In the audience that night were gathered many of the nation’s most prominent industrialists, executives, financiers, and entrepreneurs: Patrick Crowley and Samuel Rea, presidents, respectively, of the New York Central and the Pennsylvania railroads; Owen Young and John Rockefeller, Jr., utilities tycoons; Thomas Lamont and Samuel Sachs represented high finance; Ivy Lee and B.C. Forbes, Frank Munsey, Henry Holt, and Adolph Ochs, were leading publicists and media magnates. And of the hundreds of others, each was a leading figure in his own field: cement, steamships, stationery, confectionery, typewriters, warehousing, marine insurance, chemicals, woolens, investment banking, graphophones, steel castings, dairy products.
“The New York Chamber of Commerce is not made up of men merely animated with a purpose to get the better of each other. It is something far more important than a sordid desire for gain,” the President continued. “It is dominated by a more worthy impulse; it rests on a higher law. True business represents the mutual organized effort of society to minister to the economic requirements of civilization. It is an effort by which men provide for the material needs of each other.”
After fifty-five minutes, Calvin Coolidge stepped from the microphone, hoarse from the effort, but buoyed by “prolonged applause.”
When the members of the Chamber of Commerce, satiated and well-satisfied, exited the lobby onto Park Avenue that evening, their organization perched at the sharp pinnacle of its power and influence.