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Herbert Clark Hoover (August 10, 1874 – October 20, 1964) was the 31st President of the United States (1929–1933). Hoover was a professional mining engineer and author. As the United States Secretary of Commerce in the 1920s under Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, he promoted government intervention under the rubric "economic modernization". In the presidential election of 1928, Hoover easily won the Republican nomination, despite having no previous elected office experience. To date, Hoover is the last cabinet secretary to be directly elected President of the United States, as well as one of only two Presidents (along with William Howard Taft) to have been elected President without electoral experience or high military rank. The nation was prosperous and optimistic at the time, leading to a landslide victory for Hoover over Democrat Al Smith.
Hoover, a trained engineer, deeply believed in the Efficiency Movement, which held that government and the economy were riddled with inefficiency and waste, and could be improved by experts who could identify the problems and solve them. When the Wall Street Crash of 1929 struck less than eight months after he took office, Hoover tried to combat the ensuing Great Depression with volunteer efforts, none of which produced economic recovery during his term. The consensus among historians is that Hoover's defeat in the 1932 election was caused primarily by failure to end the downward economic spiral. As a result of these factors, Hoover is ranked somewhat poorly among former US Presidents.
Hoover was born on August 10, 1874, in West Branch, Iowa. He was the first president born west of the Mississippi River, and remains the only Iowan President. His father Jesse Hoover was a blacksmith and farm implement store owner who was of German (Pfautz, Wehmeyer) and German-Swiss (Huber, Burkhart) descent. Herbert's mother, Hulda (Minthorn) Hoover, was born in Norwich, Ontario, Canada of English and Irish (probably Scots-Irish) descent. Both were Quakers.
His father died in 1880, and his mother in 1884, leaving Hoover an orphan at the age of nine. Fellow Quaker Lawrie Tatum was appointed as Hoover's guardian. After a brief stay with one of his grandmothers in Kingsley, Iowa, Herbert lived for the next 18 months with his uncle Allen Hoover in West Branch. In November 1885, he went to live in Newberg, Oregon with his uncle John Minthorn, whose own son had died the year before. For two and a half years, Herbert attended Friends Pacific Academy (now George Fox University), then subsequently worked as an office assistant in his uncle's real estate office in Salem. Though he did not attend high school, the young Hoover attended night school and learned bookkeeping, typing, and math.
Hoover entered Stanford University in 1891, the first year of the new California college. None of the first students were required to pay tuition. Hoover claimed to be the first student ever at Stanford, by virtue of having been the first person in the first class to sleep in the dormitory. While at the university he was the student manager of both the baseball and football teams, and was a part of the inaugural Big Game versus rival California (Stanford won). In one game in 1894, as manager of the baseball team, Hoover found the receipts were short. He went after the person who had failed to pay the twenty-five cents, former President Benjamin Harrison. Later in life, Hoover called his encounter with Harrison, "his first time with greatness". Hoover graduated in 1895 with a degree in geology.
Hoover went to Australia in 1897 as an employee of Bewick, Moreing & Co., a London-based mining company. He served as a geologist and mining engineer while searching the Western Australian goldfields for investments. After being appointed as mine manager at the age of 23, he led a major program of expansion for the Sons of Gwalia gold mine at Gwalia, Western Australia, and brought in many Italian immigrants to cut costs and counter the union militancy of the Australian miners. He believed "the rivalry between the Italians and the other men was of no small benefit." He also described Italians as "fully 20 per cent superior" to other miners.
Hoover married his Stanford sweetheart, Lou Henry, in 1899. The Hoovers had two sons, Herbert Clark Jr. (1903–1969) and Allan Henry (1907–1993). They went to China, where Hoover worked for a private corporation as China's leading engineer. Hoover and his wife picked up Mandarin Chinese while he worked in China and used it during his tenure at the White House when they did not want to be overheard. The Boxer Rebellion trapped the Hoovers in Tianjin in June 1900. For almost a month, the settlement was under heavy fire. Hoover himself guided US Marines around Tianjin during the battle, using his extensive knowledge of the local terrain.
Hoover was made a partner in Bewick, Moreing & Co. in 1901 and assumed responsibility for various Australian operations. In August–September 1905, Hoover came up with a technological innovation. When visiting the mines at Broken Hill, New South Wales, he noticed considerable zinc in the Broken Hill lead-silver ore, which could not be recovered and was lost as tailings. Hoover devised a practical and profitable method to use the then-new froth flotation process to treat these tailings and recover the zinc. With William Baillieu and others, he founded the Zinc Corporation (later, following various mergers, a part of Rio Tinto Group).
