PRESIDENT #31 – HERBERT HOOVER

The next president is Herbert Hoover and for those of you who live in the Chicago area – getting to Hoover’s birthplace and presidential library isn’t all that difficult – it’s in West Branch, Iowa and could easily be a day trip.

In fact, this is what Hoover said about Iowa:

“But I prefer  thoughts of Iowa as I saw it through the eyes of a ten-year-old boy – and the eyes of all ten-year-old Iowa boys are or should be filled with the wonders of Iowa’s streams and woods, or the mystery of growing crops. His days should be filled with adventure and great undertakings, with participation in good and exciting things.”

Herbert was born in West Branch – in fact his Quaker family had helped found the town. But Herbert’s father died when he was only 34 and his mother was left to take care of the three children. She took in sewing so she could save the $1,000 life insurance policy for her children’s education.   But three years after her husband died, Herbert’s mother also died.  At age 11, he moved to Oregon to live with an uncle, a doctor who fathered young Herbert.  After high school he attended Stanford and he graduated with a degree in geology and went to work in the California gold mines and then moved to Colorado to work as a mining engineer. ( In fact, later when asked to join Harding’s cabinet at $15,000 a year, he turned down a $500,000 offer from the biggest mining company in the world to do so).

But back to the young engineer – he soon was offered a job in Australia and while there, sent a cablegram to Lou Henry, a girl he had met in Stanford (and the daughter of a prominent banker).  The cablegram asked if she would marry him. She wrote back “yes,” and then he told her he was soon to move to China. She happily accompanied him.  From there, they moved to London.  At this point he was a multi-millionaire and wanted to be more involved in public service. Being in London during the war, he had the opportunity and after the war, he became a delegate to the Paris Peace Conference.

Then Coolidge handpicked him as his successor.

When Hoover came into office, the U.S. had just experienced the happily, roaring Twenties – but then everything fell apart (remember, Coolidge kind of knew this would happen).  Hoover didn’t cause it. Hoover couldn’t get out of it. He did what he could, but could not win back the confidence of the country and lost his reelection to Roosevelt.

The Hoovers moved back to California to a house built for them on the Stanford campus (which is now lived in by the university president), but then moved to New York City to a rented suite in the Waldorf Towers – where they lived for 30 years.

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