Herbert Hoover

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Herbert Hoover
President Hoover portrait.tif
31st President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1929 – March 4, 1933
Vice President Charles Curtis
Preceded by Calvin Coolidge
Succeeded by Franklin D. Roosevelt
3rd United States Secretary of Commerce
In office
March 5, 1921 – August 21, 1928
President Warren G. Harding
Calvin Coolidge
Preceded by Joshua W. Alexander
Succeeded by William F. Whiting
Director of the U.S. Food Administration
In office
August 21, 1917 – November 16, 1918
President Woodrow Wilson
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Position abolished
Personal details
Born Herbert Clark Hoover
(1874-08-10)August 10, 1874
West Branch, Iowa, U.S.
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
New York City, New York, U.S.
Resting place Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum
West Branch, Iowa
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Lou Henry (m. 1899; d. 1944)
Children Herbert Jr. and Allan
Residence Stanford, California, U.S.
Religion Quaker
Signature Herbert Hoover's signature

Herbert Clark Hoover (August 10, 1874October 20, 1964) was the 31st President of the United States, serving in that role from 1929 to 1933 during the Great Depression. A Republican, as Secretary of Commerce in the 1920s he introduced Progressive Era themes of efficiency in the business community and provided government support for standardization, efficiency and international trade. As president from 1929 to 1933, his ambitious programs were overwhelmed by the Great Depression, which seemed to get worse every year despite the increasingly large-scale interventions he made in the economy. He was defeated in a landslide in 1932 by Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, and spent the rest of his life as a conservative denouncing big government, liberalism and federal intervention in economic affairs, as Democrats repeatedly used his Depression record to attack conservatism and justify more regulation of the economy.

A lifelong Quaker, he became a successful mining engineer around the globe and retired in 1912. In the First World War he built an international reputation as a humanitarian by leading relief efforts in Belgium during the war, and in Eastern Europe afterwards. He headed the U.S. Food Administration during World War I. His reputation as a Progressive businessman fighting for efficiency and elimination of waste was built as the Secretary of Commerce 1921-28. Hoover was a leader in the Efficiency Movement, which held that every institution public and private was riddled with unsuspected inefficiencies. They all could be improved by experts who could identify the problems and solve them. He also believed in the importance of volunteerism and of the role of individuals in society and the economy. In the presidential election of 1928, Hoover easily won the Republican nomination, despite having no elected-office experience. Although Hoover never raised the religious issue, some of his supporters did in mobilizing anti-Catholic sentiment against his opponent Al Smith. Hoover won in a landslide.

When the Wall Street Crash of 1929 struck less than eight months after he took office, Hoover tried to combat the ensuing Great Depression in the United States with large-scale government public works projects such as the Hoover Dam, and calls on industry to keep wages high. He reluctantly approved the Smoot–Hawley Tariff of 1930, which sent foreign trade spiralling down. He believed it was essential to balance the budget despite falling tax revenue, so he raised the tax rates. The economy kept falling, and the unemployment rate rose to 25%, with heavy industry, mining, and wheat and cotton farming hit especially hard. This downward spiral, plus his support for prohibition policies that had lost favor, set the stage for Hoover's overwhelming defeat in 1932 by Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, who promised a New Deal. Most historians agree that Hoover's defeat in the 1932 election was caused primarily by the downward economic spiral, although his strong support for prohibition was also significant.

Hoover became a conservative spokesman in opposition to the domestic and foreign policies of the New Deal. He opposed entry into the Second World War and was not called on to serve in any public role during the war. He had better relations with President Harry S. Truman, and Hoover helped produce a number of reports that changed U.S. occupation policy in Germany. Truman also appointed Hoover to head the Hoover Commission, intended to foster greater efficiency throughout the federal bureaucracy, and Hoover served on a similar commission under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. By the time of his death in 1964, he had rehabilitated his image. Nevertheless, Hoover is generally not ranked highly in historical rankings of Presidents of the United States.

Family background and early life

File:Herbert Hoover in 1877.jpg
1877 Herbert Hoover tintype

Herbert Hoover was born on August 10, 1874, in West Branch, Iowa; he would become the only President so far born in that state and the first born west of the Mississippi River. His father, Jesse Hoover (1849–80), was a blacksmith and farm implement store owner, of German (Pfautz, Wehmeyer), German-Swiss (Huber, Burkhart), and English ancestry. Jesse Hoover and his father Eli had moved to Iowa from Ohio twenty years previously.[1] Hoover's mother, Hulda Randall Minthorn (1849–84), was born in Norwich, Ontario, Canada, and was of English and Irish ancestry. Both of his parents were Quakers.

At about age two he contracted the croup. He was so ill that he was momentarily thought to have died, until he was resuscitated by his uncle, John Minthorn.[2] As a child, he was often called by his father "my little stick in the mud", since he repeatedly was trapped in the mud while crossing an unpaved street.[3] Hoover's family figured prominently in the town's public prayer life, due almost entirely to Hulda's role in her church.[4] His father, noted by the local paper for his "pleasant, sunshiny disposition", died in 1880. After working to retire her husband's debts, retain their life insurance, and care for the children, his mother died in 1884, leaving Hoover (age nine), his older brother, and his younger sister as orphans.[5] Fellow Quaker Lawrie Tatum was appointed as Hoover's guardian.

Herbert Hoover birthplace cottage, West Branch, Iowa

After a brief stay with one of his grandmothers in Kingsley, Iowa, Hoover lived the next 18 months with his uncle Allen Hoover in West Branch. In November 1885, he went to Newberg, Oregon, to live with his uncle Dr. John Minthorn, a physician and businessman whose own son had died the year before. The Minthorn household was considered cultured and educational, and imparted a strong work ethic.[6] Observers, including Minthorn himself, describe Hoover as being unhappy with the long days of toil he experienced while staying with the Minthorn household. Hoover attended Friends Pacific Academy (now George Fox University), but dropped out at the age of thirteen to become an office assistant for his uncle's real estate office in Salem, Oregon. Though he did not attend high school, Hoover attended night school and learned bookkeeping, typing, and mathematics.[7]

Hoover entered Stanford University in 1891, its inaugural year, after failing all the entrance exams (except mathematics) and then being tutored for the summer in Palo Alto.[8] Hoover claimed to be the very first student at Stanford, by virtue of having been the first person in the first class to sleep in the dormitory.[9] Hoover worked a variety of odd jobs to support himself, and struggled in many of his classes, especially English. But he found a happiness at Stanford that previously eluded him. Hoover had been unsure of his major before arriving at Stanford, but position working for geologist John Casper Branner convinced him to switch his major to geology, and Hoover interned for Branner and the United States Geological Survey during the summer. Though he was shy among fellow students at first, Hoover won election as student treasurer and became known for his distaste for fraternities and sororities. In his senior year, he became smitten with a classmate named Lou Henry, but his financial situation precluded the possibility of marriage. Hoover graduated from Stanford in 1895, in the midst of the Panic of 1893, and initially struggled to find a job.[10]

While at the university, he was the student manager of both the baseball and football teams and was a part of the inaugural Big Game versus rival the University of California and friend (Cal Manager) Herbert Lang.[11] Only 10,000 tickets were printed for the inaugural game and 20,000 people showed up. Both Hoover and Lang had to find pots, bowls and any other available receptacles to collect admission fees.[12] Stanford won the game.[9][13]:21–22 In 1892 Hoover invited Polish composer Ignacy Jan Paderewski to give a benefit concert. Hoover and his associates were unable to pay Paderewski the entire honorarium. The musician after hearing their story returned them the money so they could pay for rental of the concert hall. In 1919 Paderewski, who become prime minister of Poland, traveled to Hoover to thank him for the relief sent to Poland. "That's all right, Mr. Paderewski," Hoover replied. "Besides, you don't remember it, but you helped me once when I was a student at college and I was in a hole."[14][15][16]

Mining engineer


File:Herbert Hoover in 1898.jpg
Herbert Hoover, aged 23; taken in Perth, Western Australia, in 1898

After graduation, Hoover worked in the gold mining districts of Nevada City and Grass Valley, California, before landing a job with the mining engineering firm of Louis Janin.[13]:25–28 Hoover went to Western Australia in 1897 as an employee of Bewick, Moreing & Co., a London-based gold mining company. His geological training and work experience were well suited for the firm's objectives.[17] He worked at gold mines in Big Bell, Cue, Gwalia, Menzies, and Coolgardie.[18][19]

