The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber officially incorporated on March 3, 1890, for a term of 50 years. In honor of the occasion, the Chamber published Seattle Illustrated, a 76-page, illustrated text geared at attracting new businesses by promoting our economic development opportunities and quality of life.
Building a world-class city
Beginning in 1895, the Chamber helped develop Fort Lawton, now Discovery Park. After the Secretary of War stipulated that property for a regimental post in Seattle be acquired without cost to the U.S. government, the Chamber appointed an Army Post Committee to solicit donations of land and cash. Initially 613 acres were acquired from 27 owners at $1 per owner. In February 1898, the Chamber turned over 703 acres to the U.S. Army. An 1898 Chamber publication remarked that the "money spent by the Chamber in securing this boon will return to the people a hundred-fold and more."
A Ton of Gold
In the peak of a depression, the steamer Portland came into port carrying a cargo of gold from the banks of the Klondike River in Canada's Yukon Territory.
Realizing what the gold strike could mean to Seattle, Erastus Brainerd, an unemployed journalist, talked the Chamber into hiring him as a press agent. Brainerd's strategy was to promote Seattle as the departure point for gold seekers.
Brainerd joined forces with the Post-Intelligencer to produce a special Klondike edition on October 13, 1897. 212,000 copies were printed, making it the largest newspaper run that had been produced west of Chicago. The publicity excited readers all over the U.S. and thousands headed for Seattle.
The Chamber's success at attracting and serving miners was complete except for one element: Seattle had no government assay office where gold could be assessed and purchased by the U.S. government.
In 1898, Brainerd, now president of the Chamber, was instrumental in convincing the federal government to establish an assay office in Seattle. Chamber records report that this office took in $1 million of gold on the first day. In the decade following, the assay office handled $200 million in gold.
Sources: Seattle Business Special Edition: Seattle Chamber Celebrates 100 Years; Highlights: 1882-1957; Seattle Parks & Recreation Department; HistoryLink.org; Seattle Unit of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park; The Chamber of Commerce in 1898.