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Secretary of Commerce, Undersecretary of Everything Else 

Herbert Hoover as Department of Commerce Secretary, 1921-1928 

Hoover and his wife Lou appear at a baseball game with the President Harding and First Lady Florence Harding

Hoover had President Warren G. Harding’s approval to change and expand the Commerce Department as he saw fit.  Here, Hoover and his wife Lou appear at a baseball game with the President Harding and First Lady Florence Harding. 

The Sunday Star Article  Copy

When Hoover became Commerce Secretary the country was experiencing a postwar economic slump, but his business savvy and can-do attitude gave people hope. By the end of his first year as secretary newspapers hailed his plan for widespread economic prosperity. 

Secretary Hoover leaves the White House

Secretary Hoover leaves the White House. In less than a decade, Hoover transformed the small and relatively obscure Department of Commerce into one of the most influential federal agencies.

Hoover at his desk

Herbert Hoover sits at his desk. In 1921 he became the country's third Secretary of Commerce.

Hoover visits President Calvin Coolidge at the White House

Hoover visits President Calvin Coolidge at the White House. The longest-serving Commerce Secretary in U.S. history, Hoover was a member of both the Harding and Coolidge cabinets.

Hoover Fishing

Herbert Hoover began fishing as a young boy growing up in Iowa. The lifelong hobby informed his leadership of the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Fisheries.

Hoover visited the U.S. territory of Alaska with President Warren G. Harding in 1923.

Hoover visited the U.S. territory of Alaska with President Warren G. Harding in 1923. Their aim, according to Hoover, was to better understand the problems facing the people of Alaska, so that "we might give better service from the Government."

A woman operates equipment at the Bureau of Standards

A woman operates equipment at the Bureau of Standards. During Hoover's tenure, the bureau became one of the world's largest scientific laboratories.

Hoover listens to a radio

Hoover listens to a radio. Under his leadership, the Department of Commerce became one of the first federal agencies to take an interest in the technology.  

Herbert Hoover and President Calvin Coolidge address a group of radiomen at the White House

Herbert Hoover and President Calvin Coolidge address a group of radiomen at the White House. Hoover organized several conferences  to discuss standardizing and regulating the radio industry. 

Hoover and U.S. Air Mail plane

Under Hoover, the Department of Commerce worked with the Post Office to deliver mail via airplane. Here, he poses with a U.S. Air Mail plane.

Nationwide network of lighted runways

In the 1920s the Department of Commerce oversaw the development of a network of lighted runways nationwide, making air travel easier and safer.

Department of Commerce awarded Santa Claus with a pilot's license

Hoover championed air travel as a more efficient form of transportation for a wide range of people, even Santa Claus. In 1927, the Department of Commerce awarded Santa Claus with a pilot's license, as well as a series of airway maps and the promise that runway lights would be burning bright on Christmas Eve.

Hoover visits children displaced by the flood in Natchez, Mississippi

Before becoming Commerce Secretary, Hoover oversaw the administration of relief to countries in need during and after World War I. When a flood devastated parts of Mississippi in 1927 he again stepped into a similar role. Here he visits children displaced by the flood in Natchez, Mississippi.

03-11-1921 NY Tribune Article

Eliminating waste and improving efficiency was one of Hoover's top priorities. This goal informed his administration of the Department of Commerce.

Construction on a new Commerce building began in 1929

From his first year in office, Hoover advocated for a new federal building for the Commerce Department, which was a the time spread throughout several buildings in Washington, D.C. Construction on a new Commerce building, shown here, began in 1929.

Hoover, then president, and his Commerce Secretary William F. Whiting inspect the construction

Hoover, then president, and his Commerce Secretary William F. Whiting inspect the construction site for the new Department of Commerce building in 1928.

Hoover Campaign poster

Hoover's time as Commerce Secretary affirmed his leadership capabilities, so when Calvin Coolidge announced that he would not seek reelection, Hoover became the Republican Party's nominee. He won the 1928 election with over 58% of the popular vote.