In 1908, he became an independent mining consultant, traveling worldwide until the outbreak of World War I in 1914. His lectures at Columbia and Stanford universities were published in 1909 as Principles of Mining, which became a standard textbook. Hoover and his wife also published their English translation of the 1556 mining classic De re metallica in 1912. This translation from the Latin of Renaissance author Georgius Agricola is still the most important scholarly version and provides its historical context. It is still in print and published by Dover Publications.
When World War I began in August 1914, he helped organize the return of 120,000 Americans from Europe: tourists, students, executives, etc. Hoover led five hundred volunteers in the distribution of food, clothing, steamship tickets, and cash. "I did not realize it at the moment, but on August 3, 1914, my career was over forever. I was on the slippery road of public life." Hoover liked to say that the difference between dictatorship and democracy was simple: dictators organize from the top down, democracies from the bottom up.
Belgium faced a food crisis after being invaded by Germany. Hoover undertook an unprecedented relief effort with the Committee for Relief in Belgium (CRB). The official chairman was Emile Francqui, but Hoover was the de facto head of operations. The CRB became an independent republic of relief, with its own flag, navy, factories, mills, and railroads. Private donations and government grants supplied an $11-million-a-month budget.
For the next two years, Hoover worked 14-hour days from London, administering the distribution of over two and one-half million tons of food to nine million war victims. In an early form of shuttle diplomacy, he crossed the North Sea forty times to meet with German authorities and persuade them to allow food shipments, becoming an international hero. The Belgian city of Leuven named a prominent square Hooverplein after him.
After the United States entered the war in April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Hoover head of the U.S. Food Administration. Hoover believed "food will win the war." He established set days to encourage people to avoid eating particular foods to save them for soldiers' rations: meatless Mondays, wheatless Wednesdays, and "when in doubt, eat potatoes." This program helped reduce consumption of foodstuffs needed overseas and avoided rationing at home. It was dubbed "Hooverizing" by government publicists, in spite of Hoover's continual orders that publicity should not mention him by name.
After the war, as a member of the Supreme Economic Council and head of the American Relief Administration, Hoover organized shipments of food for millions of starving people in Central Europe. He used a newly formed Quaker organization, the American Friends Service Committee, to carry out much of the logistical work in Europe.
Hoover provided aid to the defeated German nation after the war, as well as relief to famine-stricken Bolshevik-controlled areas of Russia in 1921, despite the opposition of Senator Henry Cabot Lodge and other Republicans. When asked if he was not thus helping Bolshevism, Hoover retorted, "Twenty million people are starving. Whatever their politics, they shall be fed!" At war's end, the New York Times named Hoover one of the "Ten Most Important Living Americans".
Hoover confronted a world of political possibilities when he returned home in 1919. Democratic Party leaders looked on him as a potential candidate for President. (President Wilson privately preferred Hoover as his successor.) "There could not be a finer one," asserted Franklin D. Roosevelt, then a rising star from New York. Hoover briefly considered becoming a Democrat, but he believed that 1920 would be a Republican year. Also, Hoover confessed that he could not run for a party whose only member in his boyhood home had been the town drunk.
Hoover realized that he was in a unique position to collect information about the Great War and its aftermath. In 1919, he established the Hoover War Collection at Stanford University. He donated all the files of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, the U.S. Food Administration, and the American Relief Administration, and pledged $50,000 as an endowment. Scholars were sent to Europe to collect pamphlets, society publications, government documents, newspapers, posters, proclamations, and other ephemeral materials related to the war and the revolutions that followed it. The collection was later renamed the Hoover War Library and is now known as the Hoover Institution.
Hoover rejected Democratic overtures in 1920. He had been a registered Republican before the war, though in 1912 he had supported Theodore Roosevelt's "Bull Moose" Progressive Party. Now he declared himself a Republican, and a candidate for the Presidency.
He placed his name on the ballot in the California state primary, where he came close to beating popular Senator Hiram Johnson. But having lost in his home state, Hoover was not considered a serious contender at the convention. Even when it deadlocked for several ballots between Illinois Governor Frank Lowden and General Leonard Wood, few delegates seriously considered Hoover as a compromise choice. Although he had personal misgivings about the capability of the nominee, Warren G. Harding, Hoover publicly endorsed him, and made two speeches for Harding.