Hoover first went to Coolgardie, then the center of the Eastern Goldfields, where he worked under Edward Hooper, a company partner. Conditions were harsh in these goldfields even though he got a $5,000 salary (equivalent to $100,000 today).[20] In the Coolgardie and Murchison rangelands on the edge of the Great Victoria Desert, Hoover described the region as a land of "black flies, red dust and white heat".[21] He served as a geologist and mining engineer while searching the Western Australian goldfields for investments. After being appointed as mine manager at the age of 23, he led a major program of expansion for the Sons of Gwalia gold mine at Gwalia,[22]:202 and brought in many Italian immigrants to cut costs and counter the labour movement of the Australian miners.[23][24] Hoover became opposed to measures such as the minimum wage and workers' compensation, feeling that they were unfair to owners. In 1898, Hoover was promoted to junior partner by his employers, who were pleased with Hoover's talent and devotion to his work. After earning his promotion, he cabled his college sweetheart, Lou Henry, asking her to marry him. After she cabled back her acceptance of the proposal, Hoover briefly returned to the United States to marry her. Hoover and his wife would have two children: Herbert Charles Hoover (1903–1969) and Allan Henry Hoover (1907–1993).[25]

Rather than returning to Australia, Hoover and his new wife traveled to China.[25] An open feud had developed between Hoover and his boss Ernest Williams, with Hoover persuading four other mine managers to conspire against his rival. Defusing the situation, the firm's principals offered Hoover a compelling promotion that relocated him to China.[26] During his time at Gwalia, Hoover first met Fleury James Lyster, a pioneering metallurgist.[27][28] In Western Australia friends called Hoover "H.C." or the old nickname "Hail Columbia".[29]

China and other global operations

Hoover's work in China revolved around the huge Kaiping Mines. Hoover worked as chief engineer for the Chinese Bureau of Mines, and as general manager for the Chinese Engineering and Mining Corporation.[30] Later he worked for Bewick, Moreing & Co. as the company's lead engineer. Hoover's wife learned Mandarin Chinese (she was a first-rate linguist), and he also learned some of the language while he worked in China; it is said that they used it during his tenure at the White House when they wanted to foil eavesdroppers.[31] Hoover made recommendations to improve the lot of the Chinese worker, seeking to end the practice of imposing long term servitude contracts and to institute reforms for workers based on merit.[32] The Boxer Rebellion trapped the Hoovers in Tianjin in June 1900. For almost a month, the settlement was under fire, and both dedicated themselves to defense of their city. Hoover himself guided U.S. Marines around Tianjin during the battle, using his knowledge of the local terrain.[33] Mrs. Hoover meanwhile devoted her efforts at the various hospitals and even wielded, and willingly and accurately deployed, a .38-caliber pistol.[34]

Lou Henry, age 17, on a burro and rifle-ready at Acton, California on August 22, 1891

Hoover was made a partner in Bewick, Moreing & Co. on December 18, 1901 and assumed responsibility for various Australian operations and investments.[35] His initial compensation rose to $12,500 annually in addition to a 20% share of profits.[36] The company eventually controlled at one point approximately 50% of gold production in Western Australia.[37] In 1901, Hoover no longer lived in Australia, but he visited the country in 1902, 1903, 1905, and 1907 as an overseas investor. Hoover was also a director of Chinese Engineering and Mining Corporation (CEMC) when it became a supplier of immigrant labor from Southeast Asia for South African mines.[38] The first shipment of almost 2,000 workers arrived in Durban from Qinhuangdao in July 1904. By 1906, the total number of immigrant workers increased to 50,000, almost entirely recruited and shipped by CEMC. When the living and working conditions of the laborers became known, public opposition to the scheme grew and questions were asked in the British Parliament.[39] The scheme was abandoned in 1911.

In August–September 1905, he founded the Zinc Corporation (eventually part of the Rio Tinto Group) with William Baillieu and others. The lead-silver ore produced at Broken Hill, New South Wales was rich in zinc. But the zinc could not be recovered due to "the Sulphide Problem", and was left in the tailings that remained after the silver and lead was extracted.[40]

Zinc Corporation proposed to buy the tailings and extract the zinc by a new process. The froth flotation process was then being developed at Broken Hill, although the Zinc Corporation struggled to apply it.[41] Hoover was in Australia in 1905. F.J. Lyster, originally a carpenter before becoming a foreman in the gravity mill, perfected the "Lyster Process",[27] which enabled the Zinc Corporation to operate the world's first selective or differential flotation plant, According the Geoffrey Blainey, though the process was not fully understood, a patent was applied for in May 1912.[22] Hoover's brother, Theodore J. Hoover, also came to Broken Hill.

"Broken Hill was one of the dreariest places in the world at this time. It lay in the middle of the desert, was unbelievably hot in summer, had no fresh water, no vegetation, and mountains of tailings blew into every crack with every wisp of wind."[42] Despite these miserable conditions, Hoover and his associates became suppliers to world industry of zinc and other vital base minerals.

Sole proprietor

Herbert Hoover in his 30s while a mining engineer

In 1908, Hoover became an independent mining consultant, traveling worldwide until the outbreak of World War I in 1914. He left Bewick, Moreing & Co and, setting out on his own, eventually ended up with investments on every continent and offices in San Francisco, London, New York City, St. Petersburg, Paris and Mandalay, Burma.[43] He specialized in rejuvenating troubled mining operations, taking a share of the profits in exchange for his technical and financial expertise.[44] He had his second successful venture with the British firm Burma Corporation, again producing silver, lead, and zinc in large quantities at the Namtu Bawdwin Mine, where he caught malaria in 1907.[13]:90–96,101–102[45] He also helped increase copper production in Kyshtym, Russia, through the use of pyritic smelting. Then he agreed to manage one of the Russian Czar's Cabinet Mines located in the Altai Mountains. The oxidized lead-zinc-silver ore contained copper and gold as well. According to Hoover, "It developed probably the greatest and richest single body of ore known in the world" before the Communist Revolution.[13]:102–108[46]

While living in London, noting the American engineer's patriotic intensity, some British acquaintances referred to him as the "star-spangled Hoover". It recalled the nickname he had acquired in the Australian outback: "Hail Columbia" Hoover.[47] The Bawdwin mine ultimately became the chief source of Hoover's fortune.[48]

In his spare time, Hoover wrote. His lectures at Columbia and Stanford universities were published in 1909 as Principles of Mining,[49] which became a standard textbook. The book reflects his move towards Progressive ideals, as Hoover came to endorse eight-hour workdays and organized labor.[50] Hoover and his wife also published their English translation of the 1556 mining classic De re metallica in 1912. This translation from the Latin of Renaissance author Georgius Agricola is still the most important scholarly version and provides its historical context.[51]

By 1914, Hoover was a very wealthy man, with an estimated personal fortune of $4 million.[52] He was once quoted as saying "If a man has not made a million dollars by the time he is forty, he is not worth much".[53] By 1914, Hoover stood eventually to obtain what he later described as "a large fortune from these Russian industries, probably more than is good for anybody".[54] Sixty-six years after opening the mine in 1897, Hoover still had a partial share in the Sons of Gwalia mine when it finally closed in 1963, just one year before the former President's death in New York City in 1964. The successful mine had yielded $55m in gold and $10m in dividends for investors.[13] Herbert Hoover, acting as a main investor, financier, mining speculator, and organizer of men, played a major role in the important metallurgical developments that occurred in Broken Hill in the first decade of the twentieth century, developments that had a great impact on the mining and production of silver, lead, and zinc.[55][56][57][58][59][60] In later years Hoover thought of himself and his associates as "engineering doctors to sick concerns", hence his reputation as the "Doctor of sick mines".[61]

Humanitarian work

Relief in Europe and Belgium

When World War I began in August 1914, Hoover helped organize the return of around 120,000 Americans from Europe. He led 500 volunteers in distributing food, clothing, steamship tickets and cash.[62] "I did not realize it at the moment, but on August 3, 1914, my career was over forever. I was on the slippery road of public life."[63] Hoover liked to say that the difference between dictatorship and democracy was simple: dictators organize from the top down, democracies from the bottom up.

