31 - Herbert Hoover

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31 - Herbert Hoover

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Editado: Jul 14, 2009, 10:46 am

Herbert Hoover (The American Presidents) by William E. Leuchtenburg

Hoover was the first president to have an asteroid named for him.
Herbert Hoover was one of two presidents to live past his 90th birthday.
Hoover had never held an elected office prior to becoming president.
The Hoovers held many parties at the White House. As many as 4,000 invitations would be loaded on a truck and hand delivered around Washington.
Herbert Hoover was an eighth cousin once removed of Richard Nixon.
Hoover worked in Australia at the turn of the 20th century as a mining engineer.
Hoover was the first president born west of the Mississippi River.
Hoover approved "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the national anthem.
Hoover was the first president to donate his salary to charity.
During their first three years in the White House, the Hoovers dined alone only three times, each time on their wedding anniversary.
He was the youngest member of Stanford University's first graduating class.
One of the most honored presidents, Hoover received 84 honorary degrees, 78 medals and awards, and the keys to dozens of cities.
During Prohibition Hoover would visit the Belgian Embassy in Washington D.C. for drinks. It was considered foreign soil, so drinking was legal there.
From his youth he was known as Bert to friends.

Fev 1, 2009, 1:24 am

I'm reading William E. Leuchtenburg's entry on Herbert Hoover in the American Presidents series.

One thing I'd like to get out of all this presidential reading is whether I want to read more in-depth about a particular president. I picked up Herbert Hoover because I hope to read one or two of those books about FDR's first 100 days in office and wanted to learn more about how we got into the mess.

In the Leuchtenberg book, I am up to 1927, shortly before Hoover ran for the White House. He led a very interesting life before taking office as president.

A few interesting tidbits I've learned so far:

--As Cheli mentioned, he was born west of the Mississippi River, in Iowa. He did not travel east of the Mississippi until he was 22 (once he started travelling, he spent much of his 20s and 30s overseas, working as a mining engineer)

--He was known as the Great Humanitarian for, among other things, leading the relief effort during and after World War I

--During World War I, he was the American food czar and so his name appeared on every American restaurant menu during the war

--As Secretary of Commerce under Harding/Coolidge, Hoover pushed for a greater federal government role in aviation. As a result, Washington DC called its first airfield "Hoover Field"

--Hoover "ascended to the peak of national prominence" as the author phrases it when he led the government's relief efforts during the 1927 Mississippi River flood

Fev 1, 2009, 11:43 pm

I finished the William E. Leuchtenburg book on Herbert Hoover. For an overview (the book is part of the American Presidents series), it's not bad, though I thought the author did a better job with Hoover's pre-presidential days.

I still don't have a lot of insights as to how the Great Humanitarian turned into the Great Grouch but I do feel I can more knowledgably jump into FDR histories.

Fev 20, 2009, 8:31 pm

Lindapanzo - Thanks for your review of the Hoover book. I lived in West Branch, IA, the small town where Hoover was born. My kids go to Herbert Hoover Elementary School. And the local pizza joint is called Herb 'N Lou's. So, I was considering starting my presidential reading with Hoover. However, when I looked at the library, many of the books about him are long (or multiple volumes). The Leuchtenburg book sounds like a good option.

Fev 21, 2009, 1:36 am

I never read the book (I have only gotten 6 books of the series), but may have to get it.

I am really surprised that you called Hoover a grouch. Did the book cover the fact that he and his wife gave millions to charity while in the presidency and post presidency, sponsored several children during the Depression and continued to send money to them well into the 1940's, and that he declined his presidential salary (the only President to do so)?

Fev 21, 2009, 9:14 am

tneedles, I don't recall there being a lot of talk about his post-presidency or charitable giving but there was some. I do recall that he was known as the Great Humanitarian as he organized aid to Belgium and other places during WW1 but the same man would not do the same thing for his own country when it was faced with a similarly dire situation (which is why he was called the Great Grouch, by the American public, not by me). Part of what I hoped to learn from this book (but did not) was how and why a man could go so quickly from someone called the Great Humanitarian to someone being called the Great Grouch.

He did seem to be a mass of contradictions but it did make sense. Personally, in his early career years, he was extremely tough on working people, squeezing every last penny from them. He seemed to change (as most people do) and did become quite personally generous after he made his fortune. He did so much for Europe in rescue efforts and was quite beloved there.

