The Commercial Club of Chicago resulted from the 1907 merger of two predecessor Chicago clubs: the Merchants Club (organized in 1896) and the Commercial Club (organized in 1877). In 1932, the Industrial Club of Chicago (organized in 1905) joined. Its most active members included George Pullman, Marshall Field, Cyrus McCormick, George Armour, Frederic Delano, Sewell Avery, Rufus C. Dawes, and Julius Rosenwald. The club promotes the economic development interests of its members. It championed member Daniel Burnham's Plan of Chicago (1909), also known as Burnham's plan. The plan gave the blueprint for the future growth and development of the entire Chicago region.
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. They also endorsed the creation of the Cook County Forest Preserve district.
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.
The club remains in existence today tracing its origins back to the 17 founding members of the Commercial Club in 1877. The current Chairman is Frederick H. Waddell and the current President is Kelly R. Welsh.
Former President Tyrone C. Fahner claimed that some members had talked to bond ratings agencies about lowering Illinois' bond rating to create more pressure for pension reform. Fahner stated, "The Civic Committee, not me, but me and some of the people that make up the Civic Committee, some of the same names I mentioned before, did meet with and call, in one case it was in person, a couple of calls to Moody's, Fitch and Standard & Poor's, and say, 'How in the hell can you guys do this? You're an enabler to let the state continue. You keep threatening more and more and more, and I think now we've backed off, because we don't want to be the straw that breaks the back.' As Anders Lindall, spokesman for AFSCME Council 31, stated: "Here is a group of some of the richest and most powerful corporate CEOs in the state of Illinois who claim to be civic minded and have the best interests of the state at heart, but the president of their lobbying group is bragging about their actions behind the scenes to influence the ratings agencies and drive down the state's credit rating [and] thereby drive up the costs to taxpayers,"