Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Victor H. Metcalf (1904–1906): Secretary of Commerce and Labor

Victor Howard Metcalf was born on October 10, 1853, in Utica, New York. He attended Yale University as an undergraduate for only three years but earned a law degree from Yale Law School in 1876. Metcalf established a private practice before moving to Oakland, California, in 1878.

He became an influential member of the Republican Party and a prominent lawyer in Oakland before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving from 1899 to 1904. In Congress, Metcalf sat on the House Committee on Naval Affairs, where he pressed for the construction of a large battleship navy. Metcalf became secretary of commerce and labor following the resignation of George B. Courtelyou; he remained in that post from July 1904 to December 1906.

President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Metcalf secretary of the Navy after the resignation of Charles Bonaparte. His tenure as Navy secretary (1906-1908) coincided with the sailing of the "Great White Fleet." Poor health forced him to resign from the cabinet. Thereafter, he returned to California and worked in the fields of banking and law. Victor Howard Metcalf died in Oakland, California, on February 20, 1936.