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Digital Exhibits


Secretary of Commerce, Undersecretary of Everything Else 

Herbert Hoover as Department of Commerce Secretary, 1921-1928 

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.


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


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. 


Another new industry that Hoover promoted was aviation. He lobbied for congressional regulations that would make the industry safer, more efficient, and more widely used for commercial and travel purposes.

In 1926, Hoover organized an Aeronautics Branch within the Department of Commerce. The branch worked to triple the number of lighted runways in the country, furnishing them with reliable weather and navigational equipment. These efforts made air travel a viable option for increasing numbers of Americans and American businesses looking to ship their products.

“As soon as the [Aviation Commerce Act] passed Congress… I organized the Aviation division in the Department... We went at it with great zest. I know of no satisfaction equal to the growth under one’s own hand of a great economic and human agency.”[i]

~Herbert Hoover, Memoirs


[i] Hoover, Memoirs, Volume 2, 134.