Romance of Omaha, Chapter XXVIII
Credit for the wonderful development and advancement of Omaha and its steady growth from a frontier hamlet into a great and forward moving city is rightfully due the progressive and aggressive commercial and civic organizations of the city.
These organizations have led the way in most if not all of the onward movements that have benefited Omaha so greatly. They have urged those things which would best serve the city and they have done a good job through the 70 years or more of the existence of the municipality.
Without these organizations Omaha could not have grown as rapidly or in such a sound manner as it has. They all, in their own way, have served a useful purpose and they have made Omaha a better and bigger place in which to live.
When Omaha was first founded the business men and residents were individualists. They paid little attention to organization. They were too busy meeting the problems of their new life in the pioneer country to give much thought to united effort for their city.
At least they did not form commercial clubs and civic clubs. They noonday organization was unknown. But that did not mean they did not work together. Only the most active and united work in behalf of Omaha resulted in this city being chosen as the eastern terminus of the great trans-continental railroad, the Union Pacific. The pioneer business man, lawyer, doctor, real estate man or whatever he was, was fully alive to the possibilities of his time and he pushed his city forward to the very best of his ability.
The first organization devoted primarily to the betterment of Omaha and the surrounding territory was quite fittingly the Douglas Agricultural society. It was formed in 1858 and held a fair that year. It took vision in those days to picture Omaha as the center of an agricultural empire but evidently the men of the 50s believed that the central west was destined for great things as a producing country and they acted accordingly.
All Play Part
During the years from that time up to 1893 various business organizations were formed. Real estate men organized, boards of trade were started and civic clubs of different names and different purposes sprung into being.
They all played their part in the building of Omaha. The old Omaha board of trade was a very efficient organization and so were the earlier real estate boards and exchanges.
The present chamber of commerce came into existence in May, 1893, when the Omaha Commercial club was organized by a number of men in the old Paxton hotel.
At that time Omaha was fighting hard to obtain relief from discriminatory freight rates and the need for a virile, aggressive organization was great.
The Commercial club, as it was then called, took the lead in the movement that culminated in the holding of the great Trans-Mississippi exposition in Omaha in the year 1898. It was one of the most successful expositions ever held in the country.
It was just about this time, in 1895, to be exact, that the nationally famous Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben came into existence. Omaha was then in the business doldrums. The hard times of the early 90s were still felt and far-seeing men of the city realized that some forward steps should be taken. Ak-Sar-Ben was formed and since that time it has been one of the vital forces in the development of the city.
The organization, unique in its way, has done much to advertise Omaha. Its summer initiations and its fall festivals made this city famous.
Many thousands of visitors have been brought to Omaha annually by Ak-Sar-Ben. A great race track and coliseum in which the first big livestock show was held last fall are monuments to the activity and enterprise of Ak-Sar-Ben.
Vision of Future
The present Omaha Real Estate board is the outgrowth of former organizations of real estate men in the city. For years the real estate men have been in the forward ranks of those who have striven to advance the best interests of the city. The city planning commission, the modern zoning system and many beneficial charter amendments and legislative acts are due to the work and vision of the real estate men of Omaha.
The civic clubs, of which there are many, fill their own places in the life of the city. Each has its own field of endeavor. The Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, Concord, Co-operative, International, Continental, Professional Men's, Engineers, Triangle and other clubs, the Ad-Sell league, largest of its kind, and many more organizations, civic and social, have contributed to the development of the community.
They have done their part in supporting other organizations, in helping the less fortunate and in all things that help Omaha. Members of the civic clubs are numbered among the most public-spirited and helpful citizens of Omaha.
Another organization which has done a great deal toward making Omaha bigger is the Omaha Grain exchange. Since its formation in 1903 the Grain exchange and its members have been a live, virile entity in the city.
The same praise is due the Livestock exchange which, through fair dealing and progressive ways, has done much to cement good feeling between Omaha and the great inland empire tributary to this city.
While all these organizations and others, all do their part for Omaha, the chamber of commerce is the center of activity for the "Onward Omaha" movement.
The chamber proper, the traffic bureau, the publicity bureau, the industrial bureau, the agricultural bureau, the women's division and the junior chamber, all forward-looking, up-and-coming branches of the chamber itself, are doing a great work for Omaha.
Navigation of the Missouri river, building of good roads, development of Omaha as a great manufacturing, wholesale and retail center, aerial progress, making the city a convention center, obtaining relief from unjust freight rates and discriminatory freight tariffs, creation of Omaha's great Symphony orchestra, active work for farm relief - all those have been but a part of the day's work for the chamber of commerce and its affiliated organizations.
The list of the things the chamber of commerce and these other organizations have done for the city is long. It is due to them in great measure that Omaha has become a city remarkable for its growth and its standing as a community - 34th in population in the country, but ranked 21st in business.
The future of Omaha rests to a great extent on what these organizations do. They have done great things in the past. It is safe to say they will do greater things in the future.
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