, John Sherman; Second Vice-President, George W. Marston; Secretary, R. H. Young; Treasurer, George W. Dickinson.

1895—President, R. V. Dodge-acted one month and was suc­ceeded by Philip Morse; First Vice-President, Philip Morse; Second Vice-President, John N. Young; Secre­tary, R. H. Young; Treasurer, George W. Dickinson.

1896—President, Philip Morse; First Vice-President, R. V. Dodge; Second Vice-President, U. S. Grant, Jr.; Secre­tary, V. E. McConoughey; Treasurer, J. E. O’Brien.

1897—President, Philip Morse; First Vice-President, R. V. Dodge; Second Vice-President, R. M. Powers; Secretary, V. E. McConoughey; Treasurer, J. E. O’Brien.

1898—President, R. A. Thomas; First Vice-President, R. V. Dodge; Second Vice-President, George W. Marston; Secretary, V. E. McConoughey; Treasurer, J. E. O’Brien.

1899—President, George W. Marston; First Vice-President, G. H. Ballou; Second Vice-President, W. L. Frevert; Secre­taries, R. V. Dodge, H. P. Wood; Treasurer, J. E. O’Brien.

1900—President, George H. Ballou; First Vice-President, W. L. Frevert; Second Vice-President, G. W. Jorres; Secre­tary, H. P. Wood; Treasurer, J. E. O’Brien.

1901—President, George H. Ballou; Vice-President, W. L. Fre­vert; Second Vice-President, G. W. Jorres; Secretary, H. P. Wood; Treasurer, Nat R. Titus.

1902—President, W. L. Frevert; First Vice-President, W. S. Waterman; Second Vice-President, M. F. Heller; Secre­tary, H. P. Wood; Treasurer, J. S. Akerman.

1903—President, W. L. Prevert; First Vice-President, W. S. Waterman; Second Vice-President, Dr. Fred R. Burnham; Secretary, H. P. Wood; Treasurer, J. S. Akerman.

1904—President, Homer H. Peters; First Vice-President, J. S. Akerman; Second Vice-President, E. Strahlmann; Secre­tary, H. P. Wood; Treasurer, G. W. Fishburn.

1905—President, J. S. Akerman; First Vice-President, Dr. Ed­ward Grove; Second Vice-President, Melville Klauber; Secretary, H. P. Wood (succeeded in October by James A. Jasper); Treasurer, Rufus Choate.

1906—President, Edward Grove; First Vice-President, Melville Klauber; Second Vice-President, Barker Burnell; Secre­tary, James A. Jasper; Treasurer, Rufus Choate.

1907—President, D. Gochenauer; First Vice-President, Melville Klauber; Second Vice-President, O. W. Cotton; Secre­tary, John S. Mills; Treasurer, Ford A. Carpenter.

Return to Books.


Main Page
Author’s Foreword
Introduction: The Historical Pre-Eminence of San Diego

PART ONE:   Period of Discovery and Mission Rule

  1. The Spanish Explorers
  2. Beginning of the Mission Epoch
  3. The Taming of the Indian
  4. The Day of Mission Greatness
  5. The End of Franciscan Rule
    Priests of San Diego Mission

PART TWO:   When Old Town Was San Diego

  1. Life on Presidio Hill Under the Spanish Flag
    List of Spanish and Mexican commandants
  2. Beginnings of Agriculture and Commerce
    List of Ranchos in San Diego County
  3. Political Life in Mexican Days
  4. Early Homes, Visitors and Families
  5. Pleasant Memories of Social Life
  6. Prominent Spanish Families
  7. The Indians’ Relations With the Settlers
    List of Mission Indian Lands
  8. San Diego in the Mexican War
  9. Public Affairs After the War
  10. Accounts of Early Visitors and Settlers
  11. Annals of the Close of Old San Diego
  12. American Families of the Early Time
  13. The Journalism of Old San Diego
  14. Abortive Attempt to Establish New San Diego

PART THREE:   The Horton Period

  1. The Founder of the Modern City
  2. Horton’s Own Story
  3. Early Railroad Efforts, Including the Texas and Pacific
  4. San Diego’s First Boom
  5. Some Aspects of Social Life

PART FOUR:   Period of “The Great Boom”

  1. Coming of the Santa Fe
  2. Phenomena of the The Great Boom
  3. Growth of Public Utilities
  4. Water Development

PART FIVE:   The Last Two Decades

  1. Local Annals, After the Boom
  2. Political Affairs and Municipal Campaigns
  3. Later Journalism and Literature [new material in second edition]
  4. The Disaster to the Bennington
  5. The Twentieth Century Days
  6. John D. Spreckels Solves the Railroad Problem

PART SIX:   Institutions of Civic Life

  1. Churches and Religious Life
  2. Schools and Education
  3. Records of the Bench and Bar
  4. Growth of the Medical Profession
  5. The Public Library
  6. Story of the City Parks
  7. The Chamber of Commerce
  8. Banks and Banking
  9. Secret, Fraternal and Other Societies
  10. Account of the Fire Department

PART SEVEN:   Miscellaneous Topics

  1. History of the San Diego Climate
  2. San Diego Bay, Harbor and River
  3. Governmental Activities
  4. The Suburbs of San Diego

Political Roster, City of San Diego
Political Roster, San Diego County