When Belgium faced a food crisis after being invaded by Germany in 1914, Hoover undertook an unprecedented relief effort with the Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB).[64] As chairman of the CRB, Hoover worked with the leader of the Belgian Comité National de Secours et d'Alimentation (CNSA), Émile Francqui, to feed the entire nation for the duration of the war. The CRB obtained and imported millions of tons of foodstuffs for the CNSA to distribute, and watched over the CNSA to make sure the German army did not appropriate the food. The CRB became a veritable independent republic of relief, with its own flag, navy, factories, mills, and railroads. Private donations and government grants (78%) supplied an $11-million-a-month budget.[65]

For the next two years, Hoover worked 14-hour days from London, administering the distribution of over two million tons of food to nine million war victims. In an early form of shuttle diplomacy, he crossed the North Sea forty times to meet with German authorities and persuade them to allow food shipments, becoming an international hero. The Belgian city of Leuven named a prominent square Hooverplein after him. At its peak, Hoover's American Relief Administration (ARA) fed 10.5 million people daily. Great Britain grew reluctant to support the CRB, preferring instead to emphasize Germany's obligation to supply the relief; Winston Churchill, whom Hoover intensely disliked, led a military faction that considered the Belgian relief effort "a positive military disaster".

During this time, Hoover made a strong impression on the American Ambassador to Great Britain, Walter Page. In a Memoranda dated December 30, 1916, Page wrote: Mr. Herbert C. Hoover, Chairman of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, would, if opportunity should offer, make a useful officer in the State Department. He is probably the only man living who has privately (i.e., without holding office) negotiated understandings with the British, French, German, Dutch, and Belgian governments. He personally knows and has had direct dealings with these governments, and his transactions with them have involved several hundred million dollars. He is a man of very considerable fortune—less than when the war began, for tins relief work has cost him much. He was approached on behalf of the British Government with the suggestion that if he would become a British subject the Government would be pleased to give him an important executive post and with the hint that if he succeeded a title might await him. His answer was: "I'll do what I can for you with pleasure; but I'll be damned if I'll give up my American citizenship—not on your life!" Within the last six months two large financial organizations, each independently, have offered him $100,000 a year to enter their service; and an industrial company offered him $100,000 "to start with." He declined them all. When the Belgian relief work recently struck a financial snag, Hoover by telegraph got the promise of a loan in the United States to the British and French governments for Belgian relief of $150,000,000.

U.S. Food Administration

After the United States entered the war in April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Hoover to head the U.S. Food Administration, which was created under the Lever Food Control Act in 1917 to ensure the nation's food needs during the war. This was a position he actively sought, though he later claimed it was thrust upon him. He was convinced from his Belgian work that centralization of authority was essential to any relief effort; he demanded, and got, great power albeit not as much as he sought.[66] Hoover believed "food will win the war"; and beginning on September 29, this slogan was introduced and put into frequent use.[67] Earning the appellation of "food czar," Hoover recruited a volunteer force of hundreds of thousands of women and deployed propaganda in movie theaters, schools, and churches.[68]

He carefully selected men to assist in the agency leadership – Alonzo Taylor (technical abilities), Robert Taft (political associations), Gifford Pinchot (agricultural influence) and Julius Barnes (business acumen).[69] Determined to avoid rationing, Hoover established set days for people to avoid eating specified foods and save them for soldiers' rations: meatless Mondays, wheatless Wednesdays, and "when in doubt, eat potatoes." These policies were dubbed "Hooverizing" by government publicists, in spite of Hoover's continual orders that publicity should not mention him by name. The agency employed a system of price controls and licensing requirements for suppliers to maximize production. Despite efforts to prevent it, some companies reaped great profits.[70]

Post-war relief and 1920 election

Days after the end of World War I in November 1918, Hoover sailed to Europe. The United States Food Administration became the American Relief Administration (ARA), and Hoover was charged with providing food to Central and Eastern Europe. The ARA fed millions, including the inhabitants of Germany and the former Habsburg Empire. U.S. government funding for the ARA expired in the summer of 1919, and Hoover transformed the ARA into a private organization, raising millions of dollars from private donors. Under the auspices of the ARA, the European Children's Fund fed millions of starving children. In addition to nourishing millions, the ARA also helped the United States avoid a potentially problematic domestic food surplus. In response to criticism over his willingness to grant aid to countries under the sway of Bolshevism, Hoover stated, "Twenty million people are starving. Whatever their politics, they shall be fed!"[71]

Reflecting the gratitude of many Europeans, in July 1922, Soviet author Maxim Gorky wrote to Hoover:

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Your help will enter history as a unique, gigantic achievement, worthy of the greatest glory, which will long remain in the memory of millions of Russians whom you have saved from death.[72]

As one of the most powerful individuals in Europe, Hoover became involved in continental politics. He was broadly supportive of Wilson's Fourteen Points, and urged ratification of the Treaty of Versailles. He opposed a monarchist coup in Hungary and demanded the appointment of the moderate Ignacy Jan Paderewski in Poland. He condemned Bolshevism, but warned President Wilson against an intervention in Russia, viewing the White Russian forces as little better and fearing the possibility of a protracted U.S. involvement.[73]

Hoover had been little-known among the American public before 1914, but emerged as the perhaps the second-most famous person in the United States after President Wilson. In the lead-up to the 1920 presidential election, Hoover was often mentioned as a potential candidate, but his partisan affiliation was unclear. Hoover particularly appealed to progressives of both parties, who commended his war-time push for higher taxes, criticism of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, and advocacy for measures such as the minimum wage, forty-eight-hour workweek, and elimination of child labor. Yet Hoover's "rags to riches" story and war-time leadership made him appealing to many others as well. In March 1920, Hoover publicly declared his allegiance with the GOP, stating that he would not run for but would not refuse the 1920 Republican nomination. Hoover had various reasons for choosing the Republican Party, including a split with Wilson over the Versailles Treaty (Hoover had come to accept the Lodge Reservations to the treaty), and his view that the Democrats would likely lose the 1920 election. However, the conservative Old Guard of the GOP viewed Hoover warily, and his time as Food Czar had also made him numerous enemies among farmers, an important bloc in the GOP. Hoover's candidacy for the GOP nomination fizzled out after his defeat in the California primary by favorite son Hiram Johnson. In the general election, Hoover supported the Republican nominee, Warren G. Harding, who emerged victorious.[74]

In 1919, Hoover established the Hoover War Collection at Stanford University. He donated all the files of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, the U.S. Food Administration, and the American Relief Administration, and pledged $50,000 as an endowment. Scholars were sent to Europe to collect pamphlets, society publications, government documents, newspapers, posters, proclamations, and other ephemeral materials related to the war and the revolutions that followed it. The collection was later renamed the Hoover War Library and is now known as the Hoover Institution.[citation needed]


After working with the Food Administration, Hoover became president of the Federated American Engineering Societies.[75][76] Hoover's design was set on increasing efficiency and reducing waste.[76][77] As president of the FAES, Hoover constructed a plan to study waste in the industrial sector, and he had a strong focus on labor matters.[78] The result was a 400-page report titled Waste in Industry,[79] which was a highly publicized report at the time.[80][81]

When Hoover became Commerce Secretary, he resigned from the FAES.[82] The FAES report Waste in Industry, however, served as a blueprint for the Department of Commerce for the next several years.[83]

Secretary of Commerce

Assistants William McCracken (left) & Walter Drake (right) with Secretary Hoover (center)

After his election as president in 1920, Harding rewarded Hoover for his support, offering to appoint him as either Secretary of the Interior or Secretary of Commerce. Expecting opposition from the Republican-controlled Senate, Hoover initially decided to refuse a Cabinet position, but Harding paired Hoover's nomination with that of Andrew Mellon, who many Republicans hoped would become Secretary of the Treasury. Secretary of Commerce was considered a minor Cabinet post, with limited and vaguely defined responsibilities, but Hoover decided to accept the position. Hoover would remain in office until 1928, serving in both the Harding and Coolidge administrations.[84]

Hoover envisioned the Commerce Department as the hub of the nation's growth and stability. From Harding he demanded, and received, authority to coordinate economic affairs throughout the government. He created many sub-departments and committees, overseeing and regulating everything from manufacturing statistics, the census and radio, to air travel. In some instances he "seized" control of responsibilities from other Cabinet departments when he deemed that they were not carrying out their responsibilities well. He became known as the "Secretary of Commerce and Under-Secretary of all other departments."[85]

Many of Hoover's efforts as Commerce Secretary centered on eliminating waste and increasing efficiency in business and industry. This included reducing labor losses from trade disputes and seasonal fluctuations, reducing industrial losses from accident and injury, and reducing the amount of crude oil spilled during extraction and shipping. One major achievement was to promote product standardizations. He promoted international trade by opening overseas offices to advise businessmen. Hoover was especially eager to promote Hollywood films overseas.[86] His "Own Your Own Home" campaign was a collaboration to promote ownership of single-family dwellings, with groups such as the Better Houses in America movement, the Architects' Small House Service Bureau, and the Home Modernizing Bureau. He worked with bankers and the savings and loan industry to promote the new long-term home mortgage, which dramatically stimulated home construction.[87]

File:Hoover and Harding at baseball game.jpg
Hoover with President Harding at a baseball game in 1921.