After being elected, Harding rewarded Hoover for his support, offering to appoint him either Secretary of the Interior or Secretary of Commerce. Hoover ultimately chose Commerce. Commerce had existed for just eight years, since the division of the earlier Department of Commerce and Labor. Commerce was considered a minor Cabinet post, with limited and somewhat vaguely defined responsibilities.
Hoover aimed to change that, envisioning the Commerce Department as the hub of the nation's growth and stability. He demanded from Harding, and received, authority to help coordinate economic affairs throughout the government. He created many sub-departments and committees, overseeing and regulating everything from manufacturing statistics, the census, and radio to air travel. In some instances, he "seized" control of responsibilities from other Cabinet departments when he deemed that they were not carrying out their responsibilities well enough. Hoover became one of the most visible men in the country, often overshadowing Presidents Harding and Calvin Coolidge. Washington wags were soon referring to Hoover as "the Secretary of Commerce... and Under-Secretary of Everything Else!"
As secretary and later as President, Hoover revolutionized the relations between business and government. Rejecting the adversarial stance of Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson, he sought to make the Commerce Department a powerful service organization, empowered to forge cooperative voluntary partnerships between government and business. This philosophy is often called "associationalism".
Many of Hoover's efforts as Commerce Secretary centered on the elimination of waste and the increase of efficiency in business and industry. This included reducing labor losses from trade disputes and seasonal fluctuations, reducing industrial losses from accident and injury, and reducing the amount of crude oil spilled during extraction and shipping. One major achievement was to promote progressive ideals in the areas of the standardization of products and designs. He energetically promoted international trade by opening offices overseas that gave advice and practical help to businessmen. Hoover was especially eager to promote Hollywood films overseas.
His "Own Your Own Home" campaign was a collaboration to promote ownership of single-family dwellings, with groups such as the Better Houses in America movement, the Architects' Small House Service Bureau, and the Home Modernizing Bureau. He worked with bankers and the savings and loan industry to promote the new long-term home mortgage, which dramatically stimulated home construction.
Hoover's radio conferences played a key role in the early organization, development and regulation of radio broadcasting. Hoover played a key role in major projects for navigation, irrigation of dry lands, electrical power, and flood control. As the new air transport industry developed, Hoover held a conference on aviation to promote codes and regulations. He became president of the American Child Health Organization, and he raised private funds to promote health education in schools and communities.
Although he continued to consider Harding ill-suited to be President, the two men nevertheless became friends. Hoover accompanied Harding on his final trip out West in 1923. It was Hoover who called for a specialist to tend to the ailing Chief Executive, and it was also Hoover who contacted the White House to inform them of the President's death. The Commerce Secretary headed the group of dignitaries accompanying Harding's body back to the capital.
By the end of Hoover's service as Secretary, he had raised the status of the Department of Commerce. This was reflected in its modern headquarters built during the Roosevelt Administration in the 1930s in the Federal Triangle in Washington D.C.
As Commerce Secretary, Hoover also hosted two national conferences on street traffic, in 1924 and 1926 (a third convened in 1930, during Hoover's presidency). Collectively the meetings were called the National Conference on Street and Highway Safety. Hoover's chief objective was to address the growing casualty toll of traffic accidents, but the scope grew and soon embraced motor vehicle standards, rules of the road, and urban traffic control. He left the invited interest groups to negotiate agreements among themselves, which were then presented for adoption by states and localities. Because automotive trade associations were the best organized, many of the positions taken by the conferences reflected their interests. The conferences issued a model Uniform Vehicle Code for adoption by the states, and a Model Municipal Traffic Ordinance for adoption by cities. Both were widely influential, promoting greater uniformity between jurisdictions and tending to promote the automobile's priority in city streets.
The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 broke the banks and levees of the lower Mississippi River in early 1927, resulting in flooding of millions of acres and leaving one and a half million people displaced from their homes. Although such a disaster did not fall under the duties of the Commerce Department, the governors of six states along the Mississippi specifically asked for Herbert Hoover in the emergency. President Calvin Coolidge sent Hoover to mobilize state and local authorities, militia, army engineers, Coast Guard, and the American Red Cross.
With a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, Hoover set up health units to work in the flooded regions for a year. These workers stamped out malaria, pellagra, and typhoid fever from many areas. His work during the flood brought Herbert Hoover to the front page of newspapers almost everywhere, and he gained new accolades as a humanitarian. The great victory of his relief work, he stressed, was not that the government rushed in and provided all assistance; it was that much of the assistance available was provided by private citizens and organizations in response to his appeals. "I suppose I could have called in the Army to help," he said, "but why should I, when I only had to call upon Main Street."
