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Blog Entries from April 2012

USPTO in the 1940s

Drawing of Disney camera

Ed. Note: This post is part of a series following the release of the 1940 Census highlighting various Commerce agencies and their hard work on behalf of the American people during the 1940s through today

On April 10, 1790, President George Washington signed the bill that laid the foundation of the modern American patent system. For over 200 years the patent system has encouraged the genius of hundreds of thousands of inventors.

During the 1940s, several recognizable and valuable patents were issued that have contributed significantly to American culture and society and changed the way we live. One such patent pioneered the way we see animated movies. On May 31, 1940, Walter E. Disney received Patent #2,201,689 for improvements in the art of producing animated cartoons. Disney’s patent was for a multi-plane camera that allowed for a more realistic three-dimensional image as well as depth and richness to the animation. His invention enabled him to move from the standard animated short films to feature-length animation.

Remembering Secretary Ron Brown

Photo of the late Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown

Guest post by Secretary John Bryson

Today at the Department of Commerce, we remember the contributions of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, a committed public servant who dedicated his life to strengthening America’s prosperity and making a difference.

Sixteen years ago today, a plane crash took the lives of Secretary Ron Brown, 11 Commerce employees, and 23 other U.S. and Croatian citizens, during a trade mission to Croatia. The trip was planned to help the recovering economy of the war-torn Balkans–a mission consistent with Brown’s legacy as a strong supporter of developing economic opportunity and growth both here and abroad.

During his tenure at the Commerce Department, Brown was an influential figure and tireless advocate for American businesses. His accomplishments as Secretary included helping the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) rebuild depleted fisheries and modernizing the National Weather Service. Secretary Brown also worked with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to lead the Information Infrastructure Task Force, laying the groundwork for the Internet boom. In addition, Brown led trade missions to five different continents that led to more than $80 billion in foreign deals for U.S. businesses–helping support good jobs for hardworking families here at home.

Secretary Brown was also a trailblazer throughout his life. Early on, he was the first African American to integrate his college fraternity and to become a partner at the prestigious Washington law firm, Patton Boggs & Blow. Later, he became the first African American chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and then, the first African American Secretary of Commerce, where he served for three years under President Bill Clinton.

Around the Department of Commerce, he was highly regarded for his warm, engaging personality and his pride for working on a team that was focused on growing the American economy. Even though his passing was a huge tragedy and loss for all of us–family, friends, and colleagues–his legacy as Secretary of Commerce continues to live on in the work we do every day supporting American businesses and creating U.S. jobs.

NIST in the 1940s

NIST in the 1940s

Ed. Note: This post is part of a series following the release of the 1940 Census highlighting various Commerce agencies and their hard work on behalf of the American people during the 1940s through today.

In 1940, the United States was officially not involved in the burgeoning conflicts in Europe and Asia. Yet secretly the country was hurriedly preparing for war. A decade of drought and economic depression and 20 years of peace had left the military with a fleet of outdated ships, divisions of ancient armored vehicles, scores of rusty rifles, and little in the way of new weapons and other technological development.

Mobilizing for war in the face of these deficits required materials and production on a monumental scale. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (then called the National Bureau of Standards) was enlisted to ensure that those materials and the manufacturing processes used to shape them were of the highest quality and performed as expected.  

Back to the 1940s

Census Bureau Director Rober M. Groves Release Records from 1940 Census

Guest blog post by U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves

On April 2, 2012 the Census Bureau did something unique, a once-in-a-decade action. Throughout all other times, we focus on keeping confidential the social and economic data that households and businesses provide us. Once every decade we release the individual records of a 72-year-old census. This year it was the 1940 Census.

Approaching that day, the buzz in the genealogy world was deafening; they have been waiting 10 years to fill in their family trees, to learn new things about their ancestors, and to expand their insight into their lives.

As the genealogist of my family, I can’t wait to look up my grandparents, aunts and uncles, as well as my parents’ forms. The forms won’t be indexed by name immediately, so we’ll have to link addresses of our ancestors to enumeration districts and then browse the enumeration district looking for our relatives. Right now, my tracking of the Groves’ family goes back to 1670 on the Isle of Wight, off the coast of England, but it ends in 1930. The 1940 Census allows me to see records of people I remember meeting in my youth.