Hoover's detractors wondered why he did not do anything to reapportion congress after the 1920 United States Census which saw an increase in urban and immigrant populations. The 1920 Census was the first and only Decennial Census where the results were not used to reapportion Congress; which ultimately influenced the 1928 Electoral College and impacted the Presidential Election.[88][89]

As secretary and later as President, Hoover revolutionized relations between business and government. Rejecting the adversarial stance of Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson, he sought to make the Commerce Department a powerful service organization, empowered to forge cooperative voluntary partnerships between government and business. This philosophy is often called "associationalism". Both the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission opposed Hoover's goals,[90] but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Maple Flooring Manufacturers' Assn. v. United States 268 U.S. 563 (1925) that Hoover's policies served the public interest by producing "fairer price levels" and "avoid[ing] waste."[91]

Radio and air travel

Herbert Hoover listening to a radio receiver

Hoover's radio conferences played a key role in the early organization, development and regulation of radio broadcasting. Prior to the Radio Act of 1927, the Secretary of Commerce was unable to deny radio licensing or reassign broadcast frequencies. With help from supporters Senator Dill and Representative White, Hoover brought the issue of radio control to the Senate floor. Hoover fought for more power to control the proliferation of licensed radio stations (which in 1927, stood at 732 stations). With help from Dill and White, Hoover promoted the Dill-White Bill which eventually would become the Radio Act of 1927. This act allowed the government to intervene and abolish radio stations that were deemed "non-useful" to the public. Hoover's attempts at regulating radio were not supported by all Congressmen, and he received much opposition from the Senate and from radio station owners. However, Hoover's contributions to regulate radio in its infancy heavily influenced the modern radio system.[92]

Hoover was also influential in the early development of air travel. He sought to create a thriving private industry boosted by indirect government subsidies. He encouraged the development of emergency landing fields and required all runways to be equipped with lights and radio beams. He also encouraged farmers to make use of planes for crop dusting. In light of his efforts, Washington, D.C. named its first airport Hoover Field.[93]

Traffic conferences

As Commerce Secretary, Hoover also hosted two national conferences on street traffic, in 1924 and 1926 (a third convened in 1930, during Hoover's presidency). Collectively the meetings were called the National Conference on Street and Highway Safety. Hoover's chief objective was to address the growing casualty toll of traffic accidents, but the scope grew and soon embraced motor vehicle standards, rules of the road, and urban traffic control. He left the invited interest groups to negotiate agreements among themselves, which were then presented for adoption by states and localities. Because automotive trade associations were the best organized, many of the positions taken by the conferences reflected their interests. The conferences issued a model Uniform Vehicle Code for adoption by the states, and a Model Municipal Traffic Ordinance for adoption by cities. Both were widely influential, promoting greater uniformity between jurisdictions and tending to promote the automobile's priority in city streets.[94]

Mississippi flood

The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 broke the banks and levees of the lower Mississippi River in early 1927, resulting in flooding of millions of acres and leaving 1.5 million people displaced from their homes. Although such a disaster did not fall under the duties of the Commerce Department, the governors of six states along the Mississippi specifically asked for Herbert Hoover in the emergency. President Coolidge appointed Hoover to coordinate the response to the flood.[95] Hoover personally crisscrossed the Mississippi Valley, giving speeches and coordinating the response. He established over one hundred tent cities and a fleet over six hundred vessels, and raised $17 million. In large part due to his leadership during the flood crisis, by 1928, Hoover had begun to overshadow President Coolidge himself.[96]

The treatment of African-Americans during the disaster endangered Hoover's reputation as a humanitarian. Local officials brutalized black farmers and prevented them from leaving relief camps, aid intended for African-American sharecroppers was often given instead to the landowners, and black men often were conscripted by locals into forced labor, sometimes at gun point.[97] Knowing the potential damage to his presidential hopes if this became public, Hoover struck a deal with Robert Russa Moton, the prominent African-American successor to Booker T. Washington as president of the Tuskegee Institute. In exchange for keeping the sufferings of African-Americans quiet, Hoover promised unprecedented influence for African-Americans should he become president. Moton agreed, and following the accommodationist philosophy of Washington, he worked actively to conceal the information from the media.[98]

Presidential election of 1928

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Republican nomination

When President Calvin Coolidge announced in August 1927 that he would not seek a second full term of office in the 1928 presidential election, Hoover became the leading Republican candidate, despite the fact Coolidge was lukewarm on Hoover, often deriding his ambitious and popular Commerce Secretary as "Wonder Boy".[99] Coolidge had been reluctant to choose Hoover as his successor; on one occasion he remarked that "for six years that man has given me unsolicited advice—all of it bad. I was particularly offended by his comment to 'shit or get off the pot'."[100] Even so, Coolidge had no desire to split the party by publicly opposing the popular Commerce Secretary's nomination.[101] Prior to the 1928 Republican National Convention, many wary Republican leaders cast about for an alternative candidate such as Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, former Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes, or Coolidge.[102] But no challenger emerged, and Hoover won the presidential nomination on the first ballot of the convention. The delegates considered nominating incumbent Vice President Charles Dawes to be Hoover's running mate. But Coolidge (who hated Dawes) remarked that this would be "a personal affront" to him. The convention instead selected Senator Charles Curtis of Kansas.[103] Hoover accepted the nomination at Stanford Stadium, telling a huge crowd that he would continue the policies of the Harding and Coolidge administration.[104]

General election

1928 electoral vote results.

Hoover campaigned for efficiency and the Republican record of prosperity against Democrat Alfred E. Smith. Smith likewise was a proponent of efficiency earned as governor of New York. Both candidates were pro-business, and each promised to improve conditions for farmers, reform immigration laws, and maintain America’s isolationist foreign policy. Where they differed was on the Volstead Act which outlawed the sale of liquor and beer. Smith was a “wet” who called for its repeal, whereas Hoover gave limited support for prohibition, calling it an “experiment noble in purpose.” His use of “experiment” suggested it was not permanent. While Smith won extra support among Catholics in the big cities, he was also the target of intense anti-Catholicism from some Protestant communities, especially amongst Southern Baptists and German Lutherans.[105] Overall the religious factor worked to the advantage of Hoover, although he took no part in it.[106]

Historians agree that Hoover’s national reputation and the booming economy, combined with deep splits in the Democratic Party over religion and prohibition, guaranteed his landslide victory with 58 percent of the popular vote.[107] Hoover’s appeal to southern white voters succeeded in cracking the “Solid South”, winning the Democratic strongholds of Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas and Tennessee, and nearly taking Alabama on support from Appalachian counties; the Deep South continued to support Smith as the Democratic candidate. This was the first time that a Republican candidate for president had carried Texas. Hoover and the national party had pursued a “lily-white southern strategy” to resuscitate the Republican Party in the South, “purging black Republicans from leadership positions in the southern wing of the G.O.P.”[108] This outraged the black leadership, which largely broke from the Republican Party, and began seeking candidates who supported civil rights within the Democratic Party.[109] In 1956, W. E. B. Du Bois, a leader in the NAACP in the 1920s, would recall that “[i]n 1928, Negroes faced absolute dilemma. Neither Hoover nor Smith wanted the Negro vote and both publicly insulted us.”[110]

Presidency (1929–1933)

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File:Taft Hebert Hoover Oath.jpg
Inauguration of Hoover

Following his inauguration, Hoover held a press conference on his first day in office, promising a "new phase of press relations".[111] He asked the group of journalists to elect a committee to recommend improvements to the White House press conference. Hoover declined to use a spokesman, instead asking reporters to directly quote him and giving them handouts with his statements ahead of time. In his first 120 days in office, he held more regular and frequent press conferences than any other President, before or since. However, he changed his press policies after the 1929 stock market crash, screening reporters and greatly reducing his availability.[111]

Hoover entered office with a plan to reform the nation's regulatory system, believing that a federal bureaucracy should have limited regulation over a country's economic system.[112] Hoover sought a balance among labor, capital, and the government, and he has been variously labeled a corporatist or associationalist.[113] Hoover saw the presidency as a vehicle for improving the conditions of all Americans by encouraging public-private cooperation—what he termed "volunteerism". He tended to oppose governmental coercion or intervention, as he thought they infringed on American ideals of individualism and self-reliance.[114] Hoover made extensive use of commissions to study issues and propose solutions, and many of those commissions were sponsored by private donors rather than by the government. One of the commissions started by Hoover, the Research Committee on Social Trends, was tasked with surveying the entirety of American society.[115]

