United States Department of Commerce and Labor
Seal US Department Commerce and Labor.jpg
Seal of the U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor
Agency overview
FormedFebruary 14, 1903; 119 years ago (1903-02-14)
Preceding agency
  • none
DissolvedMarch 4, 1913; 109 years ago (1913-03-04)
Superseding agency
JurisdictionUnited States of America
HeadquartersWashington, D.C.
Employees10,125 (July 1, 1903)
Agency executive
  • Secretary
  • Assistant Secretary
Secretary of Commerce and Labor of the United States of America
United States Department of Commerce and Labor
StyleMr. Secretary
Member ofCabinet
Reports toThe President
SeatWashington, D.C.
AppointerThe President
with Senate advice and consent
Term lengthNo fixed term
FormationFebruary 14, 1903; 119 years ago (1903-02-14)
First holderGeorge B. Cortelyou
Final holderCharles Nagel
AbolishedMarch 4, 1913; 109 years ago (1913-03-04)
SuccessionSecretary of Commerce
Secretary of Labor

The United States Department of Commerce and Labor was a short-lived Cabinet department of the United States government, which was concerned with fostering and supervising big business.

Origins and establishment

Calls in the United States for the creation of an executive department of the United States Government devoted to fostering and supervising business and manufacturing can be traced to least as far back as 1787.[1][2] By the latter decades of the 19th century, the momentum behind the creation of such a department grew, its advocates pointing to the existence of various U.S. agencies to promote and regulate agriculture, fisheries, forestry, labor, mining, and transportation and noting that the United States was virtually alone among the countries of the world in lacking a government agency to perform the same function for commerce and industry.[3][4]

In the first session of the 57th United States Congress (1901–1903), a bill was introduced in the United States Senate to address this shortcoming by establishing the Department of Commerce and Labor. It passed the Senate with little or no opposition, and during the second session of the 57th Congress passed the United States House of Representatives as well. President Theodore Roosevelt signed the bill into law on February 14, 1903, creating the department.[5][6] The department was given "the province and duty to ... foster, promote, and develop the foreign and domestic commerce, the mining, manufacturing, shipping, and fishing industries, the labor interests, and the transportation facilities of the United States."[7][8]

The United States Secretary of Commerce and Labor was the head of the department and a member of the United States Cabinet, and an Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Labor served under the secretary.[7] On February 16, 1903, President Roosevelt appointed his personal secretary, George B. Cortelyou, as the first secretary of commerce and labor.[9][6] He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate the same day and established a temporary headquarters at the White House in Washington, D.C., on February 18, 1903.[6][9] After the department moved into another temporary headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C., it began operations on March 16, 1903.[9] It opened its permanent headquarters in Washington, D.C., on June 17, 1903.[9]

The department's subordinate agencies were placed under its control on July 1, 1903.[10] In remarks for the occasion, Secretary Cortelyou noted that the subordination of agencies to the Department of Commerce and Labor on that day had given the department a total workforce of 10,125 people.[10][11]

Subordinate agencies

On July 1, 1903, the Department of Commerce and Labor took control of 13 subordinate agencies, making the department one of the largest and most complicated in the U.S. Government.[6] Although the youngest executive department, it took the responsibility for the oversight of some of the oldest U.S. Government agencies and programs.[11] Nine of its subordinate agencies were transferred from other executive departments, two previously were independent agencies, and two were new agencies established as of that date:[12][13][14][15][16]

In addition, the jurisdiction, supervision, and control of the fisheries of the Department of Alaska, including the harvesting of fur seals and salmon, was transferred from the Department of the Treasury to the Department of Commerce and Labor as of July 1, 1903.[19]

1903–1913

Cortelyou served as secretary until June 1904, when he left to manage Theodore Roosevelt′s 1904 reelection cmmpaign.[8] California congressman Victor H. Metcalf succeeded him as secretary and described Cortelyou's work in setting up the department during his short tenure as having been "as thorough and complete" as possible.[20] Under Metcalf, the department established the Bureau of Manufactures, which was the component most directly related to the department's main mission of promoting industry and commerce.[18]

