History of the Wichita Commercial Club
From: History of Wichita and Sedgwick County, Kansas
Past and Present
O. H. Bentley, Editor-in-Chief
C. F. Cooper & Co. Publisher.
Chicago 1910


The Wichita Commercial Club had its origin in the Coronado Club in 1897. A few Wichita business men met at the home of J. H. Black, to talk over the need for a commercial organization. There were present at that meeting Charles Aylesbury, Charles G. Cohn, Mr. Wright and several others. They discussed the necessity of a commercial club for the purpose of working unitedly and intelligently for the good of the town. These gentlemen arrived at the conclusion that a meeting of business men of the city should be called and invitations were issued to meet at the Coronado clubrooms, which at this time was a social organization with clubrooms in the old Levy home, corner of Second and Topeka. The meeting proved to be one of the best attended and enthusiastic ever held in Wichita, and an organization was perfected. Directors were elected who at their first meeting elected as their president Charles G. Cohn, and the Coronado Club went out of existence and merged with the Commercial Club. Mr. Cohn served as president ten years; his successors in office were O. P. Taylor for one year, Frank C. Wood for two years, and Charles H. Smyth, the present incumbent, for two years. His term of office expires January, 1911. His assistants are H. E. Case, vice president; V. H. Branch, treasurer; John McGinnis, secretary. What has the Commercial Club done for Wichita? Very much. One of the first things after organization that demanded their attention was the grain and milling business. A Mr. Caldwell, with whom was associated Mr. Stevens now in the city, was invited to come to Wichita from Louisville, Ky. In a short time $100,000 was subscribed by the adjacent towns and city. Political and financial conditions in the country at that time elimmated Mr. Caldwell from the movement, nevertheless this was the beginning of our enormous elevator and milling interests. The Watson Milling Company and the Kansas Milling Company were both brought to Wichita by the Commercial Club.

The directors about this time found that something must be done to encourage the packing industry and it brought about the opening of the old Whitaker plant, that had lain idle a long time, by John Cudahy. The Doled packing plant was burned out and had not the Commercial Club gotten busy with encouragement the plant would never have been rebuilt. Necessarily, the club to a wonderful degree is responsible and proud of the present day packing industries and stock yards. The Orient railway came knocking at our doors. The Commercial Club immediately interested itself, raised money and assisted Mr. Stillwell in every possible manner. Through appeals and assistance financially, the great shops now under construction, to eventually cost $1,250,000 and employ 2,700 men, were made possible. The present building when completed will cost $400,000 and employ five to eight hundred mechanics and laborers. About February 1, 1911, the shops will be opened for work. Among many other things done by the club, it has encouraged and helped the interurban and the proposed extension of the Midland Valley railway from Arkansas City to McPherson, Kan., to a connection with the great Union Pacific. It has pushed the Peerless Prophets jubilee that brings so many persons to Wichita once a year; it has organized the Trade Trip organization that does so much to advertise Wichita. It originated the transportation bureau that has done so much in the way of reduced rates to and from Wichita and improved train service, and has brought many minor manufacturing concerns that have located with us. You will find at the head of all these strong business men and city builders, and every one a member of the Commercial Club.