Lou Henry Hoover was an activist First Lady. She typified the new woman of the post–World War I era: intelligent, robust, and aware of multiple female possibilities.[116]

White House physician Admiral Joel T. Boone invented the sport Hooverball to keep Hoover fit while in the White House. Hooverball is a combination of volleyball and tennis, played with a 6 lb medicine ball. Hoover and several staff members played it each morning, earning them the nickname Medicine Ball Cabinet.[117]

Domestic policies

Civil rights

Hoover seldom mentioned civil rights while he was President. He believed that African-Americans and other races could improve themselves with education and individual initiative.[118] He opposed federal anti-lynching laws, and when lynchings occurred in the South, including one incident linked to his party's efforts to 'Republicanize' southern states, he offered only verbal condemnation.[108]

First Lady Lou Hoover defied custom and invited the wife of Republican Oscar De Priest, the only African-American member in Congress, to tea at the White House. Booker T. Washington was the previous African-American to have dined at the White House, with Theodore Roosevelt in 1901.[119]

Charles Curtis, the nation's first Native American Vice President, was from the Kaw tribe in Kansas.[120] Hoover's humanitarian and Quaker reputation, along with Curtis as a vice-president, gave special meaning to his Indian policies. His Quaker upbringing influenced his views that Native Americans needed to achieve economic self-sufficiency. As President, he appointed Charles J. Rhoads as commissioner of Indian affairs. Hoover supported Rhoads' commitment to Indian assimilation and sought to minimize the federal role in Indian affairs. His goal was to have Indians acting as individuals (not as tribes) and to assume the responsibilities of citizenship granted with the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924.[121]

Great Depression

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On taking office, Hoover said that "given the chance to go forward with the policies of the last eight years, we shall soon with the help of God, be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished from this nation."[122] Having seen the fruits of prosperity brought by technological progress, many shared Hoover's optimism, and the already bullish stock market climbed even higher on Hoover's accession.[123] But within months of taking office, the Stock Market Crash of 1929 (also known as Black Tuesday) occurred, and the worldwide economy began to spiral downward into the Great Depression.[124] The causes of the Great Depression remain a matter of debate,[125] but Hoover viewed a lack of confidence in the financial system as the fundamental economic problem facing the nation.[126] He sought to avoid direct federal intervention, believing that the best way to bolster the economy was through the strengthening of businesses such as banks and railroads. He also feared that allowing individuals on the "dole" would permanently weaken the country.[127] Instead, Hoover strongly believed that local governments and private giving should address the needs of individuals.[128] A reserved man with a fear of public speaking, Hoover allowed his political enemies to define him as cold, incompetent, reactionary, and out-of-touch.[129]

Early policies

Hoover pursued many policies in an attempt to pull the country out of depression, while attempting to restrain the federal government from becoming directly involved in commercial affairs. In the days following Black Tuesday, Hoover gathered business and labor leaders, asking them to avoid wage cuts and work stoppages while the country faced what he believed would be a short recession similar to the Depression of 1920–21.[130] Some economists, such as Lee Ohanian, point to the resulting wage rigidity as a key cause of the severity of the Great Depression.[131] Hoover also authorized the Mexican Repatriation program to help unemployed Mexican citizens return home. The program was largely a forced migration of approximately 500,000 people to Mexico, and continued until 1937. In the spring of 1930, Hoover acquired from Congress an additional $100 million to continue the Federal Farm Board lending and purchasing policies. At the end of 1929, the FFB established the National Wool Marketing Corporation (NWMC), a national wool cooperative made up of 30 state associations.[132] Hoover also supported new public works projects, although his fear of budget deficits led him to oppose expansive projects such as that contemplated by the Muscle Shoals Bill, which sought to establish government production and distribution of power in the Tennessee Valley.[133] In autumn 1930, Hoover established the President's Organization for Unemployment Relief, which issues press releases urging companies to hire.[128]

Hoover had taken office hoping to raise agricultural tariffs in order to help farmers reeling from the farm crisis of the 1920s, but his attempt to raise agricultural tariffs became connected with attempts to raise tariffs for other goods.[134] In June 1930, over the objection of many economists, Congress approved and Hoover reluctantly signed into law the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act. The legislation raised tariffs on thousands of imported items. The intent of the act was to encourage the purchase of American-made products by increasing the cost of imported goods, while raising revenue for the federal government and protecting farmers. However, economic depression had spread worldwide, and Canada, France and other nations retaliated by raising tariffs on imports from the U.S. The result was to contract international trade, and worsen the Depression.[135] Progressive Republicans such as Senator Borah were outraged when Hoover signed the bill, and Hoover's relations with that wing of the party never recovered.[136]

Later policies

For much of his presidency, Hoover opposed congressional proposals to provide federal relief, and he feared that Congress would impose a federal relief program that would infringe on the prerogatives of state and local governments and philanthropic organizations.[137] Hoover created the National Credit Corporation, a voluntary association of bankers, but the organization did not manage to save banks or ease credit as Hoover had hoped it would.[138] As the Great Depression continued, Hoover finally heeded calls for more direct federal intervention, though he vetoed a bill that would have allowed direct federal lending to individuals.[139] In January 1932, Hoover signed a bill creating the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC).[140] The RFC's initial goal was to provide government-secured loans to financial institutions, railroads, and local governments to continue relief programs.

The RFC saved numerous businesses from failure, but it failed to stimulate commercial lending as Hoover had hoped, partly because it was run by conservative bankers unwilling to make riskier loans.[141] The RFC would be adopted by Roosevelt and greatly expanded as part of his New Deal.[142] With the RFC failing to stem the economic crisis, Hoover signed the Emergency Relief and Construction Act, a major public works bill, in July 1932.[143]

Throughout his presidency, Hoover defended the gold standard, and derided any other monetary system as "collectivism."[144] Hoover and Senator Carter Glass, another gold standard proponent, recognized that they needed to stop deflation by encouraging the lending of credit. Hoover was instrumental in passing the Glass–Steagall Act of 1932, which allowed for prime rediscounting at the Federal Reserve, in turn allowing further inflation of credit and bank reserves.[145] In July 1932, Hoover signed the Federal Home Loan Bank Act, establishing 12 district banks overseen by a Federal Home Loan Bank Board in a manner similar to the Federal Reserve System.[146]

In 1930, unemployment stood at 8.9%, and many assumed that the United States was just in another recession.[147] But by 1932, unemployment had reached 24.9%, businesses had defaulted on record numbers of loans, and more than 5,000 banks had failed, especially small rural banks.[148] The homeless lived in shantytowns they called Hoovervilles.[149]

File:Herbert Hoover and Ted Joslin.jpg
Herbert Hoover in the Oval Office with Ted Joslin, 1932

Taxes, revenues, and deficits

National debt as a fraction of GNP up from 20% to 40% under Hoover. From Historical Statistics US (1976)

Hoover was a firm believer in balanced budgets, and sought to avoid a budget deficit by greatly increasing tax rates on the wealthy. To pay for government programs and to make up for revenue lost due to the Depression, Hoover signed the Revenue Act of 1932. The act increased taxes across the board, so that top earners were taxed at 63% on their net income - up from 25% when Herbert Hoover took office. The 1932 Act also increased the tax on the net income of corporations from 12% to 13.75%.[150] Additionally, under Hoover, the estate tax was doubled and corporate taxes were raised by almost 15%. Also, a "check tax" took effect, placing a 2-cent tax (over 30 cents in today's economy) on all bank checks. Economists William D. Lastrapes and George Selgin conclude that the check tax was "an important contributing factor to that period's severe monetary contraction".[151] Despite the passage of the Revenue Act, the federal government continued to run a budget deficit.[152]

File:President & Mrs Hoover in Belvidere IL cph.3b12319.jpg
Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover aboard a train in Illinois.

