Son of a Quaker
blacksmith, Herbert Clark Hoover brought to the Presidency an unparalleled
reputation for public service 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
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!"
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 seemed to ensure prosperity. Yet within
months the stock market crashed, and the Nation spiraled downward into
After the crash Hoover announced that while he would keep
the Federal budget balanced, he would cut taxes and expand public works
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
His opponents in Congress, who he felt were
sabotaging his program for their own political gain, unfairly painted him as a
callous and cruel President. Hoover became the scapegoat for the depression and
was badly defeated in 1932. In the 1930's 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 many articles and
books, one of which he was working on when he died at 90 in New York City on
October 20, 1964.
For more information about President Hoover, please
Herbert Hoover Library and Museum