The latest and crowning accomplishment will be the completion of a hundred thousand dollar clubhouse at the corner of Market and First streets. In July, 1908, the directors had a meeting to determine what should be done in relation to new clubhouse quarters, as their lease with the National Bank of Commerce on the present clubrooms had expired. Mr Sim made a proposal to fit up rooms in his new building. While discussing this proposal Judge Dale asked, "Why not build a new club and get a home of our own?" The suggestion of a new clubhouse was all that was needed. It was known that the old Baptist church property was for sale and on instructions from the directors to purchase the same H. J. Hagny in less than thirty minutes returned from the Kansas National Bank and advised the gentlemen he had purchased the property through Mr. Chandler, a member of the Baptist church board. The building is 150x 140 feet, five stories and basement. On the first floor are the ladies' reception and dining rooms, lounging room, living room and offices. On the second floor are the dining rooms and kitchen. On the third floor, billiards and games. On the fourth and fifth floors are sleeping rooms. On the roster of the Commercial Club are the names of a good many men who have done and are doing things for Wichita. Among them are Charles Aylesbury, F. A. Amsden, O. A. Boyle, J. H. Black, C. H. Brooks, V H Branch, Tom Blodgett, C. M. Beachy, H. E. Case, Charles G. Cohn, L. W. Clapp, Henry Comley, D. M. Dale, C. L. Davidson, J. O. Davidson, W. C. Edwards, T. G. Fitch, Dean Gordon, P. V. Heally, J. D. Houston, Dr. J. Z. Hoffman, R. L. Holmes, H. J. Hagny, Ben Eaton, W. P. Innes, E. B. Jewett, Thomas P. Kelso, Henry Lassen, it M. Murdock, R. L. Millison, B. F. McLean, L. S. Naftzger, John L. Powell, George L. Pratt, Charles H. Smyth, J. H. Stewart, C. W. Southward, Henry Wallenstein, H. V. Wheeler, H. J. Allen and others.


No city ever grew largely without the aid of a strong commercial organization. The modern city that outstrips her neighbors is not always the one of favored location and rich surrounding territory. Wichita prizes its commercial club. It is the boosters within a city that makes it great. It is the aggressive, nevergive up spirit of the merchants, the jobbers and the manufacturers which brings a city into the limelight before the eyes of the world. From the beginning Wichita had some sort of a commercial organization. There were not always handsome parlors, equipped with tables for games and easy chairs for reading. The early day commercial organizations held their meetings in wooden shacks, where the members sat on nail kegs and cracker boxes. But the spirit of acquisition was there in the tiny wooden quarters just as it now permeates the atmosphere about the clubrooms of any of the three Wichita commercial organizations today. It is the same spirit that is now prompting the business men of the city to reach out for new trade by means of a trade extension excursion. Forty years ago Wichita was nothing. Today it is a city of about 60,000 inhabitants, growing at the rate of 5,000 to 10,000 persons each year. New industries of all sorts, brought in through the influence and assistance of the commercial organizations, are largely responsible for this rapid increase in population.

Foremost among the Wichita commercial organizations is the Wichita Commercial Club. It is an institution builded of big men, who play for big stakes and usually win. There was never a really big job tackled by the city of Wichita in which the Commercial Club failed to take an active part. It was twenty one years ago that the old Coronado Club was organized. It was not prompted by any commercial instinct. In fact, it was to be a purely social club, where the "big boom" sufferers might while away a few hours of idle time each day. But no true Wichitan ever had time to waste in the comfortable luxury of a social clubhouse. There were some who were not completely winded by the hard jolt landed by the bursting of the boom. And these, after a few years of listless existence, began to awaken and to regain something of the old time spirit, which went after things at the drop of the hat, and brought them home on broad, triumphant shoulders.

The Wichita Commercial Club was the result of this unrest. In 1896 the Coronado Club went out of existence and a live, hustling commercial organization was formed. Years passed and the club grew, taking the city along with it. In 1904 the old Levy home at the corner of First street and Topeka avenue became too small for the organization. At that time the National Bank of Commerce was planning to build a new home, so the Commercial Club engaged the two upper floors of the new building. When the club entered this new home six years ago it had less than 200 members The new quarters were considered commodious and beautiful. But the city began to grow faster than in any previous period of her history and the membership of the club increased by large bounds. A new modern club building was being talked of before the organization had worn the new off its present quarters. A year ago plans for the new clubhouse were commenced. A fine location was secured on the northeast corner of First and Market streets. On that site is being builded a five story, fireproof building, which, when fully equipped, will be the finest clubhouse in the state.