Foreign relations

According to Leuchtenberg, Hoover was "the last American president to take office with no conspicuous need to pay attention to the rest of the world." But during Hoover's term, the world order established with the 1919 Treaty of Versailles began to crumble.[153]

As president, Hoover largely made good on his pledge made prior to assuming office not to interfere in Latin America's internal affairs. In 1930, he released the Clark Memorandum, a rejection of the Roosevelt Corollary and a move towards non-interventionism in Latin America. Hoover did not completely refrain from the use of the military in Latin American affairs; he thrice threatened intervention in the Dominican Republic, and he sent warships to El Salvador to support the government against a left-wing revolution.[154] But he wound down the Banana Wars, ending the occupation of Nicaragua and nearly bringing an end to the occupation of Haiti. Franklin Roosevelt's Good Neighbor policy would continue the trend towards non-interventionism in Latin America. [155]

Though the United States remained outside of the League of Nations, Hoover showed a willingness to work within multilateral structures. Hoover pursued United States membership in the Permanent Court of International Justice, but the Senate never voted on his proposal. The Senate also defeated Hoover's proposed Saint Lawrence Seaway Treaty with Canada.[156] In 1930, the United States and other major naval powers signed the London Naval Treaty, an extension of the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty, which sought to prevent a naval arms race.[157] The treaty represented the first time that the naval powers had agreed to cap their tonnage of auxiliary vessels (previous agreements had focused on capital ships), but the treaty failed to include France or Italy. The treaty provoked a nationalist backlash in Japan due to its reconfirmation of the "5-5-3" ratio which limited Japan to a smaller fleet than the United States or the United Kingdom. At the 1932 World Disarmament Conference, Hoover urged worldwide cutbacks in armaments and the outlawing of tanks and bombers, but his proposals were not adopted.[158]

In 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria, defeating the Republic of China's military forces and establishing Manchukuo, a puppet state. The Hoover administration deplored the invasion, but also sought to avoid antagonizing the Japanese, fearing that taking too strong of a stand would weaken the moderate forces in the Japanese government. In response to the Japanese invasion, Hoover and Secretary of State Henry Stimson outlined the Stimson Doctrine, which held that the United States would not recognize territories gained by force. The Hoover administration based this declaration on the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact, in which several nations (including Japan and the United States) renounced war and promised to peacefully solve disputes. In the aftermath of invasion of Manchuria, Stimson and other members of the Cabinet came to believe that war with Japan might be inevitable, though Hoover continued to push for disarmament among the world powers.[159]

In 1931, Hoover issued the Hoover Moratorium, calling for a one-year halt in World War I reparation payments. Hoover also made U.S. bankers agree to refrain from demanding payment on private loans from Germans.[160] Hoover hoped that the moratorium would help stabilize the European economy, which he viewed as a major cause of economic troubles in the United States.[161] As the moratorium neared its expiration the following year, an attempt to find a permanent solution was made at the Lausanne Conference of 1932. A working compromise was never established, and reparations payments virtually stopped.[162]

Bonus Army

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Thousands of World War I veterans and their families demonstrated and camped out in Washington, DC, during June 1932, calling for immediate payment of a bonus that had been promised by the World War Adjusted Compensation Act in 1924 for payment in 1945. Although offered money by Congress to return home, some members of the "Bonus Army" remained. Washington police attempted to remove the demonstrators from their camp, but they were outnumbered and unsuccessful. Shots were fired by the police in a futile attempt to attain order, and two protesters were killed while many officers were injured. Hoover sent U.S. Army forces led by General Douglas MacArthur and helped by lower ranking officers Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton to stop a march. MacArthur, believing he was fighting a communist revolution, chose to clear out the camp with military force. In the ensuing clash, hundreds of civilians were injured. Hoover had sent orders that the Army was not to move on the encampment, but MacArthur chose to ignore the command. Hoover was incensed, but refused to reprimand MacArthur. The entire incident was another devastating negative for Hoover in the 1932 election. That led New York governor and Democratic presidential candidate Franklin Roosevelt to declare of Hoover: "There is nothing inside the man but jelly!"

1932 re-election campaign

File:Hoover Campaign.jpg
Hoover addresses a large crowd in his 1932 campaign.

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Despite the economic calamity facing the nation and his dim hopes for re-election, Hoover faced little opposition for re-nomination at the 1932 Republican National Convention. Some Republicans talked of nominating Coolidge, former Vice President Charles Dawes, or Senator Hiram Johnson, but all passed on the opportunity to challenge Hoover.[163] Curtis was re-nominated as Hoover's running mate. Franklin D. Roosevelt won the presidential nomination on the third ballot of the 1932 Democratic National Convention, defeating the 1928 Democratic nominee, Al Smith. Speaker of the House John Nance Garner was nominated as Roosevelt's running mate. By 1932, the radio was in 12 million homes, changing the nature of presidential campaigns. No longer could presidents change the content of their speeches for each audience; anyone with a radio could listen to every major speech.[164]

Hoover originally planned to make only one or two major speeches, and to leave the rest of the campaigning to proxies, as sitting presidents had traditionally done. However, encouraged by Republican pleas and outraged by Democratic claims, Hoover entered the public fray. In his nine major radio addresses Hoover primarily defended his administration and his philosophy of government. Hoover urged voters to hold to the "foundations of experience," rejecting the notion that government interventionism could save the country from the Depression.[165]

1932 electoral vote results.

In his campaign trips around the country, Hoover was faced with perhaps the most hostile crowds of any sitting president. Besides having his train and motorcades pelted with eggs and rotten fruit, he was often heckled while speaking, and on several occasions, the Secret Service halted attempts to kill Hoover by disgruntled citizens, including capturing one man nearing Hoover carrying sticks of dynamite, and another already having removed several spikes from the rails in front of the President's train.[166]

The Democrats attacked Hoover as the cause of the Great Depression, and for being indifferent to the suffering of millions.[167] As Governor of New York, Roosevelt had called on the New York legislature to provide aid for the needy, establishing Roosevelt's reputation for being more favorable toward government interventionism during the economic crisis.[168] Fausold rejects the notion that the two nominees were similar ideologically, pointing to differences between the two on federal spending on public works, agricultural issues, Prohibition, and the tariff.[169]

Hoover's attempts to vindicate his administration fell on deaf ears, as much of the public blamed his administration for the depression.[170] Roosevelt won 57.4 percent of the popular vote compared to Hoover's 39.7%. Hoover’s popular vote was reduced by nineteen percent from his result in the 1928 election, and he carried just five Northeastern states and Delaware. Roosevelt became the first Democratic presidential nominee to win a majority of the popular vote since the Civil War.[171]


File:FDR Inauguration 1933.jpg
Hoover with Franklin D. Roosevelt, March 4, 1933

Hoover departed from Washington in March 1933, bitter at his election loss and continuing unpopularity.[172] Upon leaving office, Hoover was the only living ex-President for nearly 19 years, until Harry Truman left office in 1953. The Hoovers went first to New York City, where they stayed for a while in the Waldorf Astoria hotel. Later that spring, they returned to California to their Stanford residence. Hoover enjoyed returning to the men's clubs that he had long been involved with, including the Bohemian Club, the Pacific-Union Club, and the University Club in San Francisco.[173] Hoover and his wife lived in Palo Alto until her death in 1944, at which point Hoover began to live permanently at the Waldorf Astoria.[174]

Hoover liked to drive his car, accompanied by his wife or a friend (former Presidents did not get Secret Service protection until the 1960s), and drive on wandering journeys, visiting Western mining camps or small towns where he often went unrecognized, or heading up to the mountains, or deep into the woods, to go fishing in relative solitude. A year before his death, his own fishing days behind him, he published Fishing For Fun—And To Wash Your Soul, the last of more than sixteen books in his lifetime.

In 1939, Hoover became the first Honorary Chairman of Tolstoy Foundation in Valley Cottage, New York, and served in this capacity until his death in 1964.[175]

Hoover's book, Fishing For Fun – And To Wash Your Soul

Opposition to Roosevelt

Hoover continued to closely follow national events after his retirement, becoming a constant critic of Franklin Roosevelt. In response to continued attacks on his character and presidency, Hoover wrote more than two dozen books, including The Challenge to Liberty (1934), which harshly criticized the New Deal. Hoover feared that the country had surrendered its "freedom of mind and spirit" to the New Deal. He described the National Recovery Administration and Agricultural Adjustment Administration as "fascistic," and the 1933 Banking Act as a "move to gigantic socialism."[176]

Only 58 when he left office, Hoover held out hope for another term during the 1930s. At the 1936 Republican National Convention, Hoover's speech attacking the New Deal was well received, but the nomination went to Kansas Governor Alf Landon.[177] In the general election, Hoover campaigned for Landon's unsuccessful campaign with numerous well-publicized speeches attacking New Deal liberalism.[178] Though Hoover was eager to oppose Roosevelt at every turn, and Senator Arthur Vandenberg and other Republicans urged the still-unpopular Hoover to remain out of the fray during the debate over Roosevelt's proposed Judiciary Reorganization Bill of 1937. At the 1940 Republican National Convention, Hoover again hoped for the presidential nomination, and was dismayed when it went to the internationalist Wendell Willkie.[179]

