Monday, August 9, 2010
The topic for our VIP Tuesday is Herbert Hoover. Herbert Clark Hoover was the President when the Great Depression swept through the United States. He became President after establishing himself as a millionaire business man and a successful public official. The United States was experiencing a period of great prosperity at the time Hoover became President, and Americans were expecting even better days. The stock market crashed and the Great Depression started seven months after Hoover took office. Hoover as well as many members of the business world expected the depression to be short and prosperity to return. He was a member of the Republican Party and was the first President "to use the power of the federal government to fight a depression." Hoover was shy and reserved. and he had a quiet sense of humor, laughing loudly on rare occasions. He enjoyed fishing, hiking, and reading biographies and detective stories. Herbert was the first President to be born west of the Mississippi River. He was born on August 10, 1874, in West Branch, Iowa. Andrew Huber (or Hoover), one of his ancestors, came from Germany in 1738 and settled in Pennsylvania but later moved to North Carolina. His son John became a Quaker whose descendants settled in Ohio and later moved to Iowa (1853). Herbert's father was a blacksmith and dealt in farm equipment. His mother was born in Canada. Herbert had an older brother and a younger sister. Herbert's father died when he was six years old, and his mother died when he was nine years old. Relatives raised the children, and Herbert did not live with his brother and sister most of the time. He lived with an uncle for two years of his childhood. Herbert had a pleasant childhood even though he was an orphan. He enjoyed playing in the woods and fishing and swimming in the streams. He earned money to buy fireworks by picking potato bugs - one cent for every hundred bugs. He went to Newberg, Oregon, in 1885 to live with another uncle and received his secondary school education at Newberg College, a small academy where his uncle served as principal. He worked to earn money and weeded onions one summer at fifty cents per day. When his uncle opened a real estate office in Salem, Oregon, in 1888, Hoover worked as an office boy for him while studying algebra and geometry at a business college. After talking with an engineer in 1890, Hoover became interested in engineering and decided to become a mining engineer. He enrolled in the first class of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, when he was seventeen years old. Hoover managed a laundry agency. delivered newspapers, and worked as a part-time secretary for the head of the geology department to pay his college expenses. He did geological work in Arkansas, California, and Nevada during his summer vacations and worked for a short time as a miner in California after he graduated in 1895. Hoover met Lou Henry, the daughter of a wealthy banker, in the geology laboratory at Stanford and married her in Monterey, California, on February 10, 1899. She was a brilliant woman who spoke several languages and was very interested in science, literature, and art. Herbert and Lou translated a famous old book about mining from Latin into English and were recognized for their work by Stanford with special degrees. Lou also wrote articles for many scientific and historical publications after her husband became President. The Hoovers had two sons. Hoover began his career in the office of well-known mining engineer in San Francisco in 1896. The next year at age 26, he was hired by a London company as an engineer to manage gold mines in Australia. He spent less than two years in Australia and in late 1898 accepted the position of chief engineer for the Chinese Imperial Bureau of Mines. Herbert and Lou spent their honeymoon sailing from California to China. Mrs. Hoover learned to speak Chinese while her husband made prospecting trips and directed engineering projects. When the Boxer Rebellion started in 1900, Herbert supervised the construction of defenses for the foreign settlement in Tianjin and directed the distribution of food and other supplies during the two-month Boxer siege of the settlement. After the rebellion, the Chinese government discontinued its Bureau of Mines and Hoover went to London where he helped to organize a private company to develop mines in China. He returned to China in 1901 as the company's general manager but resigned after a few months. He returned to London as a partner in a mining company with which he had been associated since 1897. He established his own engineering firm in 1908. By 1814, Hoover was a millionaire by reorganizing mines in many parts of the world. Hoover was in London in 1914 when thousands of Americans were stranded in Europe by the beginning of World War I. After being asked by United States officials in London to aid the stranded people, Hoover organized a committee that aided about 120,000 Americans to return home. Hoover was asked in August 1914 by the U.S. ambassador in London to organize food relief for Belgium, which had been conquered by German troops. He set up the Commission for Relief in Belgium and gathered and distributed food and helped to raise relief funds from October 1914 until April 1917. Many thousands of lives were saved by the efforts of his commission. When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, President Wilson asked Hoover to head the United States Food Administration where he was given broad powers over the prices, production, and distribution of food. His campaign to save food for people in war-torn Europe was well supported by the American people. The term "Hooverize" meant to economize and to save and do without various foods with the result of meatless and wheatless days being observed. Hoover was internationally famous when he returned to Europe after the war ended in 1918 to direct the feeding of millions of people. Many people were so impressed with Hoover by 1919 that they thought he should be President, and both Democrats and Republicans wanted him to be a candidate in the 1920 election. He announced that he was a Republican but didn't do well in the primary election. He was named in 1921 by President Warren G. Harding to be secretary of commerce and held this office under both Harding and President Calvin Coolidge. Serving as secretary of state showed Hoover's great skill as an administrator and planner. He reorganized the Department of Commerce and expanded the work of the department. He was so involved in many activities that one official said that he was "Secretary of Commerce and Under Secretary of everything else." Under Hoover's directions, many conferences were held to consider such problems as industrial production, labor relations, child welfare, foreign trade, and housing; he brought order into radio broadcasting, promoted commercial aviation, and helped to end the 12-hour workday for the steel industry. Hoover became the Republican candidate for President in February 1928 a few months after President Coolidge announced that he did not "choose to run" for reelection. Prohibition was a major issue of the campaign with the Democrats wanting to repeal Amendment 18 of the U.S. Constitution. Many Americans thought the Republicans better able to keep the nation prosperous and opposed