The treatment of African Americans during the disaster endangered Hoover's reputation as a humanitarian. Local officials brutalized blacks and prevented them from leaving relief camps, aid meant for African-American sharecroppers was often given to the landowners instead, and many times black males were conscripted by locals into forced labor, sometimes at gun point. Knowing the potential ramifications on his presidential aspirations if such knowledge became public, Hoover struck a deal with Robert Moton, the prominent African-American successor to Booker T. Washington as president of the Tuskegee Institute. In exchange for keeping the suffering of African Americans out of the public eye, Hoover promised unprecedented influence for African Americans if he was elected president. Moton agreed, and consistent with the accommodationist philosophy of Washington, worked actively to suppress information about mistreatment of blacks from being revealed to the media. Following election, Hoover broke his promises. This led to an African-American backlash in the 1932 election that shifted allegiance from the Republican party to the Democrats.[Full citation needed]
To gain Republican votes in Southern states, Hoover pioneered an electoral tactic later known as the "Southern Strategy". Hoover ousted many African American leaders in the Republican party, and replaced them with whites. Hoover's appeal to white voters yielded substantial results, including Republican victories in Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, and Texas. It marked the first time a Republican candidate for president carried Texas. This outraged the black leadership, which largely broke from the Republican Party, and began seeking candidates who supported civil rights within the Democratic Party.
When Calvin Coolidge declined to run for a second full term of office in 1927, Herbert Hoover became the leading Republican candidate for the 1928 election, despite the fact Coolidge was lukewarm on Hoover (Coolidge often derided his ambitious and popular Commerce Secretary as "Wonder Boy"). His only real challenger was Frank Lowden. Hoover received much favorable press coverage in the months leading up to the convention. Lowden's campaign manager complained the newspapers were full of "nothing but advertisements for Herbert Hoover and Fletcher's Castoria." Hoover’s reputation, experience, and popularity coalesced to give him the nomination on the first ballot, with Senator Charles Curtis named as his running mate.
Hoover campaigned for efficiency and prosperity against Democratic candidate Alfred E. Smith. Smith was the target of anti-Catholicism from some Protestant communities, much to Hoover's advantage. Both Hoover and Smith positioned themselves as pro-business, and each promised to improve conditions for farmers, reform immigration laws, and maintain America's isolationist foreign policy. Where they differed was on the Volstead Act. Smith was a "wet" who called for its repeal, whereas Hoover gave public support for Prohibition, calling it an "experiment noble in purpose." What few voters knew, however, was that Hoover was lukewarm in his support for Volstead in private, and for years after work at the Commerce Department would stop by the Belgian Embassy for a visit with friends. While there, as it was technically foreign soil, he was able to enjoy an alcoholic drink before heading for home. Hoover used to grumble that all Prohibition successfully did was to force him to dispose of his celebrated wine cellar.
Prohibition provided a means for Hoover's supporters to attack the Democratic candidate Al Smith. This was because the major attacks on Smith relied upon his being a Catholic. Because the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion these attacks were frowned upon politically. Being labeled as an "anti-Prohibitionist drunkard" was allowed politically. Hoover also relied on the support of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and the Anti-Saloon League to bolster prohibition.
Historians agree Hoover's national reputation and the booming economy, combined with the deep splits in the Democratic Party over religion and Prohibition, guaranteed his landslide victory of 58% of the vote. Hoover managed to crack the so-called "Solid South," winning such traditionally Democratic states as Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas and Tennessee from Smith. As advertising executive Bruce Barton put it, "Americans knew they may have more fun with Smith, but that they would make more money with Hoover."
Unlike previous first ladies, when Hoover's wife, Lou Henry Hoover, came to the White House, she had already carved out a reputation of her own, having graduated from Stanford as the only woman in her class with a degree in geology. Although she had never practiced her profession formally, she remained very much a new woman of the post-World War I era: intelligent, robust, and possessed of a sense of female possibilities.
On poverty, Hoover promised: "We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land." Within months, the Stock Market Crash of 1929 occurred, and the nation's economy spiraled downward into what became known as the Great Depression.
Hoover began his presidency on an optimistic note, saying during his inauguration speech:
Hoover then held a press conference on his first day in office, promising a "new phase of press relations". He told the group of journalists to elect a committee to recommend improvements to the White House press conference. Hoover declined to use a spokesman, instead asking reporters to directly quote him and giving them handouts with his statements ahead of time. In his first 120 days in office, he held more regular and frequent press conferences than any other President, before or since. He changed his press policies after the 1929 stock market crash, screening reporters and greatly reducing his availability.
