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Digital Exhibits


Secretary of Commerce, Undersecretary of Everything Else 

Herbert Hoover as Department of Commerce Secretary, 1921-1928 

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. Hoover organized several conferences  to discuss standardizing and regulating the radio industry. 


The radio’s popularity skyrocketed during the 1920s, and Hoover spearheaded efforts to improve radio technology and regulate the airwaves. He saw the radio not merely as a form of entertainment or communication, but as an essential public utility. The Department of Commerce could help ensure that Americans had both quality radio reception and quality radio content. It was one of the ways, Hoover believed, that the department had a direct impact on the lives of the people it served.

To that end, Hoover organized several conferences that explored the best ways to standardize and regulate the rapidly expanding industry, and ensured that the Bureau of Standards researched radio technology.

“When I became head of the Department I found that one of its duties was to develop and regulate the use of radio... a new and universal art profoundly modifying every aspect of human life.”[i]

~Herbert Hoover, Memoirs


[i] Hoover, Memoirs, Volume 2, 139.