Son of a Quaker blacksmith, Herbert Clark Hoover brought to the presidency a luminous reputation as an engineer, administrator, and humanitarian.
Born in an Iowa village in 1874, he grew up in Oregon. He enrolled at Stanford University when it opened in 1891, graduating as a mining engineer.
He married his Stanford sweetheart, Lou 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. While his wife worked in the hospitals, Hoover directed the building of barricades, and once risked his life rescuing Chinese children.
One week before Hoover celebrated his 40th birthday in London, Germany declared war on France, and the American Consul General asked his help in getting stranded tourists home. In six weeks, his committee helped 120,000 Americans return to the United States. Next, Hoover turned to a far more difficult task, to feed Belgium, which had been overrun by the German army.
After the United States entered the war, President Wilson appointed Hoover head of the Food Administration. He succeeded in cutting consumption of foods needed overseas and avoided rationing at home, yet kept the Allies fed.
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. 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. He said then: "We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land." His election over New York Governor Al Smith seemed to ensure prosperity. Yet within months the stock market crashed, and the nation spiraled downward into 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, even though the president presented to Congress a 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, expansion of public works, and drastic limitations on government spending. At the same time, he insisted that while people must not suffer from hunger and cold, caring for them must be primarily a local and voluntary responsibility.
Hoover's opponents in Congress, who he felt were sabotaging his program for their own political gain, painted him as a callous and cruel president. Hoover became the scapegoat for the Great Depression and was badly defeated by Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. In the 1930s he became a powerful critic of the New Deal, warning against tendencies toward statism.
In 1947 President Truman appointed Hoover to a commission, which elected him chairman, to reorganize the Executive Departments. He was appointed chairman of a similar commission by President Eisenhower in 1953. Many economies resulted from both commissions' recommendations. Over the years, Hoover wrote a large number of articles and books, one of which he was working on when he died of intestinal cancer at 90 in New York City on October 20, 1964.
You Might Also Like
The Presidents and the Theatre
Read Digital Edition Foreword, William SealeThe Man Who Came to Dinner at the White House: Alexander Woollcott Visits the Roosevelts,...
The American Presidents Song
The origin of the "American Presidents" by Genevieve Madeline Ryan is somewhat unique. One year, Genevieve's father asked her to...
Presidents at the Races
No sport created more excitement, enthusiasm and interest in the colonial period and the early republic than horse racing. Presidents...
The Presidents Speak
TEACHER'S TEXTIn a democracy, the people speak at the ballot box. Their votes send a message to representatives at all...
Carriages of the Presidents
Before the twentieth century, the presidents' vehicles were not armored-plated or specially built. Their carriages were similar to those of...
The Presidents and Sports
Forward by William SealeThe Presidents and Baseball: Presidential Openers and Other Traditions by Frederic J. FrommerUlysses S. Grant's White House...
Collection By Land, By Sea, By Air
Whether by hoof, air, waterway, road, or rail, the President’s access to reliable transportation is essential during their time in...
Podcast The White House Gardens
The White House includes 18 acres of historic grounds and gardens that have been cultivated for more than two hundred years...
Collection A Tour of the White House
In 1961, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy resolved to make the White House a “living museum” by restoring the historic integrity of the...
Collection The 2018 White House Christmas Ornament
Every year since 1981, the White House Historical Association has had the privilege of designing the Official White House Christmas Ornament....
Collection Slavery in the President's Neighborhood
Many people think of the White House as a symbol of democracy, but it also embodies America’s complicated past an...
Collection The Presidents
Biographies & Portraits