The Merchants and Shippers Association of Springfield was organized in 1876. The group differed from the recently defunct Springfield Board of Trade only in name; the focus on industrial development and, to some extent, the membership of the two organizations were identical.
As had been the case with the Board of Trade, the Merchants and Shippers Association counted among its members about 40 of what a contemporary history called “that class of reliable, substantial citizens, who uphold the material progress and the legal status of their respective communities.”
The records of the organization have been lost, but, as a 1912 history put it, “the character of the names on the list assures us that they did things for Springfield.” The group included Henson Robinson, known for the sale of stoves, furnaces, and tinwork; H. W. Rokker, a Dutch-born printer and bookbinder; Capt. P. W. Harts, a lawyer and unsuccessful mayoral candidate who had made his fortune in real estate; John Bressmer, a German immigrant and successful retailer; Samuel Prather, cattleman and contractor; and Carl Helmle, another German immigrant who dealt in wholesale liquors.
The growth of the capital’s industrial economy since the end of the Civil War had been impressive, but most if not all of that growth had resulted from the investment by local men of local money in local enterprises like the Illinois Watch Co., the Springfield Iron Co. and others. But local resources had been stretched to their limit by the post-war expansion, and it was obvious that the impetus for further industrial expansion would have to come from outside the county.
Contributor: James Krohe Jr.
Source: This entry is based on Shoulder To the Wheel: A Centennial History of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, compiled by James Krohe Jr. and published by the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.
More information: See Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce
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