Eli M. Oboler Library

Library -->Libraries & Collections --> Special Collections -->Manuscript Collections -->Chamber of Commerce, Pocatello, ID -->Chamber of Commerce, Pocatello, ID-Collection Description

Chamber of Commerce (Pocatello, Idaho)

The papers of the Pocatello Chamber of Commerce present a broad picture of the activities of the Chamber between 1920 and the early 1960s. The collection gives a picture of the Chamber's activities, of the interests of the Pocatello business community, and of the economic life of Pocatello.

The collection lacks a single focus; indeed, the image of the Chamber that emerges is of an organization with shifting interests and emphases. If one theme emerges, it would--not surprisingly--be that of the promotion of economic development for Pocatello. Publicity literature--Pocatello - Idaho's Potential Metropolis (1970) or Pocatello, the Gate City of Idaho (1915)--appears regularly in a variety of permutations. The Chamber also collected promotional literature concerning tourism in southern Idaho.

Many specific campaigns to improve the local economy--some successful and some not--are also represented. From the 1930s until after World War II, for example, the Chamber worked vigorously to develop the Michaud Flats irrigation project. Maps, projections of benefits, letters to legislators, and legislation are all included. Water, as a more general issue, recurs in discussions in the 1940s concerning a Palisades Dam development of water in the Pacific Northwest. Documents appear, for example, coordinating the regional Chambers of Commerces' attack against a Columbia Valley Authority--one of the ten "little TVAs" proposed in the late 1930s--and the Chambers' alternative, the Pacific Northwest Regional Planning Commission.

Other projects to enhance the health of the local economy include campaigning to have a "Rocky Mountain Air Force Base" established near Pocatello in the mid-1930's. That campaign repeated--this time successfully--in 1941. Analyses of Community resources, housing, health facilities, recreational sites and so forth from the period appear here. After World War II, a more general campaign to attract industry concerned the Chamber.

The possibility of developing medical facilities in the area came along twice. Records of a major study in 1961 to consider establishing a medical school at ISU appear; another campaign, earlier, to establish a polio treatment center at Lava Hot Springs--equally unsuccessful--was also recorded.

The official records of the Chamber appear incomplete. A "President's File" --the Chamber chose that office for one year terms--ranges from one or two papers per file to perhaps a dozen per term. Minutes of the Pocatello Commercial Club, 1919 - 1920, the Alameda Chamber of Commerce (1957 - 1958), and the minutes of various committees of the Chamber appear. The committees whose minutes remain cover many topics, but they all had brief lives or at least left only brief records. A sample would include: Four-Year Committee for UISB (1946), Aeronautics Committee (1944), Indian Affairs and the Board Directors of the Chamber. The last set is the only one with anything like a continuous series.

Some other items should be mentioned. Many photographs of local industries, tourist attractions, Pocatello buildings and a set of what must be every unit in the 1934 Fort Hall Centennial Parade were included in the original donation. Most photographs have been removed to a separate collection.

Some topics that I expected to find were absent. No personal files or records of Paul Nash, Secretary of the Chamber in the 1930s and 1940s, are included. The Secretary was, in fact, the staff of the Chamber and the main thread of continuity in the organization. There is no mention of unions or labor-management relations. The railroad strike of 1922, an event that rocked Pocatello, is not mentioned. Only occasional political contacts are recorded, and those are routine letters to the national political representatives. Perhaps most surprising, given their economic impact and non-controversial nature, is the absence of any material relating to the INEL and only a small amount of papers dealing with the construction, operations and eventual termination of the Naval Ordinance Plant.

The collection is not perfect. But it is a valuable resource on the local business community and the local economy.

Merwin Robert Swanson
Idaho State University
Last Modified: 02/07/2008 sc