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From Lighthouse to Laserbeams, a History of the U.S. Department of Commerce, 1913-1988.

"From Lighthouses to Laserbeams, A History of the U.S. Department of Commerce 1913-1988" edited by Helen Bowers and dedicated to the late Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige, has been published by the Department's Office of the Secretary. It is an excellent little guide to one of the smaller but important Departments, and the parent Department for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its National Marine Fisheries Service. Indeed, the NMFS predecessor agency was in the Commerce Department early on, was later placed under the Interior Department, and once again in 1970 was reorganized under NOAA and back in the Department of Commerce.

The author begins by examining the Department's true beginnings over 200 years ago, or at least those of some of the agencies that preceeded it-its roots, if you will. As Secretary C. William Verity notes in his Introduction, the story ". . . begins in the chaotic postRevolutionary time when the independent states were attempting to establish commercial ties and carries us to the trade and technology challenges of the United States today. In the years between we see how the charts and predictions of the oceanic and atmospheric services, the data of the Census Bureau, the science of the National Bureau of Standards, the inventions monitored by the Patent Office, the assistance offered by the business development divisions, and the reports and recommendations of the domestic and international trade agencies played an increasingly important role in the national marketplace and the international marketplace."

Indeed, such agencies as the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Aviation Administration, and die Department of Transportation all developed from bureaus in the DOC.

Part I of this interesting book describes the origins between 1776 and 1913 and its evolution from 1914 onward, relating the many agencies formed under it or transferred into or out of it, along with many of the advancements and activities of the Department.

Part I provides a legislative overview, with a year-by-year look at the most significant legislative or organizational changes from 1903 to 1987.

Part III, "Building for the 21st Century" relates the history of the various agencies or administrations within the Commerce Department, who they are, what they do, and how and when they arrived. The NMFS predecessor agency, the Bureau of Fisheries, for example, was placed in the new Department of Commerce and Labor on 1 July 1903, where it remained until transfer to the Interior Department in 1939. Subsequently, it was renamed the NMFS during the NOAA inception and placed under that agency and back in the Commerce Department in 1970.

Part IV reviews each of the Commerce Department Secretaries and part V describes the Herbert Clark Hoover Building and related historical data on it. Finally, a number of literature sources are given for further information. All in all, the small 117-page paperbound volume provides a lot of sound and interesting information to commemorate the Department's 75th anniversary. It is available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402-9325 for $3.50 (Stock No. S/N 061-000-00712-1).
COPYRIGHT 1988 U.S. Department of Commerce
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Marine Fisheries Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1988
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