Alfred E. Smith because he was a Roman Catholic. Hoover carried 40 of the 48 states and received 444 electoral votes to 87 for Smith. Hoover's good-will tour of Latin American helped lay the foundation for the "Good Neighbor Policy" of the FDR era. Hoover expected prosperity to continue in spite of the fact that the United States had been building up to a crash for a long time. Farmers did not share in the prosperity of the 1920's, and people in the coal-mining and textile-manufacturing industries had poor working conditions and low wages. There was widespread buying on credit, which weakened the economy; thousands of people bought stocks with borrowed money. Stock prices soared. and then the stock market crashed in October 1929. The Great Depression was here. Many people, including Hoover, thought the depression would be short and that the stock market would recover within a few weeks or months. When 1929 ended losses were estimated at $40 billion, and stock values on the New York Stock Exchanged had dropped 40 percent. Fortunes were destroyed, and thousands of workers lost their jobs. Hoover called business leaders, industrialists, and labor leaders together for conferences, and all agreed to cooperate in an effort to keep wages stable and to avoid strikes. Nevertheless, the economic conditions worsened. More than 12 million people were out of work by 1932. Factories closed, banks failed, and thousands of people lost their homes because they couldn't pay their mortgages. Clumps of shacks for homeless families became known as "Hoovervilles." Germany and other nations were affected by the Great Depression, and they could not pay their war debts. Hoover was reluctant to interfere with the American economy, believing that the depression was just temporary. He expected businesses and industries to solve their own problems and to help in the national stabilization efforts. In 1932 he requested Congress to pass several laws to enable the government to help businesses and to keep banks and other firms from going bankrupt. Even though Hoover believed that the states and local communities should provide relief for jobless workers, he realized that the unemployed needed more assistance. The federal government loaned $300 million to the states for relief and provided credit for homeowners and farmers. Improvement was made in court practices and bankruptcy procedures. Hoover supported many public works and conservation programs, which were designed in part to provide jobs. One such program was to build Boulder Dam (now known as Hoover Dam) on the Colorado River. The government also worked to develop inland waterways for navigation and flood control, added 3 million acres to national parks and monuments, and enlarged the national forests. The government also build more than 800 public buildings and helped states to build about 37,000 miles of major highways. In spite of everything Hoover did, unemployed workers staged hunger marches and demonstrations in several cities during the early 1930's. The White House received a new look during the Hoover Administration. They decorated it with souvenirs and art objects collected during their years of world travel. There was a large cage of canaries in the second-floor corridor surrounded by bamboo furniture and grass rugs from South America. The Hoovers entertained frequently but avoided personal publicity whenever possible. They escaped the summer heat by vacationing in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where the President enjoyed fishing for trout. The Hoovers built a summer home in the mountains and later gave it to the Shenandoah National Park. The Republicans had little hope of winning the election of 1932. New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt called for a "new deal" for the American people and promised to balance the budget, bring relief to the unemployed, help the farmers, and end Prohibition. Hoover defended his record, but Roosevelt carried 42 of the 48 states and won 472 electoral votes. Bank failures and unemployment increased during Hoover's last four months in office. Amendment 20 to the Constitution - the "lame duck amendment" - became law in January 1933 and took effect in October 1933. It provided that a President's term of office should end on January 20 instead of March 4. After Hoover left the White House, he spent much of his time traveling, reading, speaking and writing. He continued to develop the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace that he founded at Stanford in 1919. The Hoovers moved from Palo Alto, California, to New York City where Mrs. Hoover died on January 7, 1944. Hoover published three books: 1) The Challenge to Liberty (1934) - an attack on President Roosevelt's New Deal program, 2) The Problems of Lasting Peace (1942), and 3) The Basis of Lasting Peace (1945). He headed a committee to collect relief funds for Finland in 1940 during the first Russo-Finnish War. After World War II, Democratic President Harry S. Truman named Hoover chairman of the Famine Emergency Commission to survey the food needs of many nations. He traveled to Europe in 1947 to report on relief needs to President Truman. In addition, in 1947, Hoover was named chairman of the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government. The commission was called the Hoover Commission, and commission proposals that were adopted cut costs and stream-lined the federal government. Hoover was a director or a trustee of nine private educational, scientific, and charitable institutions. The Herbert Hoover Library that houses most of Hoover's official papers was dedicated in West Branch in 1962. Hoover published his three-volume Memoirs in 1951-1952 and The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson in 1948. He also completed his four-volume work titled An American Epic in 1964. Hoover gave all his income from government employment, including his pension, to charity and to public service projects. He returned to popular favor because of his services to government and society. He lived longer after leaving the White House than any other former President. He died in New York City on October 20, 1964, at the age of 90. Our nation mourned him as a truly great American. He was buried on a rise overlooking the small house where he was born in West Branch, Iowa. Important events in the world of President Hoover are: 1) The stock market crash of October 29, 1929, which wiped out the savings of thousands of investors and helped to cause the Great Depression; 2) The Great Depression, a worldwide economic slump, caused thousands of businesses to fail, millions of workers to lose their jobs, and needy people to wait in bread lines to receive food; 3) The first practical all-electronic television system was demonstrated in 1929, and the first reliable analog computer was built in 1930; 4) Canada became an independent nation in 1931; 5) Japan invaded Manchuria on September 18, 1931, an attack that helped to start World War II; 6) The Nazi party, led by Adolf Hitler, gained power steadily in Germany during the early 1930's; 7) Labor union activity was encouraged in the United States by the passing of the Norris-LaGuardia Act of 1932. Facts and quotes for this post came from an article by Ellis W. Hawley in The World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 9, pp.326-331.