Commerce Cabinet Crisis I

The first-ever Secretary of Commerce was William C. Redfield who took over in 1913, the first year that the Department of Commerce and Labor was split into the present-day Department of Commerce and Department of Labor:


Redfield did this and that for a number of years before moving to the then-independent city of Brooklyn. He appears to have been an opponent of Brooklyn’s incorporation into New York City. In 1896, he joined many so-called “Bourbon Democrats”—conservatives—in opposition to William Jennings Bryan’s capture of the party nomination on a free silver platform and served as a delegate to the rogue convention of Gold Democrats that mounted a third party campaign against Bryan and eventual victor William McKinley.

He ran for congress as a Gold Democrat and lost. He was Commissioner of Public Works in Brooklyn in 1902-03 and made it to congress for the 1911-1912 term before getting the Commerce gig. As Secretary, he inaugurated the tradition of undistinguished people serving without distinction in this not-very-important job.