Commercial Club of Chicago

The Commercial Club of Chicago is a nonprofit 501(c)(4) social welfare organization founded in 1877 with a mission to promote the social and economic vitality of the metropolitan area of Chicago.[1]

Commercial Club of Chicago
Established1877; 147 years ago (1877)
Region served
Chicago metropolitan area
Jennifer F. Scanlon,
Vice Chair
E. Scott Santi
Kelly R. Welsh
Revenue (2020)
$3.5m USD
Expenses (2020)$3.6M USD
Staff (2020)



The Commercial Club was founded in 1877 as a capitalist reaction to the Great Upheaval, a national labor strike that began with railroad workers in Martinsburg, West Virginia.[2] In 1907, the Commercial Club merged with the Merchants Club (organized in 1896).[3] In 1933, the Industrial Club of Chicago (organized in 1905) joined.[4][5] Its most active members included George Pullman, Marshall Field, Cyrus McCormick, George Armour, Frederic Delano, Sewell Avery, Rufus C. Dawes, and Julius Rosenwald.[5] The club championed member Daniel Burnham's Plan of Chicago (1909), also known as Burnham's plan.[5] The plan gave the blueprint for the future growth and development of the entire Chicago region.[6][7]



The Commercial Club addressed many other progressive reform issues: supported street cleaning and paving projects, smoke abatement and sanitation schemes, and the development of city parks and playgrounds.[5] They also endorsed the creation of the Cook County Forest Preserve district.[8]

They also maintained a consciousness of social reform issues like juvenile delinquency, race relations, and old-age pensions.[5]

The club traces its origins back to the 17 founding members of the Commercial Club in 1877.[9] The current chairman is Jennifer F. Scanlon and the current president is Kelly R. Welsh.[10]



The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club has often come under criticism for pursuing an unrealistic zeal for cutting the constitutionally protected pensions of state employees in Illinois.[11] Former president Tyrone C. Fahner stated that some members had talked to bond ratings agencies about lowering Illinois' bond rating to create more pressure for pension reform.[12][13][14]


  1. ^ "The Commercial Club of Chicago". Cause IQ. Archived from the original on October 12, 2021. Retrieved October 12, 2021.
  2. ^ "The 1877 Class War That America Forgot". Retrieved December 18, 2022.
  3. ^ "Letter to Members of the Merchant's Club, 1906". Encyclopedia of Chicago. The Merchants Club. Archived from the original on March 10, 2006. Retrieved October 15, 2021.
  4. ^ History of The Industrial Club of Chicago - From Its Organization in 1905 To Its Merger With The Commercial Club in 1933. Chicago: The Lakeside Press. 1934. Retrieved October 20, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d e Wirka, Susan Marie. "Commercial Club of Chicago". Encyclopedia of Chicago. Archived from the original on March 23, 2021. Retrieved October 15, 2021.
  6. ^ Burnham, Daniel H.; Bennett, Edward H. (June 1909). Moore, Charles (ed.). Plan of Chicago (PDF). Chicago: The Commercial Club. Archived (PDF) from the original on August 18, 2021. Retrieved October 15, 2021.
  7. ^ "1909 PLAN OF CHICAGO". Chicago Architecture Center. Archived from the original on September 15, 2021. Retrieved October 15, 2021.
  8. ^ "Commercial Club of Chicago". To Protect and Preserve - An Early History of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois. Special Collections Department, Richard J. Daley Library, University of Illinois at Chicago. Archived from the original on February 5, 2017. Retrieved February 4, 2017.
  9. ^ Currey, J. Seymour (1918). Manufacturing and Wholesale Industries of Chicago. Chicago: Thomas B. Poole Company. pp. 401–404. Retrieved October 15, 2021.
  10. ^ "Leadership". Commercial Club of Chicago. Archived from the original on January 25, 2021. Retrieved October 15, 2021.
  11. ^ Hinz, Greg (November 16, 2012). "Fahner, Civic Committee ripped over pension stance". Crain's Chicago Business. Archived from the original on August 9, 2020. Retrieved January 20, 2019.
  12. ^ Fazekas, Lynn (August 7, 2013). "The Civic Committee and the Pension Crisis". Archived from the original on April 11, 2021. Retrieved January 20, 2019.
  13. ^ "CEOs vs Illinois". Illinois Education Association. August 10, 2013. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved October 9, 2015.
  14. ^ Fortino, Ellyn (August 5, 2013). "Unions Demand Answers Over Civic Committee's Talks To Downgrade Illinois' Bond Rating". Progress Illinois. Archived from the original on June 6, 2015. Retrieved October 9, 2015.