He was also a firm believer in the concept of limited government, preferring to go the private route for charitable relief. I think his problem was that he never realized how bad things were in the early 30s and how the private sector alone could not cope with such widespread suffering. In many ways, the problems he faced were unprecedented, as they are once again today.

There was a mention of how he donated much personally and, after his presidency, was asked to do humanitarian efforts. This atones a bit for his failure to use his presidency to try to do anything to relieve suffering during the early years of the Great Depression but the fact still remains that, as president, he did not do well at all.

Fev 21, 2009, 9:32 am

I've read several presidential biographies before this challenge but Herbert Hoover was my first one for this. I expect to find, as is true with anyone else, that presidents have their good (even great) points and their bad points. Even the greatest presidents have flaws and even the worst ones have their strengths.

Fev 21, 2009, 12:49 pm

Hoover realized how bad things were during the Great Depression. If he had not, he would not have declined his salary and donated millions of dollars to charities. As you pointed out, he believed in limited government and that a limited government would allow the economy to recover quicker.

The figures seem to support Hoover's belief. Nations of "free economy" had mostly recovered by 1934/1935. In the United States, the Great Depression lasted until the beginning of the "war production economy" in 1940.

Editado: Dez 5, 2010, 12:31 pm


Herbert Hoover by Eugene Lyons

Wonderful book. I highly recommend it. Covers all of Hoover's life, not just the presidency, which was only a very small portion of an interesting and useful life.

Hoover now ranks very high on my list of great presidents, and even higher on my list of great Americians.

And, I think Hoover is the only President that ever wrote a book about another President. He wrote The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson. I have not totally verified that, but so far it is the only book of it kind that I have found. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Bill Masom

Edited because I can read, but not spel well, er spell well.

Out 14, 2012, 8:36 pm

Herbert Hoover, a Biography by Eugene Lyons
I think John Quincy Adams still impresses me most as the president who was MUCH more than just a president. Herbert Hoover now runs a very close second. Previous to reading this book I had only a vague idea that Hoover, too, was much, much more. (There had to be a reason why we have a Hoover Dam and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.) The White House years were a very small fragment of the total man and the total man was more than a just a politician. I'm very pleased to note that Bill (#9 above) feels the same way.
Eugene Lyons appears to be a republican himself and, if you take that into account, the story is still magnificent. Some parts of the book bog down in journalese and some of it reads novel-like, that is - easily.
I liked it but I shan't be searching for other Eugen Lyons productions for my collection.

Out 17, 2012, 11:34 am

Hoover was a terrible President and ended up a bitter man overwhelmed with a reactionary mindset. When he was a younger man, he was a progressive who ran the food effort for starving Belgians during WWI. He was brilliant and at the time he became POTUS it was thought that no one had better qualifications for the job. In fact, he ranks among our worst Presidents in my estimation, if for nothing else than ordering the army on the Bonus Marchers. Hoover is one of those guys that would be remembered more fondly had he never became POTUS.

Out 17, 2012, 7:34 pm

I confess I was thinking of him on either side of his Presidency. We have to remember, though, that politically he believed that wealth trickled down, that business entities would always save us, that no-one should question governmental authority, that government should be limited in scope anyway, that guns fix everything and we are all allowed to have one, that payment for work meant that the employer could demand and expect strength and loyalty, that America should be for Americans and that America should not peddle its influence overseas. Remember, I said "politically".
I still believe that he was, outside the Presidency, socially aware and a very good person.

Out 18, 2012, 9:06 am

#12 - I get you. But that was why he was a terrible President. He was a prisoner of his ideology. I have never been a Reagan fan, but there is an example of a POTUS who did indeed step out of his ideology to confront issues relative to leadership during his terms. Any President who simply stands by his beliefs no matter how impractical or harmful these are to the nation cannot be admired and in fact invites vituperation. Facism or communism could easily have fallen America in the early 1930's -- people forget how close that reality was on the ground. What if FDR hadn't come alone? Or not come along in time? That is why I judge Hoover so harshly.

Out 18, 2012, 8:31 pm

Yep. But the 30's "We" voted for him. It happened again in 2004. And, by golly, it could happen again next month. This can be a scary country. How must the rest of the world see this? - especially China right now. I sure hope that the majority of those here who actually do the work get off their after-work butts and vote. Otherwise the tattooed, gun-totin', pick-up-drivin', pit bull-ownin', baseball cap-wearing (backwards) just might get their way; in spite of the low-to-mid-range millionaire investor class.

