The Stockton Chamber Comes to the Rescue
Today we are introducing a new feature of the Stocktonia News blog, “This Day in History,” which will feature short stories on historic events in Stockton’s past. 100 years ago today, Stockton was a dramatically different city – a town where tractor titans such as Holt Manufacturing Company and R.G. Letourneau (developer of the bulldozer) ruled the economy, and when Stockton was routinely referred to as “the great metropolis of the San Joaquin Valley.”
One of the key assets of Stockton today, however, was only a dream in the minds of Stockton’s 1922 city fathers. Many around the world today associate Stockton with the University of the Pacific, but the university, then known as the College of the Pacific, had not at that time moved to Stockton. The institution, which is the oldest in the state, was then located in San Jose (it was originally founded in 1851, in Santa Clara). In the spring of 1922, the City of Stockton was engaged in a fundraising war with other cities in the state to convince the College of the Pacific to move here. On June 1, 1922, the Chamber of Commerce of Stockton, led by financier and real estate man E.L. Wilhoit, fully endorsed the move of the college to Stockton, and threw its financial weight behind the fundraising campaign.
To help convince the College of the Pacific’s Board of Regents to move the institution to Stockton, College President Dr. Tully Knoles challenged the Stockton community to raise $600,000 in funds for the college. According to the federal inflation calculator, this amounts to $10,387,149.70 in real dollars today. If the city could raise this sum, the College of the Pacific would pledge to raise another $900,000 to finance the move.
The campaign to bring the college to the city began on May 8, 1922, and needed to be completed by early June – otherwise, the College of the Pacific would look to other cities. A united front of churches across the city sermonized on the need for a college in Stockton, and extolled how the relocation of Pacific (which was then a Methodist college), would improve the moral fabric of the city.
And yet, by June 1, only $344,433 of the $600,000 was raised. Seeing the desperate need to support the project, E.L. Wilhoit and A.B. Lang, the president and managing director of the Chamber of Commerce, through their weight behind the project. Within a week, the campaign had reached $400,000.
The endorsement of the Chamber of Commerce was critical for the campaign, and soon thereafter the Stockton Rotary, Stockton Realty Board, the Stockton Shriners, Chinese Benevolent Association, and dozens of community organizations came together to support the campaign. By June 21, the city of merely 20,000 people had raised the necessary $600,000.
Due to the success of the campaign for Pacific, Dr. Tully Knoles announced on June 21 in The Record that the College of the Pacific would move to Stockton. Ralph Yardley, the famous illustrator, published a cartoon showcasing the hard work of those who contributed to and led the campaign. On April 9, 1923, construction of the new campus had began, and in November of 1923, the majority of construction had finished. The move was completed in 1924, and college classes began that fall. It was in large part due to the work of the Stockton Chamber of Commerce, as well as other organizations, that the College of the Pacific moved to Stockton. When leadership was needed, our community institutions answered the call.
Super cool story!
Great Story, Philip!
The POWER of the Chamber on full display! Thank you for highlighting this important piece of Stockton history.
I feel obligated to point out the E. L. Wilhoit was also president of Stockton Savings & Loan Bank (aka Bank of Stockton) during this period.
I enjoyed reading this piece of history.
What an amazing story- so proud to be part of the Chamber family and our beautiful city of Stockton. Our exceptional leadership is still alive and well! Judy Goldstrand
Leave a comment