Herbert Hoover Biography

31st President of the United States

Years Served as President: 1929-1933

Vice President: Charles Curtis

Party: Republican

Age at Inauguration: 54

Herbert Hoover

Home State: Iowa

Date of Birth: August 10, 1874

Died: October 20, 1964

Married: Lou Henry  

Children: Herbert, Allan Henry

Nickname: The Great Engineer, Chief

What is Herbert Hoover known for?

Herbert Hoover is best known for being the president during the stock market crash of 1929, which led to the Great Depression.

The crash, which occurred during Hoover’s first year as president, was certainly not his fault entirely. However, he took most of the blame in the minds of the American people.

He was also viewed as insensitive toward the suffering of millions of U.S. citizens.

iowa-seal

Early Life

Herbert Hoover was born in the small town of West Branch, Iowa in 1874. His father Jessie was a blacksmith who also sold farm equipment. He died of a heart attack when Herbert was six.

Three year’s later, Herbert’s mother Huldah died of pneumonia. Herbert and his siblings, Theodore and Mary, were passed between relatives for several years. They eventually ended up with an uncle in Oregon.

In school, Herbert earned average or failing grades in all subjects except math. Still, he was determined to attend Stanford University. He studied hard and passed the school’s entrance exam.

math help

Hoover graduated from Stanford with a degree in geology and became a mining engineer. He traveled the world finding valuable mines. He soon became a multimillionaire.

Family Life

In 1899, Hoover married his college sweetheart, Lou Henry. Lou had been the only female geology major at Stanford during Hoover’s college years.

Lou traveled with Herbert everywhere he went and mastered eight languages. The couple had two sons, Herbert and Allan Henry.

war ambulance
Ford Model T Military Field Ambulance

Humanitarian Work

When World War I broke out, the wealthy Hoover turned to humanitarian work. He helped 120,000 American tourists who were stranded in Europe safely return home.

After Belgium was occupied by Germany, he arranged for the delivery of food and supplies to the nation’s citizens.

His work was so excellent that President Woodrow Wilson took notice.

Woodrow Wilson bio
Woodrow Wilson

Political Career

President Woodrow Wilson appointed Hoover the head of the Food Administration, and later the head of the American Relief Administration.

Through the organization, he provided “Hoover lunches” to as many as 10.5 million people daily. He received worldwide praise and thousands of thank you letters.

President Warren Harding appointed Hoover the secretary of commerce, and he continued to serve in this position under President Calvin Coolidge.

Calvin Coolidge bio
Calvin Coolidge

He helped organize radio broadcasting and the aviation (airplane) industry. He also played a major role in the construction of a dam on the Colorado River, which was named the Hoover Dam in his honor.

In 1928, many Republicans wanted Calvin Coolidge to run again, but he declined. Herbert Hoover became the Republican presidential nominee.

He won the election over the democratic candidate Alfred E. Smith, the governor of New York. Hoover won by a record number of electoral votes: 444-87.

Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam

In his inaugural address, Hoover promised to continue the peace and prosperity of the nation.

Presidency

Just seven months after Hoover took office, the stock market crashed. The crash sent the United States into a severe economic downturn known as the Great Depression.

stock market crash and panic

Banks and businesses failed, and unemployment rose. Millions of Americans lost their savings, their jobs, and their homes.

Hoover enacted some policies intended to help, such as cutting taxes and increasing public works spending. But he was a believer in a limited role for the federal government.

He felt that the federal government shouldn’t interfere and that relief efforts should happen at the local level. Hoover vetoed several bills that would have directly helped millions of struggling Americans.

federal-us-government

Not surprisingly, this was not a popular decision to the American people. Many of them were standing in bread lines for food and living in shantytowns, which they nicknamed “Hoovervilles.”

The Great Depression was not Hoover’s fault, but the American people felt that he did not do enough to help. The fact that Hoover was extremely wealthy certainly didn’t help his image.

In the 1932 presidential election, Hoover was defeated by Franklin D. Roosevelt, then the governor of New York.

pay and money

After the Presidency

After leaving the White House, Hoover was a vocal critic of Roosevelt’s New Deal policies. He wrote articles and books about the danger of giving the federal government too much power.

He worked with food relief during World War II and later worked on commissions for Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower to help cut costs in government.

Hoover died in New York City in 1964 at the age of 90. By the time of his death, people had grown less critical of Hoover’s presidency, understanding that he was not to blame for the Great Depression.

new york statue of liberty

Fun Facts About Herbert Hoover

Herbert Hoover was the first U.S. president born west of the Mississippi River. He was also the nation’s first Quaker president.

When Hoover accepted the Republican nomination for president, he ironically declared, “We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land.”

US flag

Hoover signed a law that made “The Star-Spangled Banner” America’s national anthem.

He did not accept his presidential salary, instead donating it to charity.

Hoover was the first president to have a telephone on his office desk.

US Presidents