UIC Library opens archives of historic commodity exchanges

Crowds in the Chicago Board of Trade in 1930

Chicago Board of Trade trading floor, 1930. (CBOT records: Series V – Public Relations Department. Select image for larger file.)

Chicago’s commodities exchanges were the first in the U.S. — and heralded the city’s arrival as a commercial center.

Now the records of two of these exchanges — the Chicago Board of Trade and the MidAmerica Commodity Exchange — are available for research in the Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“This vast archive documents a story that goes well beyond the economic history of the city,” says Mary Case, UIC university librarian. “The files are rich with primary source materials concerning business and government relations, historical accounts from companies, the exchanges’ philanthropic responses to worldwide disasters, and the interactions of prominent business leaders.”

The Chicago Board of Trade was established in 1848 in a flour store attic by 82 Chicago merchants and political figures. In 1859, CBOT was granted a charter allowing self-regulation from the Illinois legislature. It merged with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in 2007 to become CME Group.

The MidAmerica Commodity Exchange was founded in 1868 as “Pudd’s Exchange” in a field at LaSalle and Washington streets. It offered contracts smaller than those offered by CBOT, thus allowing individuals with smaller assets to trade commodities. It was incorporated as the Chicago Open Board of Trade in 1880.  It became the MidAmerica Commodity Exchange in 1973, was affiliated with CBOT in 1986, and was dissolved in 2003.

Commodity trading benefited farmers by stabilizing markets and prices, and consumers by requiring that commodities be inspected and graded. Chicago’s exchanges set worldwide precedents for trading practices and relationships between boards of trade and chambers of commerce.

The collections document the exchanges’ history, officers and members, operations, rules and regulations, and statistics. The materials include correspondence, meeting minutes, rulebooks, reports, legal papers, press clips, and publications, as well as photographs and blueprints of the iconic Chicago Board of Trade Building.

Additional records will soon be added to the archive.

“CME Group plans to add the records of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to UIC Daley Library later this year,” said Lindsay Siens, CME Group public affairs director.

The collections are available for use in the Special Collections Department of Daley Library. Some materials are restricted. Visitors are advised to locate materials through the department’s online finding aids, then contact the department at (312) 996-2742 to ensure that the materials are open to the public.

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