Hoover remained popular in Europe, and he was honored in France and Belgium. During a 1938 trip to Europe, Hoover met with Adolf Hitler and stayed at Hermann Göring's hunting lodge. Hoover expressed dismay at the persecution of Jews in Germany, but believed that Hitler did not present a threat. Instead, Hoover believed that Roosevelt posed the biggest threat to peace, as he believed that Roosevelt discouraged France and the United Kingdom from reaching an "accommodation" with Germany. After the September 1939 invasion of Poland by Germany, Hoover opposed United States intervention in World War II, including the Lend-Lease policy.[180]

Hoover became a vocal supporter of providing relief to countries in Nazi-occupied Europe.[181] He was instrumental in creating the Commission for Polish Relief and Finnish Relief Fund.[182][183] In 1939, Roosevelt asked Hoover to the White House for advice on getting aid to Poland, but Hoover turned down the offer. Much to his own frustration, Hoover was not called upon to serve after the United States entered World War II due to his differences with Roosevelt and his continuing unpopularity.[174]

During a radio broadcast on June 29, 1941, one week after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, Hoover disparaged any "tacit alliance" between the U.S. and the USSR by saying:

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If we go further and join the war and we win, then we have won for Stalin the grip of communism on Russia... Again I say, if we join the war and Stalin wins, we have aided him to impose more communism on Europe and the world. At least we could not with such a bedfellow say to our sons that by making the supreme sacrifice, they are restoring freedom to the world. War alongside Stalin to impose freedom is more than a travesty. It is a tragedy.[184]

Post–World War II

File:Hoover men Allan Herbert Sr Andrew 1950.jpg
Herbert Hoover with his son Allan (left) and his grandson Andrew (above), 1950

Following World War II, Hoover became friends with President Harry S. Truman despite their ideological differences.[185] Hoover joked that they were for many years the sole members of the "trade union" of former Presidents. Because of Hoover's experience with Germany at the end of World War I, in 1946 President Truman selected the former president to tour Germany to ascertain the food needs of the occupied nation. Hoover toured what was to become West Germany in Hermann Göring's old train coach and produced a number of reports critical of U.S. occupation policy. The economy of Germany had "sunk to the lowest level in a hundred years".[186] He stated in one report:

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There is the illusion that the New Germany left after the annexations can be reduced to a "pastoral state". It cannot be done unless we exterminate or move 25,000,000 people out of it.[187]

External audio
audio icon National Press Club Luncheon Speakers, Herbert Hoover, March 10, 1954, 37:23, Hoover speaks starting at 7:25 about the second reorganization commission, Library of Congress[188]

On Hoover's initiative, a school meals program in the American and British occupation zones of Germany was begun on April 14, 1947. The program served 3,500,000 children aged six through 18. A total of 40,000 tons of American food was provided during the Hooverspeisung (Hoover meals).[citation needed]

In 1947, Truman appointed Hoover to a commission, which elected him chairman, to reorganize the executive departments. This became known as the Hoover Commission. Led by Hoover, the commission recommended changes designed to strengthen the president's ability to manage the federal government. Though Hoover had opposed FDR's concentration of power in the 1930s, he believed that a stronger presidency was required with the advent of Atomic Age. In 1953, Hoover was appointed to a similar commission by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Despite the appointment, Hoover disliked Eisenhower, faulting the latter's failure to roll back the New Deal.[189]

Hoover's official White House portrait painted by Elmer Wesley Greene.

Despite his advancing years, Hoover continued to work nearly full-time both on writing (among his literary works is The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson, a bestseller, and the first time one former President had ever written a biography about another), as well as overseeing the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, which housed not only his own professional papers, but also those of a number of other former high ranking governmental and military servants. He also threw himself into fund-raising for the Boys Clubs (now the Boys & Girls Clubs of America), which became his pet charity.[citation needed]

In 1958, Congress passed the Former Presidents Act, offering a $25,000 yearly pension to each former president.[190] Hoover, who was the only other living former president, took the pension even though he did not need the money; reportedly, he did so to avoid embarrassing former President Truman whose precarious financial status played a role in the law's enactment.[191]

Final years and death

Hoover was the only living former Republican president between his last day in office in 1933 and Eisenhower's last day in office in 1961. Starting with the 1948 convention, Hoover was feted as the guest of "farewell" ceremonies, with the unspoken assumption that the aging former President might not survive until the next convention. In 1960, Hoover appeared at his final Republican National Convention. Joking to the delegates, he said, "Apparently, my last three good-byes didn't take." Although he lived to see the 1964 convention, ill health prevented him from attending, and his absence was acknowledged in presidential nominee Barry Goldwater's acceptance speech. In 1962, Hoover had a malignant intestinal tumor removed. Ten months later he had severe gastrointestinal bleeding and seemed terminally ill and frail, but his mind was clear and he maintained a great deal of correspondence. Although the illness would get worse over time, he refused to be hospitalized.[citation needed]

Hoover died following massive internal bleeding at the age of 90 in his New York City suite at 11:35 a.m. on October 20, 1964,[192] 31 years, seven months, and sixteen days after leaving office. At the time of his death, he had the longest retirement of any President.[193] Former President Jimmy Carter surpassed the length of Hoover's retirement on September 7, 2012. At the time of Hoover's death he was the second longest-lived president after John Adams; both were since surpassed by Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter. He had outlived by 20 years his wife, Lou Henry Hoover, who had died in 1944, and he was the last living member of both the Harding and Coolidge administrations.

By the time of his death, he had rehabilitated his image.[194] His birthplace in Iowa and an Oregon home where he lived as a child, became National Landmarks during his lifetime. His Rapidan fishing camp in Virginia, which he had donated to the government in 1933, is now a National Historic Landmark within the Shenandoah National Park. Hoover and his wife are buried at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa. Hoover was honored with a state funeral, the last of three in a span of 12 months, coming as it did just after the deaths of President John F. Kennedy and General Douglas MacArthur. Former Chaplain of the Senate Frederick Brown Harris officiated. All three had two things in common: the commanding general of the Military District of Washington during those funerals was Army Major General Philip C. Wehle and the riderless horse was Black Jack, who also served in that role during Lyndon B. Johnson's funeral.[195][196]


In 1912 Hoover published the first English edition of the medieval mining compendium De Re Metallica (On the Nature of Metals).[197] It was translated from Latin by himself and his wife, who was a geologist and proficient in Latin. It remains the standard English translation.

Hoover began his magnum opus Freedom Betrayed[198] in 1944 as part of a proposed autobiography. This turned into a significant work critiquing the foreign policy of the United States during the period from the 1930s to 1945. Essentially an attack on the statesmanship of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Hoover completed this work in his 90th year but it was not published until the historian George H. Nash took on the task of editing it. Significant themes are his belief that the western democratic powers should have let Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia assail and weaken each other, and opposition to the British guarantee of Poland's independence.[199] Other works include:

Heritage and memorials

File:Hoover Plaque Poznan.JPG
A plaque in Poznań honoring Herbert Hoover

The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum is located in West Branch, Iowa next to the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site. The library is one of thirteen presidential libraries run by the National Archives and Records Administration. The Hoover-Minthorn House, where Hoover lived from 1885 to 1891, is located in Newberg, Oregon.

The Lou Henry and Herbert Hoover House, built in 1919 in Stanford, California, is now the official residence of the president of Stanford University, and a National Historic Landmark. Also located at Stanford is the Hoover Institution, a think tank and research institution started by Hoover.

Hoover's rustic rural presidential retreat, Rapidan Camp (also known as Camp Hoover) in the Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, has been restored and opened to the public. The Hoover Dam is named in his honor, as are numerous elementary, middle, and high schools across the United States.

On December 10, 2008, Hoover's great-granddaughter Margaret Hoover and Senate of Puerto Rico President Kenneth McClintock unveiled a life-sized bronze statue of Hoover at Puerto Rico's Territorial Capitol. The statue is one of seven honoring Presidents who have visited the United States territory during their term of office.

One line in the All in the Family theme song—an ironic exercise in pre–New Deal nostalgia—says "Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again".

The Belgian city of Leuven named a square in the city center after Hoover, honoring him for his work as chairman of the "Commission for Relief in Belgium" during World War I. The square is near the Central Library of the Catholic University of Leuven, where a bust of the president can be seen.

The Polish capital of Warsaw also has a square named after Hoover alongside the Royal Route leading to the Old Town.[200]

George Burroughs Torrey painted a portrait of him.

