Chamber History

History of Hartley Chamber of Commerce


Taken from book:
75 Years of Progress 
Diamond Jubilee
Hartley, Iowa  1879-1954

During Hartley’s early years, the commercial activity and business promotion was operated on a volunteer free lance basis.  There is no record of any active organization until about 1918 and 1919, when the Hartley Commercial Club was organized.  This organization had club rooms and offices over the Sam Leibsohn building, and it was more of a social organization than a promotional group.  Some of the early organizers and promoters of this group were O.F. Olson, A.F. Palmquist, H.J. Grotewohl and P.A. Leese.  It is recalled that this group sponsored the first give-away by the Hartley merchants.  A Model T Ford was purchased, tickets were given away by the participating merchants, and the Ford was given away to the lucky winner.  E.E., Ed and P.R. Burns, I.L. Knapp, Red Wagner, and Dr. F.A. Conn are also recalled as being active in the early business promotion in Hartley.

This early organization gradually became inactive, and it was not until about 1922 and 1923 that any further organized effort was put forth to stimulate business through cooperative trade promotion.

At this time a group of business men called a meeting of all business men for the purpose of reorganizing the Commercial Club or starting a new organization.  Many of the above mentioned business men were active in this endeavor, along with Manuel Strom, T.H. Berne and J.W. Fulton, who was Superintendent of Schools.  A dinner was held in the Legion Hall and almost 100 percent of the business men attended.  This new organization was called the Hartley Community Club.  T.H. Berne was its first president.  The record of this organization was very good.  Many trade promotions were sponsored, and the club was very active in civic promotion.

This organization was re-organized into the Hartley Chamber of Commerce in 1938.  W.R. “Red” Wagner was the first president of the Chamber of Commerce, and John Zarones was employed as the first part time salaried secretary.  A uniform system of collecting and allocating dues was inaugurated, and this system is still in use.  E.U. Thomas, S.J. Johnson, Adolph Goetsch, John Stoterau and Richard Anderson have served as presidents of the Chamber.  Instead of electing officers at the meeting of the Chamber of Commerce in January 1939, a board of directors of seven was elected from which the officers would be chosen.  The suggestion to select a board of directors appeared to meet the approval of those present.  Ingwer L. Hansen was appointed secretary in 1940.  He has served continuously since that time, with the exception of 1944-1946, when he served in the Army during World War II.  During that time Gerald Goetsch and W.R. Wagner both held the office of secretary.  The majority of the present business men have served on the board of directors or on committees.

The Hartley Chamber is a member of the Iowa Association of Commercial Organizations and the Chamber of Commerce of the United States.

The Chamber of Commerce has always maintained a high level of trade promotions.  Much of the commercial growth of Hartley can be attributed to the Hartley Chamber of Commerce.  It has also been very active in civic promotion.  It was through the Chamber’s efforts that Hartley’s first park board was established.  It contributed $3,000 toward the purchase of the ten acre tract of land now owned by the Town of Hartley.  It has maintained a high level of interest in school and municipal affairs.

During the years 1938-1941, a series of corn husking contests were sponsored by the Chamber.  The state contest was held here in 1941, an event which attracted over 30,000 people.  Many notables have attended these events, including Franklin D Roosevelt, Jr., son of the late president.

The Chamber sponsored the O’Brien County 4-H Fair from 1940-1950.

During World War II the Chamber sponsored and assisted in the Bond Drives, Scrap Salvage campaigns, as well as fund raising campaigns for various war relief agencies.

The Hartley Chamber of Commerce is looked upon as one of the best for its size in Northwestern Iowa.  Its officers have assisted on several occasions in the organization and reorganization of Chambers in neighboring towns.

Some of the civic accomplishments of the Chamber include the establishment of City Mail Delivery, an increase in the number of post office employees, and the resurfacing of various roads.  The Chamber went all out in behalf of the school expansion program.

Present officers of the Chamber are:  Richard Anderson, President; C.A. Ruby, Vice President; Ralph McDowell, Treasurer; and C.A. Almgren, H.J. Bojens, Carl Hain and V.R. Jacobsen, directors.

Taken from book:

100 Year History of Hartley, Iowa  1879-1979

In the mid-fifties a Community Council was formed, backed by the Chamber.  This group pushed for school reorganization, the formation of a Community Chest and the building of a swimming pool.  A suggestion had previously been made to investigate the possibility of an artificial lake and recreation area.  The idea was forgotten when a swimming pool proved to be more feasible.  The Chamber contributed $3,000 towards the purchase of the land which is now Neebel Park.  In 1955 a float was built which the Chamber of Commerce could take to other communities to promote Hartley.  It was used at many parades and celebrations and has been rebuilt several times in the past twenty years.

In 1976 Chamber secretary, Mrs. Richard (Lavon) Anderson, investigated the possibility of sponsoring a Farmers Market.  Once a week all summer long the Farmers Market enables local farmers and gardeners to sell their produce and Hartley residents are able to purchase fresh grown fruits and vegetables.

Many sub-organizations were promoted by the Hartley Chamber of Commerce.  Cliff Simmers was the first chairman of a New Industries Committee, formed in 1955.  Their purpose was to help promote industry to relocate to Hartley.  This group disbanded and in 1966 reorganized as the Industrial Development Corp.  Although the group was not extremely active in the latter sixties, it is now active with Lyle Shinkle serving as president.

A Courtesy Committee was formed in the late fifties and again reorganized in 1967.  After some years of various women’s clubs handling this, Mrs. Elmer (Winnie) Mack was asked to be Hartley’s Hostess and call on newcomers to the community.

Another organization within the Chamber is the Retail Committee.  During the late sixties Jim Hesse was chairman of this group which planned the Chamber trade promotions.  In 1971 the committee was disbanded and a Retail Bureau of the Chamber was formed.  This enabled all retailers to help plan the trade promotions.  The Retail Committee was again formed in 1978.  Events and promotions held in 1978 include:  Washington Sellabration, 19th Annual Famers Banquet, Spring Bargain Days, St. Pat’s Dance, Spring Clean-Up Week, the Annual Salesmen’s Day, Ridiculous Day, Moonlight Madness and Shop Christmas in Hartley.  One new addition to Ridiculous Day was a Chamber fund-raising Slave Auction.  Chamber members volunteered to work one day for the highest bidder; thirty-three members participated raising over $2000.

Efforts to form a JayCees organization (formerly known as Junior Chamber of Commerce) succeeded for a short time in 1975.  However the group disbanded and has not been able to re-establish itself.

The newest organization initiated by the Chamber of Commerce is the Goodwill Ambassadors.  These Chamber members are considered an arm of the Chamber – promoting goodwill and welcoming new business to Hartley.

Records show that in 1978 there were 105 active members and Lifetime members participating in the Hartley Chamber of Commerce.