Out 20, 2012, 6:25 pm

#13 well said!!!

Mar 18, 2013, 7:43 pm

David Burner is my favorite biographer. Hoover was the most qualified man to be POTUS who turned out to be the least qualified man to act in an emergency and the one who was most destined to be a great man who turned out to be much the lesser man. His order for MacArthur to attack the Bonus Marcher's camps is one of the most ignominious of a twentieth century American President.

Editado: Mar 19, 2013, 3:31 pm

17 -- "His order for MacArthur to attack the Bonus Marcher's camps is one of the most ignominious of a twentieth century American President."

-- Hmm. One of the most disgraceful acts by a 20th century president? Over the top? False? Here's Hoover's view from American History magazine:

"Probably the greatest coup of all was the distortion of the story of the Bonus March on Washington in July 1932. About 11,000 supposed veterans congregated in Washington to urge action by Congress to pay a deferred war bonus in cash instead of over a period of years.

The Democratic leaders did not organize the Bonus March nor conduct the ensuing riots. But the Democratic organization seized upon the incident with great avidity. Many Democratic speakers in the campaign of 1932 implied that I had murdered veterans on the streets of Washington.

The story was kept alive for twenty years. I, therefore, deal with it at greater length than would otherwise be warranted. As abundantly proved later on, the march was in considerable part organized and promoted by the Communists and included a large number of hoodlums and ex-convicts determined to raise a public disturbance. They were frequently addressed by Democratic Congressmen seeking to inflame them against me for my opposition to the bonus legislation. They were given financial support by some of the publishers of the sensational press. It was of interest to learn in after years from the Communist confessions that they also had put on a special battery of speakers to help Roosevelt in his campaign, by the use of the incident.

When it was evident that no legislation on the bonus would be passed by the Congress, I asked the chairman of the Congressional committees to appropriate funds to buy tickets home for the legitimate veterans. This was done and some 6,000 availed themselves of its aid, leaving about 5,000 mixed hoodlums, ex-convicts, Communists, and a minority of veterans in Washington. Through government agencies we obtained the names of upwards of 2,000 of those remaining and found that fewer than a third of them had ever served in the armies, and that over 900 on the basis of this sampling were ex-convicts and Communists.

Some old buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue had been occupied by about 50 marchers. These buildings stood in the way of construction work going on as an aid to employment in Washington. On July 28th the Treasury officials, through the police, requested these marchers to move to other quarters. Whereupon more than 1,000 of the disturbers marched from camps outside of the city armed with clubs and made an organized attack upon the police. In the melee Police Commissioner Glassford failed to organize his men. Several were surrounded by the mob and beaten up; two policemen, beaten to the ground, fired to protect their lives and killed two marchers. Many policemen were injured.

In the midst of this riot the District Commissioners, upon Glassford's urging, appealed to me. They declared that they could not preserve order in the Capital, that the police were greatly outnumbered, and were being overwhelmed. With the same right of call on me as municipalities have on the governor of any state, they asked for military assistance to restore order. At my direction to Secretary of War Hurley, General Douglas MacArthur was directed to take charge. General Eisenhower was second in command. Without firing a shot or injuring a single person, they cleaned up the situation. Certain of my directions to the Secretary of War, however, were not carried out. Those directions limited action to seeing to it that the disturbing factions returned to their camps outside the business district. I did not wish them driven from their camps, as I proposed that the next day we would surround the camps and determine more accurately the number of Communists and ex-convicts among the marchers. Our military officers, however, having them on the move, pushed them outside the District of Columbia.

I reviewed the incidents at once to the press, saying in conclusion:

'Congress made provision for the return home of the so-called bonus marchers who have for many weeks been given every opportunity of free assembly, free speech and free petition to the Congress. Some 6,000 took advantage of this arrangement and have returned to their homes. An examination of a large number of names discloses the fact that a considerable part of those remaining are not veterans: many are communists and persons with criminal records.

'The veterans amongst these numbers are no doubt unaware of the character of their companions and are being led into violence which no government can tolerate.

'I have asked the Attorney General to investigate the whole incident and to cooperate with the District civil authorities in such measures against leaders and rioters as may be necessary.'

General Glassford, shortly afterwards, published a series of articles stating flatly that he had opposed calling out the troops, and that he could have handled the situation without them. The Attorney General, however, took sworn statements from the District Commissioners proving that Glassford had implored them to call for troops. Among the statements to the Attorney General was one from General MacArthur stating flatly that General Glassford had appealed to him directly for help and accompanied him throughout.

