Department of Commerce and Labor Established

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

It was created on February 14, 1903. It was subsequently renamed the Department of Commerce on March 4, 1913, and its bureaus and agencies specializing in labor were transferred to the new Department of Labor.

The United States Secretary of Commerce and Labor was the head of the department. The secretary was a member of the President's Cabinet. Corresponding with the division of the department in 1913, the Secretary's position was divided into separate positions of Commerce and Labor.

On February 14, 1903, Congress followed the lead of President Theodore Roosevelt and passed legislation that gave birth to the Department of Commerce and Labor, as well as the Bureau of Corporations. Under the charge of Secretary of Commerce and Labor George B. Cortelyou, who was appointed on February 16, the newly formed departments were charged with probing into the activities of corporations involved in interstate trade. For the president, the quick creation of these organizations was another visible symbol of his campaign to clamp down on business corruption. While these efforts proved popular with the public, they rankled business leaders who felt that Roosevelt was waging an unfair fight to limit the size and, more importantly, the profits of the nation's leading corporations. Despite his avowed stance as a trustbuster, Roosevelt was not necessarily opposed to businesses becoming profit-churning behemoths. And, he took some pains to assure the business community that the new departments were in fact "sane and conservative" steps towards cleansing corporate America. "The legislation," Roosevelt wrote in response to his critics, "was moderate. It was characterized throughout by the idea that we were not attacking corporations, but endeavoring to provide for doing away for any evil in them."