The New York Times says on this day in 1903 the U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor was established. Dullsville, right? Wrong! Here are three exciting things you can say about it next time you get the chance — say, at a quiet moment during your Valentine’s Day evening:

1. It represented a victory for Theodore Roosevelt’s particular style of leadership — using press coverage to pressure Congress. While McKinley had begun to use the press in a modern way — issuing press releases to try to control coverage and so forth — Roosevelt did it much better, largely because reporters did not drop dead of boredom when he opened his mouth. Roosevelt also wasn’t above a deft bit of — spin? fibbing? — as previously discussed on this blog.

2. It represented a position on antitrust somewhere between the unashamedly pro-corporate wing of the Republican Party, as represented by e.g. Nelson Aldrich, and the populist wing of the Democratic Party. By lodging investigatory and subpoena powers in an executive bureaucracy, Roosevelt was able to go after trusts he thought were misbehaving and leave alone those he thought were fairly tame. This discretion represented a prima facie fudge (that’s technical legalese, special for CharleyCarp) of the Sherman Antitrust Act, which forbade “every combination” in restraint of trade. But as was typical of Roosevelt, there was a good deal of constructive bluster and a bit less actual prosecution. Remind me to tell you about Justice Holmes and the Northern Securities case come March 14.

3. If you squint just right at the provisions to collect and publicize information about corporate accounting, coupled with Roosevelt’s annoyance at stock-watering, you can see the beginnings of the Securities and Exchange Commission, there. Which reminds me of the pre-Security Analysis career of David Dodd, but we can’t do all our “this day” material at once, can we? Another time.