Within this year the Commercial Club will occupy its new home. As it steps out of the old shell into new raiment it will likewise broaden and lengthen to fill a greater need. For there was never a time in the history of the city when the sinew and courage of a strong commercial club was needed more than at this time. The membership of the club now approaches 400. The officers and directors are strong, vigorous business men who have succeeded in spite of adversity and builded a city that is the pride of Kansas and the metropolis of the Southwest. These men are: Charles H. Smyth, president; Howard E. Case, vice president; V. H. Branch, treasurer; John McGinnis, secretary. The directors are: Frank C. Wood, L. W. Clapp, H. J. Hagny, W. P. Tunes, C. L. Davidson, F. A. Amsden, V. H. Branch, J. O. Davidson, Henry Lassen, C. W. Southward, C. H. Brooks, H. C. Case, Charles G. Cohn, T. G. Fitch and Charles if Smyth.


The youngster among the Wichita commercial organizations is the West Wichita Commercial League. It is an infant in age, but a good husky fellow in strength and size. It is distinctly a west side institution, but has never yet refused to come over the river to help boost Greater Wichita. The West Wichita Commercial League is less than two years old. In one year it reached a membership of 130. Now there are 160 names on the club's roster. Roomy club quarters are maintained at 1005 West Douglas avenue. Enthusiastic meetings of the members are held here every month. Things of vital interest to the west side are the chief business of the club, but nothing of city wide importance is overlooked by the league's active membership.

To the West Wichita Commercial League goes the credit for landing the largest manufacturing institution coming to Wichita in a good many years. This factory, secured only two months ago, is the American Paper Manufacturing Company. This concern has secured ground in the northwestern section of the west side and will erect a half million dollar strawboard plant during the coming twelve month. The league's committee on new industries worked long hours and burned the midnight oil many nights in landing this big institution. Public spirited men of the league donated their services and finally, when a suitable site could not be found at a reasonable price three men donated eighteen acres of their own land to make sure of the mill. Since its organization in June of 1908 the West Wichita Commercial League has done much to enliven the civic pride of that section. Streets are cleaner and better kept; yards are neater and more attractive; interest in making the west side a cleaner and more beautiful place in which to live has increased tenfold through the efforts of the league. Aside from the big paper mill the club has landed several other business institutions for the west side during the past year. The officers are constantly on the lookout for opportunities and few get by them. At recent meetings there was much interest shown in the Orient bond election and every member of the club worked hard for the passage of these and the Arkansas Valley Interurban bonds.

"More car lines, more pavement and more factories" is the slogan of the league for the coming year. West Wichita has grown marvelously during the past five years and the facilities of a few years ago have been outgrown. Several miles of new paving have already been contracted for and two car line extensions are in prospect for the next few months. With the completion of the $100,000 concrete bridge across the Arkansas river, giving West Wichita better connection with the east side; with the extension of the street railway from Seneca on West Douglas to the city limits on the west; with her half score of churches, her high elevation and general lay of the land on which she stands, West Wichita is destined to be the attractive place to the future homeseeker in Greater Wichita. West Wichita has installed a sewerage system which will add greatly to its sanitary condition. There are many other things of interest concerning West Wichita about which we would like to speak, but it is impossible for us to do so at this time We would suggest that you write the secretary of the West Wichita Commercial League, telling him what you want and he will put you in touch with the proper committee that will give you the desired information. Will say, however, if you are looking for a location to engage in the manufacture of an article of some kind, or if you are looking for a place for a home where you can spend the remainder of your days in peace and ease, come to Wichita and you will find just what you want in West Wichita, the garden spot of the Queen City of the Southwest.

The officers of the league, who are giving their time and energies to make the city grow at capacity speed, are: W. S. Hadley, president; William McKnight, vice president; J. N. Covault, secretary; G. T. Riley, treasurer. A strong board of directors stands behind these officers ready to lend its assistance when necessary. The directors are: John Harts, James Murray, Fred Farmer, Wallace C. Kemp, Jesse L. Leland, George Cole, W. E. Davis, Charles T. Lindsay, O. Martinson, L. F. Means, H. Shapcott and H. D. Cuttman.

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