Herbert Hoover

Herbert Hoover

31st President, 1929-1933

Early Life and Pre-presidency

Official Presidential portrait of Herbert Hoover Artist: Elmer Wesley Greene, 1956

Official Presidential portrait of Herbert Hoover
Artist: Elmer Wesley Greene, 1956

  • Born Herbert Clark Hoover on August 10, 1874 in West Branch, Iowa.
  • Parents: Jessie Hoover and Hulda Randall Minthorn. Siblings: Theodore “Tad” Jesse and Mary “May” Blanche.
  • His father died when he was six years old and his mother died when he was ten, leaving him and his siblings orphaned as children.
  • He lived with a grandmother then a paternal uncle before finally moving to Newberg, Oregon to live with a maternal uncle in 1885.
  • Attended Friends Pacific Academy in Newberg, Oregon. He did not attend high school but worked as an office assistant in the morning then attended night school to study bookkeeping, typing, and mathematics.
  • Entered Stanford University in 1891, becoming one of the newly established University’s first batch of students. He graduated with a geology degree in 1895.
  • After graduating, his first job was as a laborer in a gold mine near Nevada City, California. He then found employment with a London-based mining company in San Francisco in 1897.
  • His employer sent him to Western Australia where he worked for two years before being sent to China in 1899. He and his wife learned Mandarin while in China. They were there when the Boxer Rebellion broke out in 1900.
  • Married Lou Henry (1875–1944) on February 10, 1899. Children: Herbert Clark (1903–1969) and Allan Henry (1907–1993).
  • Left his mining employer in 1908 to start his own venture as a mining investor and consultant.
  • When World War I broke out in August, 1914, Hoover was in London. The U.S. consul asked for his help in returning 120,000 Americans who were trapped in Europe to the U.S. He also organized the Commission for Relief in Belgium, which had then been occupied by Germany.
  • When the U.S. joined the War in 1917, then President Woodrow Wilson asked Hoover to head the U.S. Food Administration. He instituted food rationing in U.S. households in order to send relief supplies to Europe and to feed U.S. soldiers fighting in the War.
  • After the War, he organized relief efforts for millions of people left starving in Central Europe and Russia.
  • Appointed Secretary of Commerce in 1920 by President Warren G. Harding. He served until 1928 under President Coolidge.
  • Nominated by the Republican Party as its Presidential candidate in the 1928 election. He won the election with 58.2% of the popular vote and a majority of the electoral votes.

Presidency

Hoover, ca. 1902-1935 Courtesy U.S. National Archives

Hoover, ca. 1902-1935
Courtesy U.S. National Archives

  • Took his oath of office on March 4, 1929 at the East Portico, U.S. Capitol.
  • Signed the Agriculture Marketing Act on June 1929. The law created the Federal Farm Board, which was tasked with the promotion of the sale of agricultural products using cooperatives and stabilization corporations.
  • On October 24, 1929, which became known as “Black Thursday,” and on October 29, 1929, which became known as “Black Tuesday,” the New York Stock Exchange experienced two successive collapses when 13 million then 16.4 million shares were sold at very low prices. The crash began the Great Depression that would last a decade.
  • Signed the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act In June 1930, which significantly raised import duties in the hopes of encouraging the purchase of American goods. However, other countries retaliated by raising tariffs on American imports.
  • To combat the Great Depression, construction of the Hoover Dam began in September 1930 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The dam would be completed 6 years later.
  • In December 1930, Hoover asked Congress to release funds for public works projects to prevent further unemployment. Congress would apporpriate $116 million to create jobs for 4.5 million unemployed.
  • By the end of 1930, 1300 banks had closed across the United States. By the end of his term, 5000 banks had collapsed. By 1932, 12 million people were unemployed.
  • Vetoed the Bonus Loan Bill in February 1931. The Bill would have allowed veterans to get cash loans. Congress overrode the veto.
  • Proposed a policy to implement a one-year moratorium on loans owed the U.S. by European countries during World War I in June 1931. In return, the U.S. asked for reciprocity with its own debts to them. The Hoover Moratorium was passed by Congress in December 1931.
  • Established the Reconstruction Finance Corporation in January 1932 to stimulate the economy. The agency had $2 billion dollars to lend to banks, insurance companies, and other institutions.
  • In January 1932, with his Secretary of State, Hoover created the Stimson Doctrine, declaring that the U.S. would not recognize territories claimed by force. This was in response to the invasion of Manchuria by Japanese forces.
  • Signed the Norris–La Guardia Anti-injunction Act in March 1932. The law banned yellow-dog contracts, barred judges from issuing injunctions against strikes, and gave employees the right to join labor unions.
  • Signed the Revenue Act of 1932 in June. The law significantly raised the income tax rates for high earners and also raised corporate taxes and the estate tax.
  • Began the “Good Neighbor” policy of the U.S. toward Latin American countries. The policy stated that the U.S. would not intervene or interfere in the domestic affairs of these countries.
  • Re-nominated as the Republican Party’s presidential candidate in the 1932 election. He lost to Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt by a landslide.

Post-presidency

Hoover posing with his dog, ca. 1928 Photographer: Herbert E. French

Hoover posing with his dog, ca. 1928
Photographer: Herbert E. French

  • Returned to his home in Palo Alto, California after staying for a while at the Waldorf–Astoria Hotel.
  • Because of his unpopularity stemming from his inability to combat the Great Depression, Hoover stayed away from public life for many years.
  • In March 1938, while on a tour of Europe, he met with Adolf Hitler. Hitler’s Nazi army had just annexed Austria in what would be the beginning of World War II. Hoover was initially against U.S. involvement in the growing war in Europe. However, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, he fully supported U.S. involvement.
  • Became the first Honorary Chairman of the Tolstoy Foundation in 1939. The foundation helped Russian refugees, displaced persons, and dissidents to settle in the U.S.
  • During the war, he initiated two relief efforts for countries occupied by Germany. The Commission for Polish Relief provided aid to Poland until 1941, and the Finnish Relief Fund provided aid to Finalnd until 1940.
  • After the War, Hoover was chosen by President Harry S. Truman to serve as coordinator of the Food Supply for World Famine in 1946. He toured Germany and Austria and filed reports to the president regarding the conditions in these countries.
  • In 1947, President Truman appointed him to the Commission on the Organization of the Executive Branch of Government, which elected Hoover as its chairman. The commission would later be known as the Hoover Commission.
  • In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Hoover to a commission similar to the Hoover Commission. Both commissions made recommendations on how to re-organize and strengthen the Executive Branch.
  • He publicly opposed the government’s policy toward the Cold War and criticized U.S. involvement in the Korean War in the early 1950s.
  • In 1919, Hoover set up the Hoover Institution in Stanford University as an archive for his writings and collections from World War I. It became known as the Hoover War Library in the 1920s. After his presidency, he worked to expand the institution. It is now known as the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace, and acts as a public policy think-tank.
  • Died October 20, 1964 of colon cancer.
  • He is interred at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa.
  • The Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch Iowa includes the home where Hoover was born and the Presidential Library. The home was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1964, and the site was declared a National Historic Site in 1965.
  • The Rapidan Camp within Shenandoah National Park in Madison County, Virginia was built by Hoover in 1929 as his retreat while in office. He later donated it to the federal government. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1988 and renamed “Camp Hoover.”
  • Hoover’s house in Palo Alto, California was renamed the Lou Henry and Herbert Hoover House and now serves as the official residence of the President of Stanford University.