The misrepresentation of the bonus incident for political purposes surpassed any similar action in American history. Not only did Roosevelt use the incident in the 1932 campaign, but Democratic orators also continued to use it for twenty years after, despite all the refutations and proof to the contrary. I was portrayed as a murderer and an enemy of the veterans. A large part of the veterans believe to this day that men who served their country in war were shot down in the streets of Washington by the Regular Army at my orders — yet not a shot was fired or a person injured after the Federal government took charge.

And it was I who, as President, provided more for World War I veterans in need than any previous President, as I placed all needy and sick veterans on disability allowances.

That the Bonus March was largely organized and managed by Communists became clear with the passage of time, through disclosures by Congressional committees and repentant Communist leaders who participated in it. Benjamin Gitlow, who was a leader in the Communist Party, later published a full account of the movement in which he described the organization of the march and its direction in Washington by a Russian Communist agent from a safe hotel room, and the anger of the director when the attempt failed after the troops took charge without hurting a single veteran."

Mar 19, 2013, 5:44 pm

Eisenhower privately admitted shame at being involved in this as MacArthur's aide. He thought it terrible that the army should be used against homeless veterans, but as a loyal military man Eisenhower kept much of his feelings to himself. Two veterans were injured and later died in the military movement that dislodged 17,000 veterans from their peaceful occupation. The fact that Hoover continued to justify this unconscionable action over the course of his long life only underscores the lack of character inherent in the man as he became a bitter irrelevancy in the political wilderness after his failed Presidency. That anyone could defend using the army to attack homeless veterans in ANY circumstances seems to me to be beyond the pale. Communists, huh? Well I guess they deserved to die then, didn't they?

Editado: Mar 19, 2013, 8:36 pm

"I have tried repeatedly to divorce myself from a discussion with you that I never chose to engage in. …In any event, my comments on these threads are not directed at you and I have no interest in debating you. There's nothing to see here, could you please move on ... thank you!"

One of my teachers told me that the problem with the exclamation point is that it has multiple meanings, often varying with context. See, for example, the much misunderstood poem by Massachusetts Puritan Emily Dickinson, "Wild Nights! Wild Nights!"

Ever since, I have avoided using exclamation points. One ought to be able to make one's point in clear prose without relying on a punctuation mark which can send a mixed, if not contradictory message. A "thank you" is traditionally used as a sign of gratitude. But attaching a exclamation point to it, in the context of a paragraph filled with frustration and loathing, is likely to be misinterpreted as anger rather than gratitude.

Fev 14, 2015, 10:42 am

I recently finished reading Herbert Hoover: A Biography by Eugene Lyons. This excellent biography of Herbert Hoover was written by Lyons in 1947 and revised by him in 1964. Hoover ranks pretty low on the US President totem pole. This biography moved Hoover up on my list. Lyons makes a great case that Hoover should be judged by his entire career. After graduating from Stanford in 1895, he embarked on a successful career as a mining engineer. During WWI, he led the relief effort in Belgium and eventually all of Europe. After the war, he became Secretary of Commerce under Harding and Coolidge. Unfortunately, he was elected President in 1928 on the eve of the stock market crash and the Great Depression. He was a terrible politician which made it difficult for him to work with Congress. Consequently, many of his proposals were rejected. Much of his effort to improve the economy was done behind the scenes and he does not get much credit there. He was defeat by FDR just 4 years later in 1932. Lyons makes a good case that much of Hoover's "Bad President" notoriety stems from a smear campaign perpetrated by Charlie Michelson and the press division of the Democratic National Committee. Hoover lived until 1964 so had a long and active life after his presidential term. He chaired two federal commissions on government reform. He was active with Stanford University and many other organizations. He was writing articles and books until his last days.

Jun 28, 2016, 7:09 am

There is a new Hoover bio out by Charles Rappleye, Herbert Hoover in the White House: The Ordeal of the Presidency. Here is my review:

For the most part this book was very readable. I did find myself glazing over at times, especially with all the economic discussion. While I understand it was necessary because the Great Depression was the over-arching event encapsulating Hoover's presidency, personally, I did not find those parts as fascinating. As I read through the presidents, I find that the most interesting biographies are the ones that discuss the politics of both the subject and era. There were parts of this book that did this quite well. I would say that at times I found the author a big arrogant in his use of language. Additionally, I was disappointed in the epilogue; as a book about Hoover, I would expect the epilogue to focus on Hoover's activity post-presidency, however, I felt the author emphasized FDR's presidency.

