Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Charles Nagel (1909–1913): Secretary of Commerce and Labor

Born August 9, 1849, in Colorado County, Texas, Charles Nagel moved to a boarding school in St. Louis, Missouri, for high school and stayed to study law at Washington University. He graduated with his law degree in 1872. Nagel furthered his education by traveling to Europe and learning political economy at the University of Berlin.

Returning to St. Louis in 1873, Nagel joined the state bar and began to practice law. His first foray into politics came when he won election to the Missouri state legislature in 1881. Nagel was then elected judge of the Missouri Supreme Court in 1893. At the same time, he taught at St. Louis Law School (1886-1910) and worked for the Republican National Committee (1908-1912).

Nagel was a corporate attorney for Adolphus Busch when President William Howard Taft chose him in 1909 to become secretary of commerce and labor; he remained in that post until the end of Taft's presidency. While heading the Department of Commerce and Labor, Nagel made it more accessible to the needs of businessmen while also expanding the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization. Following his time in the cabinet, Nagel returned to the practice of law, arguing before the Supreme Court three times before dying in St. Louis on June 6, 1940.