New York businessman and former U.S. Minister to the Ottoman Empire Oscar S. Straus and Missouri politician and lawyer Charles Nagel served as the final two secretaries of commerce and labor.[18] During their tenures, the department increasingly became a focal point for requests for many kinds of scientific, sociological, statistical, and commercial information.[18]

Dissolution

During the decade of the Department of Commerce and Labor′s existence, American manufacturing expanded and American laborers increasing moved from farming to manufacturing jobs.[18] This trend put increasing pressure on the U.S. Government to separate labor-related functions from the department and give labor its own own executive department.[18]

In response, on March 4, 1913, President William Howard Taft on his last day in office signed legislation renaming the department the United States Department of Commerce and transferring its bureaus and agencies specializing in labor to the new United States Department of Labor, which was established on the same date.[18] Corresponding with the division of the department in 1913, the Secretary of Commerce and Labor's position was divided into separate positions of United States Secretary of Commerce and United States Secretary of Labor. The Bureau of Corporations became part of the Department of Commerce in 1913, but was spun off as an independent agency, the Federal Trade Commission, in 1915.

Later proposals

In 2011 and 2013, in response to federal budget-cutting efforts, United States Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), sponsored S. 1116, a proposal to re-combine the Department of Commerce and the Department of Labor as the "Department of Commerce and the Workforce."[21] No action on this proposal has been taken beyond referral to committee.[22]

List of secretaries of commerce and labor

Parties

  Republican (4)

No. Portrait Name State of residence Took office Left office President
1
Cortelyou-george-bruce.jpg
George B. Cortelyou New York February 18, 1903 June 30, 1904 Theodore Roosevelt
2
VHMetcalf.jpeg
Victor H. Metcalf California July 1, 1904 December 16, 1906
3
Oscar Solomon Straus 1.jpg
Oscar S. Straus New York December 17, 1906 March 5, 1909
4
Charles Nagel, 1849–1940.jpg
Charles Nagel Missouri March 6, 1909 March 4, 1913 William Howard Taft

See also: United States Secretary of Commerce and United States Secretary of Labor

See also

References

Citations

  1. ^ Organization and Law of the Department of Commerce and Labor, p. 8.
  2. ^ From Lighthouses to Laserbeams, p. 5.
  3. ^ Organization and Law of the Department of Commerce and Labor, pp. 11–12.
  4. ^ From Lighthouses to Laserbeams, pp. 5–7.
  5. ^ Organization and Law of the Department of Commerce and Labor, p. 12.
  6. ^ a b c d From Lighthouses to Laserbeams, p. 7.
  7. ^ a b Organization and Law of the Department of Commerce and Labor, p. 25.
  8. ^ a b c From Lighthouses to Laserbeams, p. 9.
  9. ^ a b c d Organization and Law of the Department of Commerce and Labor, p. 22.
  10. ^ a b Organization and Law of the Department of Commerce and Labor, p. 23.
  11. ^ a b From Lighthouses to Laserbeams, p. 8.
  12. ^ Organization and Law of the Department of Commerce and Labor, pp. 24, 26–28.
  13. ^ Circular 97, p. 5.
  14. ^ "Fisheries Historical Timeline: Historical Highlights 1900s". NOAA Fisheries Service: Northeast Fisheries Science Center. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). June 16, 2011. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  15. ^ Archives Catalog: Department of Commerce. Coast and Geodetic Survey. 1913-7/13/1965 Organization Authority Record Accessed 29 October 2022
  16. ^ From Lighthouses to Laserbeams, pp. 7–9.
  17. ^ From Lighthouses to Laserbeams, pp. 6, 9.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g From Lighthouses to Laserbeams, p. 11.
  19. ^ Organization and Law of the Department of Commerce and Labor, pp. 22, 28.
  20. ^ From Lighthouses to Laserbeams, pp. 9, 11.
  21. ^ "Burr Cuts Wasteful Spending, Improves Efficiency by Combining Dept. of Labor and Commerce | U.S. Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina". www.burr.senate.gov. Retrieved July 12, 2019.
  22. ^ "S.1116: Actions & Votes". Retrieved November 10, 2011.

Bibliography