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Digital Exhibits

Featured Exhibit

The Wartime DOC

Commerce’s Contributions in World War II

Man in chemical protective mask


Commerce’s Wartime Contributions

With the onset of war in December 1941, the Department of Commerce, like the rest of the nation, mobilized to support the war effort. The Department’s bureaus assisted with a range of federal wartime activities—including some of the most important inventions and initiatives of World War II, and some of the government’s actions motivated by fear and anti-Japanese discrimination. The Department of Commerce played a vital role in Allied victory, and left a legacy of innovation and protections for citizens which Americans still benefit from today.


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Hoover Exhibit

Our Third Secretary of Commerce

Before he became president, Herbert Hoover rose to prominence as one of the most effective and influential members of Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge’s cabinets. Hoover transformed the Department of Commerce into one of the most powerful federal agencies of its time. This display explores Hoover’s time as Secretary of Commerce, and the many initiatives the department took on under his leadership. 

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National Aquarium

The Forgotten National Aquarium

In 1903, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Fisheries opened the first iteration of the National Aquarium in Washington at its offices on 6th St SW. The tiny aquarium housed a variety of freshwater fish whose visitors were primarily government employees. Calls for a larger National Aquarium that could serve as a major tourist attraction inspired the installation of an aquarium in the basement of the department’s new Herbert C. Hoover building on 14th St NW. 

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Digital Exhibits researched and developed in coordination with History Associates Incorporated

Building HCHB

Building HCHB

During the 1920's, the Department of Commerce grew massively under Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover.  By 1926, the department's numerous bureaus were scattered about the city in ten separate buildings; the construction of the Federal Triangle complex would provide the opportunity to bring them all under one roof.

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Lighting America's Beacons

Old Time Lighthouse Image

The Bureau of Lighthouses

In 1910, Congress established the Bureau of Lighthouses under the Department of Commerce. For 29 years, the Bureau—commonly known as the Lighthouse Service—managed the nation’s lighthouses, fitting them with updated technology and supervising the lighthouse keepers who kept lights burning through the night, often heroically coming to the aid of vessels in distress.

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Recording America's Story

The Crisis

By the 1930s, unemployment seemed to be the new normal for many Americans. The stock market crash of 1929 marked the beginning of an economic depression that resulted in the loss of millions of jobs. In a campaign speech he delivered in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt promised Americans a “New Deal”—a committed, federal effort to alleviate the pressures of the Great Depression.

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Digital Exhibits researched and developed in coordination with History Associates Incorporated