1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Commerce, Department of

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COMMERCE, DEPARTMENT OF, one of the executive departments of the U. S. Government. It succeeded the earlier Department of Commerce and Labor, by an Act of Congress, approved March 4 1913, which also created a separate and independent Department of Labor (see Labor, Department of). The Secretary of Commerce is a member of the president's Cabinet but is not in line of succession to the presidency. It is his duty to promote the commerce, domestic and foreign, of the United States. There is also an assistant secretary and a solicitor, the latter acting as legal adviser to the Secretary and to the heads of the various bureaus of the department.

As originally organized there were 9 bureaus, as follows: (1) The bureau of the census, charged with the collection of data concerning population, agriculture, manufactures, mining, etc.; (2) the bureau of foreign and domestic commerce, for the collection and diffusion of information of use to the manufacturer and exporter; (3) the coast and geodetic survey, for charting coast waters and surveying rivers to the head of tidewater or ship navigation, and for making deep-sea soundings, magnetic observations, etc.; (4) the bureau of fisheries, for regulating and conserving fisheries; (5) the lighthouse service, in charge of the aids to navigation on all U.S. territory, except Panama and the Philippines; (6) the bureau of navigation, having general superintendence of the commercial marine and merchant seamen, and the enforcement of navigation laws; (7) the steamship inspection service, which inspects steam vessels for the purpose of insuring safety at sea, and issues licences to masters, mates, pilots, and engineers of the merchant marine; (8) the bureau of standards, for determining all American measurements; and (9) the bureau of corporations. The last-mentioned bureau, on March 16 1915, was transferred to, and merged with, the Federal Trade Commission (see Federal Trade Commission).

Because of the importance of manufactures there had long been agitation among various commercial organizations of the United States for the creation of a governmental department for promoting commercial interests; but it was not until 1903 that a bill establishing the Department of Commerce and Labor was passed by Congress; it was approved by President Roosevelt Feb. 14. For the next ten years the joint interests of labor and capital were entrusted to this department. The arrangement proved unsatisfactory because of the frequent conflict of these interests, and in 1913 an independent Department of Labor was created, the name of the Department of Commerce and Labor being changed to Department of Commerce.