(M-0026) The Herbert Hoover Centennial Commemorative Medallion – The Thirty-First President of the United States: March 4, 1929 – March 4, 1933. Before serving as President, Herbert Clark Hoover achieved international success as a mining engineer and won worldwide gratitude as “The Great Humanitarian” who fed war-torn Europe during and after World War I.
(P-0362) Herbert Clark Hoover was born in West Branch on August 10, 1874. His father, Jesse Hoover, was a blacksmith and farm implement store owner of German, Swiss, and English ancestry. Hoover’s mother, Hulda Randall Minthorn, was raised in Norwich, Ontario, Canada, before moving to Iowa in 1859. Like most other citizens of West Branch, Jesse and Hulda were Quakers. Hoover’s father, noted by the local paper for his “pleasant, sunshiny disposition”, died in 1880 at the age of 34. Hoover’s mother died in 1884, leaving Hoover (age 10), his older brother, Theodore, and his younger sister, May, as orphans.
The Hoover kids spent the next several months with their aunt and uncle – Allan & Millie Hoover – at their nearby farm before being sent to Newberg, Oregon – to live with another uncle – John Minthorn, a Quaker physician and businessman.
Herbert enrolled at Stanford University when it first opened in 1891 – graduating as a mining engineer. He married his Stanford sweetheart, Lou Henry Henry, and they went to China, where he worked for a private corporation as China’s leading engineer. In June 1900, the Boxer Rebellion caught the Hoovers in Tientsin. For almost a month, the settlement was under heavy fire, and while Lou worked in the hospitals, Hoover directed the building of barricades, once risking his life rescuing Chinese children.
One week before Herbert celebrated his 40th birthday (1914) in London, Germany declared war on France, and the American Consul General asked Hoover’s help in getting stranded tourists home. Over the next six weeks, his committee helped 120,000 Americans return safely to the United States. Next up, Hoover turned to a far more difficult task – to feed the hungry people of Belgium, which had been totally overrun by the German army.
Over several decades, the Des Moines Register political cartoonist, Ding Darling, drew dozens of editorial pieces with Hoover at the center of his subject. This web page features just a very few. Read more here.
After the United States entered the war (1917), President Woodrow Wilson appointed Hoover head of the Food Administration where he succeeded in cutting America’s over consumption of food – directing that surplus overseas where it was really needed – all while avoiding unpopular rationing here at home.
After the Armistice, Hoover, a member of the Supreme Economic Council and head of the American Relief Administration, organized shipments of food for starving millions in central Europe. He extended aid to famine-stricken Soviet Russia in 1921, and when a critic inquired if he was not thus helping Bolshevism, Hoover retorted, “Twenty million people are starving. Whatever their politics, they shall be fed!”
After capably serving as Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Harding and Coolidge, Hoover became the Republican Presidential nominee in 1928.
Herbert Hoover swept the 1928 election – winning in 45 of 48 states – an astounding landslide.
In his inaugural address, Hoover stated: “We, in America today, are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land.” Sadly, Herbert’s hope of lessening the poverty levels across U.S. was soon dashed.
While Hoover’s election seemed to ensure prosperity – within months, the stock market crashed, and the United States economy spiraled downward into the Great Depression. After the crash, Hoover announced that while he would keep the Federal budget balanced, he would cut taxes and expand public works spending.
In 1931, repercussions from Europe deepened the crisis, and even though the President presented to Congress an expansive program asking for creation of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to aid business, additional help for farmers facing mortgage foreclosures, banking reform, a loan to states for feeding the unemployed, and expansion of public works, his ideas mostly landed on deaf ears in Washington. All the while, as Hoover reiterated his view that people must not suffer from hunger and cold, he also believed that caring for them must primarily be a local and voluntary responsibility. Sadly, by the summer of 1932, Hoover’s game plan had stalled out, and with Herbert not being the out-going, bubbly personality needed to sell new ideas, many perceived him as distant and uncaring – an effective engineer but a lousy salesman!
His opponents in Congress, who he felt were sabotaging his program for their own political gain, unfairly painted him as a callous and cruel President, thus Hoover became the scapegoat for the Depression and was soundly defeated by Franklin D. Roosevelt in November of 1932.
In 1947, realizing the mammoth bureaucracy that had been created by the New Deal and WWII, President Truman enlisted Hoover to make the executive branch more efficient. Amid fierce infighting between New Dealers wanting to preserve FDR’s legacy and conservatives bent on erasing it, Hoover chaired the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch. The “Hoover Commission” achieved bipartisan reforms Truman claimed were among his most significant accomplishments. Years later, speaking at the dedication of the Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa, Truman said, “I feel that I am one of his closest friends and he is one of my closest friends.” Hoover was appointed chairman of a similar commission by President Eisenhower in 1953, and was befriended by politicians from both sides of the aisle.
(P-0152) Another way Hoover kept his civil service alive after his White House years was by becoming the very pro-active Chairman for the Boys Club of America. Being an orphan himself, Hoover truly took this job personally – making it a large part of his life after politics – right up until the time of his death in 1964.
Herbert Clark Hoover died in his New York City apartment on October 20, 1964 (age 90), and along with his dear partner in marriage, Lou Henry Hoover (1874-1944), are buried on the grounds of the Herbert Hoover National Library & Museum in West Branch, Iowa. Today the National Historic site includes the Hoover Birthplace Cottage and the Hoover Gravesites.
In 1951, Herbert Hoover was awarded the very first Iowa Award – the highest honor given to an Iowan. Read more here. In 1955, Hoover shared this award with his good friend, the political cartoonist, Ding Darling. Read more here.
(C-0286) The Herbert Hoover U.S. Commemorative Postage Stamp – First Day of Issue – August 10, 1965 in West Branch, Iowa. This historic postal cover was put together by the Washington Stamp Exchange in August of 1965 – placing seven other U.S. postage stamps with the Hoover commemorative – all with themes surrounding Herbert Hoover’s life (see above letter). For more about Hoover Stamp Day click here.
Ding Darling said it well with his artwork – Good Bye And Good Luck!
Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.