Jul 2, 2016, 3:01 pm

Herbert Hoover by Eugene Lyons. This was a very enlightening biography. ( It was hard to find a copy!). Hoover was a true humanitarian with his relief work feeding people during WWI and after WW11. I think that was his greatest accomplishment. Its sad the way he was maligned while in office and hated by Roosevelt. He worked his whole 90 years and really dedicated himself to improving the country.

Set 3, 2016, 10:40 am

I totally agree with 'swimmergirl1'. Mr. Hoover is one of my top five that I would like to have round for dinner.

Editado: Out 16, 2016, 9:36 pm

I read Starling of the White House; The Story of the Man Whose Secret Service Detail Guarded Five Presidents From Woodrow Wilson to Franklin D. Roosevelt by Edmund Starling and Thomas Sugre. Starling was the Secret Service Agent and later Chief of the Secret Service Detail who covered 5 presidents: Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, and Roosevelt; although he quit/was dismissed by Roosevelt. I feel that I got enough information about Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, to count as a read for those presidents.

Starling states that Hoover and Harding were his least favorites; probably maybe because Starling was an avowed Democrat for life? He doesn't say why. What does he say about Hoover? He thinks Hoover stand offish. He recounts times when Mr. and Mrs. Hoover went to their private Camp Rapidan and invited guests, family, and the press. The Camp was supposed to get Hoover away from the economic pressures of D.C. However, Starling says that President Hoovers hands shook, even while fishing, his favorite sport. While at camp in the Virginia mountains, President Hoover and his wife found out that there was no local school as this was a poor, depressed area. He and Mrs. Hoover paid the $91,000 (along with friends) to build the school and also paid the school teacher's salary.

Starling wrote the Hoover believed the economy would "right" itself and it would be a disservice to hand out government aid. He thought Americans were tough and should tough out the Great Depression. He lost both his father and mother by the age of 9 and was shuttled around from relative to relative. He was the FIRST student to enroll at Stanford and paid no tuition as such. Majoring in engineering and investing in mining around the world, Hoover became a millionaire by the time he was 28. His net worth by the time he became president was $4 million. He was quoted as having said, "If a man isn't a millionaire by the time he is 40, he's not much of a man."

Hoover was overweight and the Whitehouse doctor invented a type of ball game that could be played inside with a 5 lb. medicine ball and Hoover made his agents and staff play for 1 hour in the morning so he could get his exercise.

Below is a picture of President and Mrs. Hoover's bedrooms at Camp Rapidan.

Editado: Nov 12, 2016, 1:43 pm

Herbert Hoover: A Life
by Glen Jeansonne

Growing up, I was fed the popular view of Herbert Hoover--he was a meek little man who had the misfortune to be president when the stock market crashed and was unable to do anything to fix it. Glen Jeansonne, however, would have you believe that Herbert Hoover was a great man. He made a believer out of me.

While Hoover certainly didn't end the Great Depression, he did fill his long life with other great accomplishments. Professor Jeansonne traces his life from his birth in Iowa, through his education at Stanford University, a successful career as a mining engineer and as a leader of relief efforts during World War I. It was Hoover's great success in these areas that led his fellow Republicans to select him first as Secretary of Commerce and then President. Hoover responded to the financial crisis of the 30s like he did to the food crises of World War II--encouraging a decentralized response with a lot of involvement with local governments and communities. According to Professor Jeansonne, Hoover did accomplish a lot to lessen the crisis. However, the problem was too big to solve in a single, four year term and there were all too many people willing to put the blame on the President. Hoover lost his bid for re-election and spent almost the next twenty years being the Democrats' poster child for bad government. However, he rose up to the challenge and through his writing and community involvement, continued to serve and influence society for another 30 years.

Herbert Hoover: A Life was an easy, enjoyable read. I might have preferred it if Professor Jeansonne had wrote a bit more about the events of the time that played into Herbert Hoover's life, but I suppose there are longer biographies out there that might fill that bill. (He does indeed include a thorough essay on the sources he used to write the book.) His bias toward Hoover is fairly obvious, but to be expected. It'll be interesting to pick up a biography of FDR and see what that author has to say about Hoover. All in all, it's a book well worth reading.

(Trivia: Appropriately enough, I finished reading this book on Election Day.)