The History Main Page New York City Directory The World Of Society Main Directory    

The Merchants' Association of New York

The Merchants' Association of New York  is one of the newer but withal a most aggressive commercial organization. It contains over 5,000 of the City's leading business and professional men, all devoted to the purpose expressed in the motto of The Association-"To Foster the Trade and Welfare of New York." Its early history begins with its formation in the dry goods district in 1897. 

The prime mover in the organization was William F. King, a member of the wholesale dry goods firm of Calhoun Robbins & Co. It was incorporated under the Membership Corporation Law of New York, which provides that the members shall chose a board of directors, who, in turn, shall elect officers. The directors also appoint the heads of bureaus, who perform the routine work of the organization. Each bureau has a supervising committee. The bureaus of the Association at present are as follows:

The Bureau of Research, which investigates questions presented, collects information bearing upon them, and assists committees in their consideration; the Traffic Bureau, the Publicity Bureau, Trade Bureau, which stimulates the sale of American products in foreign markets, assists members who desire to find new markets for their products abroad, the Industrial Bureau, which brings industries to New York City by finding suitable locations and pointing out the advantages which they will obtain by establishing themselves here; the Convention Bureau, the Membership Bureau, the Legislative Bureau, which follows legislation both in Albany and in Washington which is of interest to New York City, publishes abstracts of important bills for the information of members and supplies information relating to pending legislation.

The Association also has an organization of its members known as the Members' Council. In this sub-organization, all the members are divided into groups in accordance with their several fields of activity. The men best qualified to discuss the question under consideration attend these meetings as guests of the Association. The Association has a long list of achievements to its credit. When it was organized there was a plan on foot among the City officials to make a contract between New York City and the Ramapo Water Company, which would have involved the City in an expenditure of $100,000,000 and would have left it at the end of the contract period without any adequate public water supply. The Merchants' Association led the attack upon this scheme, spending $40,000 in arousing public opinion against it, and eventually brought about the repeal of the special laws which had been smuggled through the Legislature in order to give the company an advantage in dealing with the City.

The Association then aided in the formation of the plans which eventually led to the construction of the Catskill water supply system, which now gives the City an adequate supply of pure water. The Association has constantly fought every effort to encroach upon the Croton Watershed in a manner that might endanger the City's water supply from that source. It is now vigorously opposing the location in the watershed of State institutions which would house a large population of delinquents and defectives.

The re-organization of the express business in this country was due to a movement started by The Merchants' Association in response to complaints made by its members of the express service. The Association formed the Express Rate Conference, composed of commercial organizations throughout the country, and when the matter had been taken up by the Interstate Commerce Commission it furnished the Commission with much of the evidence upon which the re-organization orders were based. 

The Association has been successful in bringing about readjustment of telephone rates. As far back as 1907 The Association secured reductions in telephone charges in the City amounting to $1,500,000 a year, and in 1913 a still further reduction amounting to almost double this sum. Through the active efforts of The Association, the State of New York and the United States Government joined in a suit to restrain the State of New Jersey from discharging the entire sewage of the Passaic Valley into the Upper Bay. This resulted in a modification of the plan, which substantially prevents pollution from this source.

The Committee on Foreign Trade after an exhaustive study recommended to The Association the approval of the general proposition to establish a free zone in this Port somewhat similar in type to the Free Port at Hamburg. The Committee's recommendation has been accepted and The Association is now advocating the establishment of such a free zone. Upon the initiative of The Association, a joint Committee, representing the various commercial interests and the trunk line railroads, has been created to study the entire terminal situation and recommend plans for a complete re-organization of the City's terminal facilities.

The Association first suggested the Brooklyn waterfront terminal railroad and actively supported the legislation which has made this important improvement possible. It has been active in the movement for readjustment of the New York Central Railroad Lines along the Hudson River in such manner as greatly to improve rail shipping facilities and to release the Hudson River waterfront for the more complete use of water-borne commerce. It was mainly instrumental in the creation by law of an effective Bureau of Fire Prevention and the adoption of systematic inspection as a means of reducing fire hazards, and lessening the insurance burden. 

It first suggested and effectively urged the construction of the existing high pressure water service for fire prevention, which was followed by a substantial reduction of insurance rates. During several years, in cooperation with the fire insurance authorities, it urged upon the City the construction of the new fire alarm service, and has systematically and successfully promoted the enforcement of ordinances relating to placing rubbish in the streets, exposure of ashes and garbage, regulation of traffic, use of sidewalks, etc. It prepared and published a summary of ordinances relating to these and similar subjects which has become a standard manual for police use. More than 40,000 copies have been distributed.

The Association has offices on the ninth floor of the Woolworth Building, occupying most of the floor. These headquarters contain an assembly room for the use of the members and for hearings which bring together a considerable number of the members, and a directors' room in which the meetings of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee are held, and the offices of the Bureaus which The Association conducts. In the headquarters also is a library containing publications of current or permanent value relating to the work of The Association. Mr. William Fellows Morgan is president.


Website: The History
Article Name: The Merchants' Association of New York
Researcher/Preparer/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From My Collection of Books: Valentine's Manual of the City of New York, 1917-1918; The Old Colony Press; New York
Time & Date Stamp:  


  Privacy statement | Terms of use