The historic townsite of Gwalia, Western Australia contains the Sons of Gwalia Museum and the Hoover House Bed and Breakfast, the renovated and restored Mining Engineers residence that was the original residence of Herbert Hoover and where he stayed in subsequent visits to the mine during the first decade of the twentieth century.[201]


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Brief synopsis of the Hoover Administration

See also


  1. Burner 1996, p. 4.
  2. Burner 1996, p. 6.
  3. Burner 1996, p. 7.
  4. Burner 1996, p. 9.
  5. Burner 1996, p. 10.
  6. Burner 1996, p. 12.
  7. Leuchtenberg 2009, pp. 4-6.
  8. Burner 1996, p. 16.
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  10. Leuchtenberg 2009, pp. 6-9.
  11. Big Games: College Football's Greatest Rivalries - Page 222
  12. Big Games: College Football's Greatest Rivalries - Pages 221-222
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 Hoover, Herbert C. (1952). The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover Years of Adventure 1874–1920. London: Hollis & Carter. p. 33
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  17. Burner 1996, pp. 24–26.
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  19. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.. His former house in Gwalia is now a historical tourist attraction, and as of 2004, a bed and breakfast inn. Hoover is profiled as a mining pioneer in the Kalgoorlie Miners Hall of Fame, although his biography fails to mention his subsequent role as U.S. President.
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  25. 25.0 25.1 Leuchtenberg 2009, pp. 10-13.
  26. Burner 1996, p. 32.
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  28. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  29. Nash 1983, pp. 292–293.
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Works cited

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  • Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. Book 1 in The Life of Herbert Hoover Series.
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Further reading


  • Best, Gary Dean. The Politics of American Individualism: Herbert Hoover in Transition, 1918–1921 (1975)
    • Best, Gary Dean. The Life of Herbert Hoover: Keeper of the Torch, 1933-1964. Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.
  • Clements, Kendrick A. The Life of Herbert Hoover: Imperfect Visionary, 1918–1928 (2010).
  • Gelfand, Lawrence E. ed. Herbert Hoover: The Great War and Its Aftermath, 1914–1923 (1979)
  • Hatfield, Mark. ed. Herbert Hoover Reassessed (2002)
  • Hawley, Ellis. Herbert Hoover as Secretary of Commerce: Studies in New Era Thought and Practice (1981).
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  • Hoff-Wilson, Joan. Herbert Hoover: Forgotten Progressive. (1975). short biography
  • Jeansonne, Glen. The Life of Herbert Hoover: Fighting Quaker, 1928–1933. Palgrave Macmillan; 2012.
  • Jeansonne, Glen. Herbert Hoover: A Life (2016), 464pp; comprehensive scholarly biography
  • Lloyd, Craig. Aggressive Introvert: A Study of Herbert Hoover and Public Relations Management, 1912–1932 (1973).
  • Nash, George H. The Life of Herbert Hoover: The Engineer 1874–1914 (1983); in-depth scholarly study
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  • Nash, Lee, ed. Understanding Herbert Hoover: Ten Perspectives (1987); essays by scholars
  • Smith, Gene. The Shattered Dream: Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression (1970)
  • Smith, Richard Norton. An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover, (1987), biography concentrating on post 1932.
  • Walch, Timothy. ed. Uncommon Americans: The Lives and Legacies of Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover Praeger, 2003.
  • Wert, Hal Elliott. Hoover, The Fishing President: Portrait of the Private Man and his Life Outdoors (2005).

Scholarly studies

  • Extensive annotated bibliography at the University of Virginia Miller Center of Public Affairs
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  • Barber, William J. From New Era to New Deal: Herbert Hoover, the Economists, and American Economic Policy, 1921–1933. (1985)
  • Barry, John M. Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America (1998), Hoover played a major role
  • Britten, Thomas A. "Hoover and the Indians: the Case for Continuity in Federal Indian Policy, 1900–1933" Historian 1999 61(3): 518–538. ISSN 0018-2370
  • Calder, James D. The Origins and Development of Federal Crime Control Policy: Herbert Hoover's Initiatives Praeger, 1993
  • Clements, Kendrick A. Hoover, Conservation, and Consumerism: Engineering the Good Life. University Press of Kansas, 2000
  • DeConde, Alexander. Herbert Hoover's Latin American Policy. (1951)
  • Dodge, Mark M., ed. Herbert Hoover and the Historians. (1989)
  • Doenecke, Justus D. "Anti-Interventionism of Herbert Hoover". Journal of Libertarian Studies, (Summer 1987), 8(2): 311–340
  • Fausold Martin L. and George Mazuzan, eds. The Hoover Presidency: A Reappraisal (1974)
  • Goodman, Mark and Gring, Mark. "The Ideological Fight over Creation of the Federal Radio Commission in 1927" Journalism History 2000 26(3): 117–124
  • Hamilton, David E. From New Day to New Deal: American Farm Policy from Hoover to Roosevelt, 1928–1933. (1991)
  • Hawley, Ellis. "Herbert Hoover, the Commerce Secretariat, and the Vision of an 'Associative State', 1921–1928". Journal of American History, (June 1974) 61(1): 116–140
  • Houck, Davis W. "Rhetoric as Currency: Herbert Hoover and the 1929 Stock Market Crash" Rhetoric & Public Affairs 2000 3(2): 155–181. ISSN 1094-8392
  • Hutchison, Janet. "Building for Babbitt: the State and the Suburban Home Ideal" Journal of Policy History 1997 9(2): 184–210
  • Lichtman, Allan J. Prejudice and the Old Politics: The Presidential Election of 1928 (1979)
  • Lisio, Donald J. The President and Protest: Hoover, MacArthur, and the Bonus Riot, 2d ed. (1994)
  • Lisio, Donald J. Hoover, Blacks, and Lily-whites: A Study of Southern Strategies (1985)
  • Malin, James C. The United States after the World War. 1930. extensive coverage of Hoover's Commerce Dept. policies
  • Olson, James S. Herbert Hoover and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, 1931–1933 (1977)
  • Robinson, Edgar Eugene and Vaughn Davis Bornet. Herbert Hoover: President of the United States. (1976)
  • Romasco, Albert U. The Poverty of Abundance: Hoover, the Nation, the Depression (1965)
  • Schwarz, Jordan A. The Interregnum of Despair: Hoover, Congress, and the Depression. (1970). Hostile to Hoover
  • Sibley, Katherine A.S., ed. A Companion to Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover (2014); 616pp; essays by scholars stressing historiography
  • Stoff, Michael B. "Herbert Hoover: 1929–1933". The American Presidency: The Authoritative Reference. New York, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company (2004), 332–343
  • Sobel, Robert Herbert Hoover and the Onset of the Great Depression 1929–1930 (1975)
  • Tracey, Kathleen. Herbert Hoover–A Bibliography: His Writings and Addresses. (1977)
  • Wilbur, Ray Lyman, and Arthur Mastick Hyde. The Hoover Policies. (1937). In depth description of his administration by two cabinet members
  • Wueschner, Silvano A. Charting Twentieth-Century Monetary Policy: Herbert Hoover and Benjamin Strong, 1917–1927. Greenwood, 1999

Primary sources

  • Myers, William Starr; Walter H. Newton, eds. The Hoover Administration; a documented narrative. 1936.
  • Hawley, Ellis, ed. Herbert Hoover: Containing the Public Messages, Speeches, and Statements of the President, 4 vols. (1974–1977)
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  • The Crusade Years, 1933–1955: Herbert Hoover's Lost Memoir of the New Deal Era and Its Aftermath ed. by George Nash. (Hoover Institution Press, 2013) details
  • American Engineering Council, Committee on Elimination of Waste in Industry; Waste in Industry Federated American Engineering Societies, 1921

External links

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Political offices
Position established Director of the U.S. Food Administration
Position abolished
Preceded by United States Secretary of Commerce
Succeeded by
William F. Whiting
Preceded by President of the United States
Succeeded by
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Party political offices
Preceded by Republican nominee for
President of the United States

1928, 1932
Succeeded by
Alf Landon
Preceded by Prohibition nominee for
President of the United States

Succeeded by
William David Upshaw
Awards and achievements
Preceded by Cover of Time
November 16, 1925
Succeeded by
Gifford Pinchot
Preceded by
Honorary titles
Preceded by Oldest living President of the United States
Succeeded by
Harry S. Truman
Preceded by Persons who have lain in state or honor
in the United States Capitol rotunda

Succeeded by
Dwight D. Eisenhower

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