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Posted on December 8, 2017 at 4:10 PM by Melissa Dalton
Many times when you are thumbing through archival material, you run across something that doesn’t belong. However, sometimes that item is so intriguing that you find yourself doing research to see what you can learn. Our intern found such an item the other day, and I’ve found myself researching ever since.
The item we found, a Hoover-Curtis Volunteer Club card (Figure 1), is just the type of thing that piques interest! Herbert Hoover was not a president that I know much about, and when I polled my co-workers, it appeared many of us were light on knowledge of him and his presidency. Many know that Hoover was president when the Great Depression started, and his presidency was plagued by his inability to limit its far reaching consequences. However, he was a man who had a humanitarian spirit and was not one to seek appraisal for his good deeds. I hope you read on to learn a little more about this one-term president.
Figure 1 – Hoover-Curtis Volunteer Club card
Herbert Hoover was born on August 10, 1874 in West Branch, Iowa. Both his parents died before Hoover’s 10th birthday, and he went to live with relatives in Oregon. Hoover went on to graduate from Stanford University in 1895 (part of the inaugural class), at which time he began a successful career as a mining engineer. However, Hoover became well-known as a humanitarian during World War I, when he lead efforts to assist fleeing Americans and aided Belgium in battling famine and death that threatened their country. In 1917, Hoover returned to the United States and was appointed by President Wilson to head the new U.S. Food Administration. When the war ended, he returned to Europe for a year-long appointment to direct the American Relief Administration, which organized and distributed food and supplies to over twenty nations affected by the war.
In 1921, Hoover was appointed to the position of Secretary of Commerce under President Harding and continued his post with President Coolidge. When President Coolidge decided not to run for a second term, the ever-popular Hoover was encouraged to run as the Republican candidate. Hoover won the nomination and went on to won the election by a landslide, receiving 58% of the popular vote and 444 electoral votes (whereas Al Smith, his opponent, only received 87) (Figure 2 & 3).
Figure 2 – The Evening Gazette, November 7, 1928
Figure 3 – View of Hoover’s inauguration in 1928
As soon as Hoover took office in 1929, he began implementing reforms, expanding civil service protection, canceling private oil leases on federal lands, while increasing the national parks and forests by over 2 million acres each. Hoover’s administration also established the Federal Farm Board, pressed for dam construction in the Tennessee Valley and central California, as well as pushed for tax cuts for low-income Americans. Additionally, he established the Veterans Administration, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and reorganized the Bureau of Indian Affairs, among many others.
Hoover voiced concern over the stock market speculation in 1925 and again after taking office, however, he was told to back off as it was not the business of the president. When the market crashed, Hoover attempted to negate losses by urging businesses, governors, and other leaders to keep wages strong, continue with construction projects, expand public works, and urged Congress to approve a $160 million tax cut. Even with all these efforts, the Great Depression pressed on and Hoover became the scapegoat for the decade-long recession.
Unable to recover the trust and favor of the American people, Hoover lost the 1932 election to Franklin D. Roosevelt. After leaving office, Hoover wrote many books, gave speeches, and continued rallying for beloved causes. In 1936, Hoover joined, and was elected chairman, of the Boys’ Clubs of America, an organization he continued working with the remainder of his life.
In 1946, President Truman and former President Hoover formed an unlikely friendship, and President Truman enlisted the help of Hoover to aid in relief efforts after World War II (Figure 4). Hoover, at the age of 71, visited 38 nations to request food aid for WWII victims. When he returned, President Truman requested that Hoover help again with a new effort – trim the bloat of the war from the executive branch. Hoover obliged, and when Truman was reelected in 1948, more than 70% of Hoover's recommendations became law. Hoover went on to work with the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations to cut spending.
Figure 4 – Former Presidents Hoover and Truman at Hoover Library, Harry S. Truman Library, Harry S. Truman Library & Museum.
Hoover worked well into his eighties, writing and consulting. Herbert Hoover died on October 20, 1964 at the age of 90. He was buried in Iowa near his birthplace, with a simplistic gravestone, a true testament of the humble nature of the man and former president.
[Former Presidents Hoover and Truman at Hoover Library]. West Branch, Iowa. 1962, August 10. Photograph. Harry S. Truman Library, Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Retrieved from https://trumanlibrary.org/photographs/view.php?id=46.
Greene County Criminal Probate Records of LeRoy Phoenix, Box 439, Case 258.
“Herbert Hoover.” Hoover Institution. Retrieved from Stanford University, https://www.hoover.org/about/herbert-hoover.
[President Hoover's inauguration, March 4, 1929]. Washington D.C, 1929. March 4. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/00650357/.
The Evening Gazette. 7 November 1928. Retrieved from NewspaperArchive, https://oh0247.oplin.org:2106/us/ohio/xenia/xenia-evening-gazette/1928/11-07.
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