Herbert Hoover

The Biography of Herbert Hoover

1874 – 1964
By: Tom Longden for Famous Iowans Des Moines Register series on April 20, 2008

Before he was president, Herbert Clark Hoover was an extraordinary humanitarian with an international reputation. Before that he was an engineer who built a fortune. Before that he was a simple Iowa farm boy.

Hoover, the son of a Quaker blacksmith named Jesse and his wife, Hulda, was born at West Branch and orphaned at age 10. He was raised by uncles, first in Iowa and then in Oregon.

He worked his way through Stanford University, earning a degree in engineering, and by 23 was managing mines in Australia. Then, with his bride Lou, whom he had met at Stanford, he went to work for the Chinese Imperial Bureau of Mines. The Hoovers’ two sons became accustomed to traveling the globe.

By 1914, Hoover had a chain of offices all over the world and a $5 million fortune amassed by financing mining operations. He turned to public service, organizing an effort to feed starving masses in war-torn Belgium, at great risk to his own life.

Called “The Great Engineer,” Hoover saw his prestige grow as he became secretary of commerce under Presidents Harding and Coolidge. In 1928, he was elected the 31st president, carrying all but eight states­ a huge Republican victory.

Hoover took the oath of office in March 1929, when the nation was prospering, but the stock market crashed the following October, and he was blamed as the economy plummeted and unemployment soared. It was a national crisis with no precedent, and Hoover was vilified.

Defeated in the next election by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Hoover retired quietly to his home in Palo Alto to write. He regained stature as the years went by and he became the nation’s respected elder statesman, counseling leaders of both political parties. Hoover, who was the first president born west of the Mississippi River, and his first lady are buried at West Branch.

The Biography of Lou Henry Hoover

1874 – 1944
By: Tom Longden for Famous Iowans Des Moines Register series on April 20, 2008

The phrase “world traveler” doesn’t do justice to Lou Henry Hoover, the wife of Herbert Hoover and the first lady from 1929 to 1933. She could live anywhere and adapt to any situation.

Hoover was the daughter of a Waterloo banker. The family moved to California when she was 10 because of her mother’s poor health. Her father and tomboy Lou enjoyed camping, fishing and hiking. She loved to be on a bicycle or a horse.

She met her future husband during a geology lab at Stanford University. The day after their wedding in 1899, the couple set sail for Tientsin, China, where the future president would work as a mining engineer. Caught in the Boxer Rebellion, the bride was unflappable. She strapped on a revolver for self-defense, ignored flying bullets and carried on.

Later she worked alongside her husband in Australia, Russia, Mandalay, England and France. Hoover became the mother of Herbert Jr. and Allan. By the time the latter was 3, he had traveled around the world three times.

At the White House, Hoover was the perfect hostess. Long before Jackie Kennedy thought of it, Hoover was cataloging White House antiques and restoring furniture. She paid for much of the work out of her own pocket. The Girl Scouts were her chief interest, and she served as their president.

Hoover, distinguished by her prematurely white hair, shunned cosmetics, jewelry and frilly clothes. She was a skilled linguist. She had returned from an afternoon concert when she died of a heart attack at the couple’s suite in New York’s Waldorf Towers.

  • The Hoovers were eyewitnesses to the Boxer Rebellion
  • Herbert Hoover was the first President born west of the Mississippi
  • Herbert Hoover organized the fourth (not the first) Cal-Stanford game
  • Herbert Hoover held the Florida state record for largest bonefish caught from 1947 to 1958
  • Herbert Hoover had a comet named for him
  • Herbert Hoover was 5 ft. 11 inches tall
  • Herbert Hoover’s shoe size was 11.5 and his hat size was 7.25
  • Herbert Hoover was tendered 87 honorary degrees, which may have been a world record during his lifetime
  • Herbert Hoover was nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize – in 1921, 1933, 1941, 1946 and 1964
  • There are currently 53 schools in the United States, 1 in Germany, and 1 in Poland named for Herbert Hoover
  • There are two asteroids named for Herbert Hoover, Hooveria (discovered 1920) and Herberta (discovered 1935)
  • Herbert Hoover was born in West Branch, Iowa on the night of August 10-11, 1874, but no one noticed the exact time. Some documents list his birthday as August 11, but most records, and Mr. Hoover himself, went with August 10
  • Herbert Hoover became an orphan at the age of nine when his mother died in February, 1884. His father had died in December, 1880. Herbert was raised by relatives in Iowa and Oregon
  • Herbert Hoover had one brother, Theodore, who was 3 1/2 years older, and one sister, Mary (called May) who was 2 years younger
  • Herbert Hoover was one of the very first students at Leland Stanford, Jr. University, graduating as a member of the “Pioneer” class of 1895 with a bachelor’s degree in geology
  • Herbert Hoover rose to public prominence during World War I as the Chairman of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, a non-profit, multi-national, non-governmental organization that provided food for more than 9,000,000 Belgian and French civilians trapped behind the front lines
  • Herbert Hoover served as Secretary of Commerce from March 5, 1921 to August 21, 1928, when he resigned to run for President. To date, he is the longest serving Commerce Secretary in U. S. history
  • In 1923 Herbert Hoover founded the American Child Health Association, an organization dedicated to raising public awareness of child health problems throughout the United States. Mr. Hoover served as the president of the ACHA until 1928
  • Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover was the first person to appear on television, on April 7, 1927, in a demonstration transmission conducted between Washington and New York by Bell Laboratories
  • Herbert Hoover was the first President born west of the Mississippi River and the only President born in Iowa
  • Herbert Hoover was the first President to have a telephone on his desk in the Oval Office
  • To help President Hoover stay fit, White House doctor Cdr. Joel Boone invented a game called “Hoover-Ball,” which is a combination of volleyball and tennis using a weighted medicine ball
  • Former-President Hoover lived for 31 years, 231 days after leaving office, longer than any other Former-President until President Jimmy Carter surpassed him on September 7, 2012
  • Former-President Hoover chaired two Commissions on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government, one under President Truman and the other under President Eisenhower. The Hoover Commissions studied the organization and methods of operation of the Executive branch of the Federal Government, and recommended changes to promote economy, efficiency, and improved service
  • In 1949, Former-President Hoover declined an offer from Gov. Thomas Dewey of New York to appoint Hoover to the U. S. Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Robert F. Wagner. John Foster Dulles was instead nominated to fill the vacancy
  • Former-President Hoover served as Chairman of the Boys’ Clubs of America from 1936 until his death in 1964
  • Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover were both born in Iowa, Lou in Waterloo and Herbert in West Branch. They met as students at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California
  • Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover both graduated from Stanford University with degrees in Geology
  • As newlyweds, the Hoovers lived for almost 2 years in China while Herbert worked as a mining engineer and executive. In the summer of 1900 they were caught up in the Boxer Rebellion and were besieged for three weeks in the city of Tientsin
  • During the Hoovers’ residence in China, Lou Henry Hoover became fairly fluent in Chinese, Herbert less so. In later years they would occasionally speak Chinese to each other when they didn’t want people around them to understand what they were saying
  • Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover had two sons, Herbert Charles Hoover (Aug. 4, 1903-Jul. 9, 1969) and Allan Henry Hoover (Jul. 17, 1907-Nov. 4, 1993). Both graduated from Stanford like their parents
  • Between 1907 and 1912, Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover collaborated on translating into English Georgius Agricola’s massive Renaissance mining treatise De Re Metallica. The Hoovers’ translation is still in print