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Herbert Hoover - 31st President of the United States


Photograph of Herbert Hoover (National Archives)
Photograph of Herbert Hoover (National Archives)


Herbert Clark Hoover (August 10, 1874 - October 20, 1964) was the 31st President of the United States, (Republican) from (1929 - 1933).

Hoover was born into a Quaker family in an Iowa village, but spent most of his childhood 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 Tianjin. 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 Woodrow 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 Warren G. Harding and Calvin 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 seemed to ensure prosperity. Yet within months the stock market crashed, and the nation spiraled downward into what became known as the Great Depression.

After the crash Hoover announced that while he would keep the Federal budget balanced, he would cut taxes and expand public works spending. However, he signed the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act, which raised tariffs on over 20,000 dutiable items. This act is often blamed for deepening the depression, and being Hoover's biggest political blunder.

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 governmental economy.

At the same time he reiterated his view that while people must not suffer from hunger and cold, caring for them must be primarily a local and voluntary responsibility.

His 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 Depression and was badly defeated in 1932. In the 1930s he became a critic of the New Deal, warning against tendencies toward statism.

In 1947, President Harry S 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 many articles and books, one of which he was working on when he died at 90 in New York City on October 20, 1964.



 

 
Photographs of President Herbert Hoover



Herbert Hoover with a day's catch when he was younger. (National Archives)
Herbert Hoover as a young man with a day's catch. (National Archives)





President Herbert Hoover and official party in Tunnel No. 2 during inspection tour of Boulder Canyon Project. Left to right: Construction Engineer Walker R. Young, Bureau of Reclamation; Mr. Ritchey, Secretary to the President; Chief Engineer Raymond F. Walter, Bureau of Reclamation; Mrs. Hoover; President Hoover; Mrs. Wilber; Secretary of the Interior Ray Lyman Wilbur; E.O. Wattis, First Vice-President, Six Companies, Inc.; Frank T. Crowe, General Superintendent, Six Companies, Inc, 11/12/1932 (National Archives)
President Herbert Hoover and official party in Tunnel No. 2 during inspection tour of Boulder Canyon Project. Left to right: Construction Engineer Walker R. Young, Bureau of Reclamation; Mr. Ritchey, Secretary to the President; Chief Engineer Raymond F. Walter, Bureau of Reclamation; Mrs. Hoover; President Hoover; Mrs. Wilber; Secretary of the Interior Ray Lyman Wilbur; E.O. Wattis, First Vice-President, Six Companies, Inc.; Frank T. Crowe, General Superintendent, Six Companies, Inc, 11/12/1932 (National Archives)





Political Cartoon - The Presidency is Just One Problem After Another, 03/16/1930 (National Archives)
This political cartoon depicts President Herbert Hoover pondering his selection for the Supreme Court. - “The Presidency is Just One Problem After Another”, 03/16/1930 (National Archives)





“A Chicken in Every Pot” political ad and rebuttal article in New York Times, 10/30/1928 (National Archives)
“A Chicken in Every Pot” political ad and rebuttal article in New York Times, 10/30/1928
(National Archives)
This is the advertisement that caused Herbert Hoover's opponents to state that he had promised voters a chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage during the campaign of 1928. During the campaign of 1932, Democrats sought to embarrass the President by recalling his alleged statement. According to an article in the New York Times (10/30/32), Hoover did not make such a statement. The report was based on this ad placed by a local committee -- which only mentions one car !






Food will Win the War, Herbert Hoover. But there is another Vital Necessity. The Conservation of Food..., ca. 1917 - ca. 1919  (National Archives)
“Food will Win the War, Herbert Hoover. But there is another Vital Necessity. The Conservation of Food...” , ca. 1917 - ca. 1919 (National Archives)

 
Quick Facts about President Herbert Hoover

Rank: 31st (1929-1933)
Followed: Calvin Coolidge
Succeeded by: Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Date of Birth August 10, 1874
Place of Birth: West Branch, Iowa
Date of Death: October 20, 1964
Place of Death: New York City. New York
First Lady: Lou Henry
Profession: engineer
Political Party: Republican
Vice President: Charles Curtis

 
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