The “Sheridan Commercial Club” was incorporated on March 20, 1913. Record of the group exists as far back as 1895, when the Sheridan Commercial Club was originally organized with 83 members, including C. H. Grinnell and O. H. Wallop. In the early years, the group at different times called itself both the “Sheridan Commercial Club” and the “Sheridan Chamber of Commerce,” but by all accounts, this was a continuing group of individual business leaders gathering to further Sheridan business relationships and growth. According to the club’s constitution, membership was open to “any citizen of Sheridan County of reputable character,” for a dues payment of one dollar.
In their first year, one of the topics of discussion was problems with the mail route over the mountains. By 1902, the club was drafting its bylaws and electing officers, with the clear statement that the club’s objective was “to make the club thoroughly a business organization rather than a social one” as there was a separate Business Men’s Club at the same time, for social purposes. They only had 27 members in 1902 but that included leaders such as J.D. Loucks and J.B. Kendrick.
In 1904 the club took it upon itself to raise $900 to buy a site for a state hospital, Wyoming General Hospital, to be erected in Sheridan. In 1906, they arranged with Burlington Railroad to provide publicity in the form of 25,000 folders about the county of Sheridan, for distribution at the train’s stopovers on the East Coast. A magazine ad sponsored by the Chamber in 1910 identified Sheridan as “Wyoming’s Most Progressive Twentieth Century Metropolis.” And we were taking care of our visiting dignitaries – it was front page news for several days in 1912 that U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Leonard Wood was visiting and that “George W. Perry, president of the chamber of commerce,” was taking him grouse hunting.
In 1934 a newspaper article touted the recent accomplishments of the Chamber, which included staging a buffalo hunt for the Crow Indians that was filmed for a movie; successfully defending a 20% reduction in the freight rates of freight coming into Sheridan; instituting a program that fed 22,000 lambs in the Sheridan area; continued activities for air mail and the improvement of the airport; and securing Wyoming and South Dakota’s approval to extend U.S. Highway 14 from Rapid City to Yellowstone, through Sheridan.
By 1934, the Chamber also had its own downtown office, described as “one of the most up-to-date and attractive offices in the northwest,” in the basement of the Bank of Commerce (now First Interstate Bank). Adorned with big game trophies from the Bighorn mountains, the Chamber Office used this office to provide tourist bureau services to visiting motorists.
During this decade, the organization was re-incorporated as the Sheridan Chamber of Commerce and was showing its members to be businesses rather than individuals. Moving forward, the forerunner of the current Ambassadors Committee, the Round-Up Club, was started in 1956 with 16 members.
The Chamber office continued downtown for 37 years, from 1934 to 1971. Then in 1971, the “Tourist Information Center” was built “on a hill overlooking the Fifth Street interchange on Interstate 90,” touted as “a cultural success, a commercial success, and a financial success” and the Chamber moved into its new home. In 2014, the Chamber moved back downtown to the former Woolworth’s building at 171 N. Main St., and in 2018, we moved to our current location beside First Interstate Bank at 24 S. Main St.
Many new Chamber programs were added in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, some of which continue today. In 1971, we had 14 regular volunteer committees, including convention and visitors, military, sports and attractions, agriculture and aviation, to name a few. The Chamber was busy, with a lot of active participation and by then up to 415 members.
Fast forwarding again: The Leadership Sheridan County program started in 1993, with the first graduating class in 1994. Our Historic Downtown Retail Committee started the annual Christmas Stroll event in 1996. But even as early as 1970, 26 years earlier, the Chamber was hosting “Christmas opening festivities” on Main Street to ring in the holiday season. In the 2000s, we introduced the regular monthly luncheons and Business After Hours events, the annual Legislative Forums with state legislators and the Candidate Forums in election years. In partnership with the Downtown Sheridan Association, we started the 3rd Thursday Street Festivals in 2009. We’ve also changed up our committees, added additional programs and events such as Business Before Hours, Lunchtime Conversations About Open Spaces, Ignite Conference, Manufacturing Day Celebration and much more.
Today the Chamber believes that a vibrant community goes hand-in-hand with a thriving business environment. Through our broad base of more than 700 members, the Chamber fuels our local economy by developing, educating, connecting and advocating to secure Sheridan’s future.
Thank you to the late Janet Shepherd for her work in researching the Chamber’s history.