Victor H. Metcalf

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Victor Metcalf
United States Secretary of the Navy
In office
December 17, 1906 – November 30, 1908
PresidentTheodore Roosevelt
Preceded byCharles Bonaparte
Succeeded byTruman Newberry
2nd United States Secretary of Commerce and Labor
In office
July 1, 1904 – December 16, 1906
PresidentTheodore Roosevelt
Preceded byGeorge B. Cortelyou
Succeeded byOscar Straus
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 3rd district
In office
March 4, 1899 – July 1, 1904
Preceded bySamuel G. Hilborn
Succeeded byJoseph R. Knowland
Personal details
Victor Howard Metcalf

(1853-10-10)October 10, 1853
Utica, New York, U.S.
DiedFebruary 20, 1936(1936-02-20) (aged 82)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
SpouseEmily Corinne Nicholson[1]
EducationYale University (BA)
Hamilton College, New York (LLB)

Victor Howard Metcalf (October 10, 1853 – February 20, 1936) was an American politician; he served in President Theodore Roosevelt's cabinet as Secretary of Commerce and Labor, and then as Secretary of the Navy.


The Metcalf family in 1904

Born in Utica, New York, on October 10, 1853, to William and Sarah P. (Howard) Metcalf. He attended the Utica public schools, Utica Free Academy, and Russell's Military Institute at New Haven, Connecticut. In 1872, he entered Yale College where he was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Phi chapter); he left in his junior year to attend Yale Law School. He graduated in 1876 and was admitted to the Connecticut bar. In 1877, he continued his legal education at Hamilton College, and was admitted to the New York bar. He practiced in Utica in 1877, and then moved to Oakland, California in 1879. His law practice in California handled real property and commercial cases.

He married Emily Corinne Nicholson in 1881; they had two sons, one of them being educated at the Annapolis Naval Academy,[2] the other becoming a businessman in California.[3]

He was elected as a Republican to the 56th, 57th and 58th United States Congresses, serving from 1899 until 1904.[4] In congress he served on the Naval Affairs and the Ways and Means committees. Metcalf's legislation for reclamation of arid lands put him in touch with President Theodore Roosevelt.

President Roosevelt appointed him, on July 1, 1904, Secretary of Commerce and Labor. As Secretary of Commerce, Roosevelt sent Metcalf to San Francisco in 1905 as an intermediator between the San Francisco school board and 91 Japanese students who were refused entry to public schools. A compromise was reached where the students would be permitted into the public schools while Japan would stop issuing passports to laborers.[5] As President Roosevelt's personal representative, Secretary Metcalf traveled to San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and fire to survey the damage.[6] He served until December 12, 1906, when he was appointed Secretary of the Navy. During his term, he oversaw the world cruise of the Great White Fleet.[7] The pressures of office took a toll on his health and he resigned as navy secretary November 13, 1908.

After leaving Roosevelt's Cabinet he returned to Oakland and resumed his practice of law, and engaged in the banking business. Little more than a month after his wife Emily died, Metcalf died in Oakland, February 20, 1936.

He is buried at Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland, Calif.


  1. ^ METCALF OF CALIFORNIA, by The Watchman; in The California Weekly, originally published January 15, 1909
  2. ^ The Independent, Volume 57 (1904) New York
  3. ^ Merrill Edward Gates, ed. (1905) Men of Mark in America, Men of Mark Publishing Co., Washington D.C.
  4. ^ "S. Doc. 58-1 - Fifty-eighth Congress. (Extraordinary session -- beginning November 9, 1903.) Official Congressional Directory for the use of the United States Congress. Compiled under the direction of the Joint Committee on Printing by A.J. Halford. Special edition. Corrections made to November 5, 1903". U.S. Government Printing Office. November 9, 1903. p. 7. Retrieved July 2, 2023.
  5. ^ Wu and Song, editors. (2000) Asian American Studies: A Reader, Rutgers University Press ISBN 0-8135-2725-2
  6. ^ Sandy Sher, "Rally Round the Fleet, Boys and Pass the Bull's Head, Please: A Biographical Sketch of Oakland's Victor H. Metcalf, Cabinet Member Under Theodore Roosevelt and Early Resident of Adams Point" (Adams Point Preservation, Oakland, Calif., 1982), pp. 7-8.
  7. ^ "Great White Fleet, an American Symbol" (February 28, 1987) The New York Times

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U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 3rd congressional district

Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by U.S. Secretary of Commerce and Labor
Served under: Theodore Roosevelt

1904 – 1906
Succeeded by
Government offices
Preceded by United States Secretary of the Navy
Succeeded by