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Monday, January 2, 2017

Herbert Hoover - The Good Neighbor

Our visit to the National Archives Herbert Hoover museum in Iowa was our first stop on this trip where we were eager to learn more about our 31st president.  There was a Christmas tree exhibit featuring toy themes that was especially fun.  I like the rock 'em sock 'em robot topped tree best.

The toys on that tree reflected the childhood of my youth, but Hoover's childhood was of a different era.  Born in 1874 he lived in the small town of West Branch, Iowa for the first nine years of his life. His Quaker father, Jessie Clark Hoover, a blacksmith and farm equipment salesman, suffered a heart attack and died when Herbert was six years old. Three years later his mother, Huldah Minthorn Hoover who was a seamstress and recorded Quaker minister, developed pneumonia and also passed away.  This left Herbert, his older brother Theodore, and little sister Mary orphaned and passed around among relatives for a few years, Hoover ended up with his uncle, Dr. John Minthorn, who lived in Oregon. I wonder what kind of toys he played with, if any?  Most likely there was little time for play but I'm going to assume his agile mind found time for books!  He went from being an orphan to becoming a wealthy engineer; his work during World War I led to his being appointed Secretary of Commerce, and he served under both President Harding and President Coolidge.  On the other hand, his two children were born in London to successful parents so they probably had all the latest toys of the day!

(Bear with me here and read this long paragraph through to the end, there is some good meat in it, not just dry facts!)

Herbert wanted to be a mining engineer, and it was at Stanford that he met his wife, Lou Henry.  
Hoover graduated in 1895 over the next two decades he made his fortune as an international mining engineer and financier.  By 1914, however, he yearned for more than wealth and World War I provided him with an opportunity for public service. He aided Americans stranded in Europe when World War I broke out by setting up an emergency center and canteen at the Hotel Savoy with 500 volunteers who helped citizens as diverse as Chief White Feather of Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Together with other engineering friends they loaned 1.5 million dollars to stranded travelers to get them home.  Later, he established the Commission for Relief in Belgium to provide food for the civilians trapped in the war zone, putting his career on hold and accepting no salary for the work.  He crossed the North Sea 40 times to persuade the enemies in London and Berlin to permit food to pass through.  He convinced the Belgians that cornmeal was more than cattlefeed and the organization saved 10 million people from starvation.  

Why are we not nominating more Americans like this for public office?  WHY??  Katrina says it's because corporations pay to bankroll candidates through their election funds due to Citizens United and PACs and it is this money that is highly influencing what candidates make it to the big stage due to what they can do for the corporations.  What humanitarians turned politicians are we missing out on due to these policies?

While President-Elect Hoover visited eleven South American countries before his inauguration!

Hoover's wife Lou was a fine horsewoman who also hunted and preserved specimens with the skill of a taxidermist. She developed an enthusiasm for rocks, minerals, and mining, and that led her to become the first female geology major at Stanford.  Herbert graduated before she did and went to work in the gold fields in Australia but as soon as she was done with school they married.  She is incredibly interesting in her own right, traveling around the world with her husband and they were even present during the Boxer Rebellion.  They both learned to speak Chinese and to this day she is the only First Lady to learn an Asian language, not to mention the fact that she spoke 8 languages!

Katrina admires a past Girl Scout promoter

This woman is my new hero, right?  On top of all that she spent many years of her life involved with the Girl Scouts movement, and we were delighted to find an exhibit reflecting that great public service of hers.  She served two terms as the president of the organization the first time while her husband was serving under Presidents Harding and Coolidge and the second time after her husband left the presidency.  Her love of the outdoors continued throughout her lifetime and she was also an avid amateur photographer and had a home movie camera.

There is much to know about this lady, for more on Lou Henry Hoover go to this link.

Here are some of the domestic accomplishments of President Hoover during his presidency:

  • Presided over the 1929 Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression and initiated government economic recovery programs in the spirit of public-private partnerships that met with limited success
  • Promoted public works efforts such as the Hoover Dam
  • Appointed the conservationist Horace Albright to the National Park Service and placed nearly two million acres of federal land in the national forest reserve, demonstrating his belief in the conservation of national resources.
  • Increased tariffs with the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in order to encourage the purchase of American-made goods. (Instead, the Act resulted in contracted international trade and a worsening of the Great Depression)
  • Raised taxes by increasing the top tax bracket from 25% to 63% and increasing corporate taxes
  • Supported the Glass-Steagall Act limiting commercial bank securities activities
  • Advocated strong labor regulation laws, including the enactment of the Bacon-Davis Act requiring a maximum eight-hour day on construction of public buildings and the payment of at least the "prevailing wage" in the locality
  • Expanded civil service coverage of Federal positions
  • Canceled private oil leases on government lands
  • Instructed the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service to pursue gangsters for tax evasion
  • Signed the Norris La Guardia Act to limit judicial intervention in labor disputes
  • Dispersed the "Bonus Army" of WWI veterans who marched on Washington to demand bonus payments in 1932
  • Required air mail carriers to adopt stricter safety measures and improve service
  • In 1929 got Congress to pass the Agricultural Marketing Act, replete with a Federal Farm Board but with no subsidies for farmers like he originally wanted.

For an in depth look at the foreign policy accomplishments of President Hoover see this link.

Hoover was not surprised at the Stock Market crash which precipitated the Depression. Though his concerns and suggestions went unheeded before the crisis his administration worked hard to stimulate the economy.  Unfortunately the Great Depression was more than an economic downturn and all efforts to bounce back met with failure.  It was this, along with the demands of the Bonus Army that led to his declining popularity and led to his defeat when he ran against Franklin D. Roosevelt for re-election.

In the post-World War II years, Hoover remained committed to public service and to commenting on both domestic and international affairs. For the Truman administration, Hoover served as coordinator of the Food Supply for World Famine in 1946 and advised the U.S. government on occupation policies in Germany and Austria. In 1947, a Republican-led Congress named Hoover chairman of the Commission on the Organization of the Executive Branch of Government, which became known as the "Hoover Commission."

We learned A LOT at this museum!  I left feeling like I understood how the events of that time worked together and highly recommend a trip to experience it for yourself.


  1. While I am not a big history person like my husband, I really enjoyed this Presidential Museum. It was very visitor friendly and so well done.

  2. They sound like a great couple, I don't think the upcoming president and his wife will be

  3. Really glad to know about this place in Iowa. I always thought Hoover was just the "failed depression president" until I went to see his "summer white house" in what is now the Shenandoah National Park. If you are ever there, it is a fabulous hike to an amazing place where they relaxed. One of the surrounding cabins for their aids was turned into a museum telling their story. What wonderful people.

  4. Thanks for the condensed history lesson, Pam. What I knew about HH would fit in an eggshell, so your post was newsy! BTW, I lived for a year in Cedar Falls, Iowa (ohmygosh, so cold in winter!), so I bet President Hoover appreciated Oregon when he had to move there. Your point was made: WHY don't we nominate ... ah well, never mind. New Zealand has multiple parties from which to chose. Wish we did.