Hoover entered office with a plan to reform the nation's regulatory system, believing that a federal bureaucracy should have limited regulation over a country's economic system. A self-described Progressive and Reformer, Hoover saw the presidency as a vehicle for improving the conditions of all Americans by regulation and by encouraging volunteerism. Long before entering politics, he had denounced laissez-faire thinking. As Commerce Secretary, he had taken an active pro-regulation stance. As President, he helped push tariff and farm subsidy bills through Congress.
Hoover expanded civil service coverage of Federal positions, canceled private oil leases on government lands, and by instructing the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service to pursue gangsters for tax evasion, he enabled the prosecution of Al Capone. He appointed a commission that set aside 3 million acres (12,000 km²) of national parks and 2.3 million acres (9,000 km²) of national forests; advocated tax reduction for low-income Americans (not enacted); closed certain tax loopholes for the wealthy; doubled the number of veterans' hospital facilities; negotiated a treaty on St. Lawrence Seaway (which failed in the U.S. Senate); wrote a Children's Charter that advocated protection of every child regardless of race or gender; created an antitrust division in the Justice Department; required air mail carriers to adopt stricter safety measures and improve service; proposed federal loans for urban slum clearances (not enacted); organized the Federal Bureau of Prisons; reorganized the Bureau of Indian Affairs; instituted prison reform; proposed a federal Department of Education (not enacted); advocated $50-per-month pensions for Americans over 65 (not enacted); chaired White House conferences on child health, protection, homebuilding and homeownership; began construction of the Boulder Dam (later renamed Hoover Dam); and signed the Norris-La Guardia Act that limited judicial intervention in labor disputes.
While in Argentina, Argentine anarchists led by Severino Di Giovanni plotted to destroy the railroad car in which Hoover was traveling, but the bomber was arrested before he could place the explosives on the rails. Hoover never mentioned the incident, and his complimentary remarks on Argentina were well-received in both the host country and in the press.
Following the release in 1930 of the Clark Memorandum, Hoover began formulating what later became Roosevelt's Good Neighbor policy. He began withdrawing American troops from Nicaragua and Haiti; he also proposed an arms embargo on Latin America and a one-third reduction of the world's naval power, which was called the Hoover Plan. The Roosevelt Corollary ceased being part of U.S. foreign policy. In response to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, he and Secretary of State Henry Stimson outlined the Hoover-Stimson Doctrine that said the United States would not recognize territories gained by force.
During his presidency, Hoover mediated between Chile and Peru to solve a conflict on the sovereignty of Arica and Tacna, that in 1883 by the Treaty of Ancón had been awarded to Chile for ten years, to be followed by a plebiscite that had never happened. By the Tacna-Arica compromise at the Treaty of Lima in 1929, Chile kept Arica, and Peru regained Tacna.
Hoover seldom mentioned civil rights while he was President. Hoover believed that African Americans and other races could improve themselves with education and wanted the races assimilated into white culture. Hoover attempted to appoint John J. Parker to the Supreme Court in 1930 to replace Edward Sanford. The NAACP claimed that Parker made many court decisions against African Americans and fought the nomination. The NAACP was successful in gaining Senator Borah's support and the nomination was defeated in the Senate. Also, Hoover did nothing to stop the "Jim Crow" laws throughout the nation that suppressed African American's right to vote guaranteed by the 15th Amendment in the United States Constitution.
Hoover's wife, First Lady Lou Hoover, defied custom and invited an African American Republican, Oscar DePriest, a member in the House of Representatives, to dinner at the White House. Booker T. Washington was the last previous African American to have dined at the White House, with Theodore Roosevelt in 1901.
Charles Curtis, the nation's first Native American Vice President, was from the Kaw tribe in Kansas. Curtis was a direct descendant of White Plume, a Kansa-Kaw chief who had been helpful to the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804. Hoover's humanitarian and Quaker reputation, along with Curtis as a vice-president, gave special meaning to his Indian policies. His Quaker upbringing influenced his views that Native Americans needed to achieve economic self-sufficiency. As President, he appointed Charles J. Rhoads as commissioner of Indian affairs. Hoover supported Rhoads' commitment to Indian assimilation and sought to minimize the federal role in Indian affairs. His goal was to have Indians acting as individuals (not as tribes) and to assume the responsibilities of citizenship granted with the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924.
Hoover's stance on the economy was based largely on voluntarism.[Full citation needed] From before his entry to the presidency, he was a proponent of the concept that public-private cooperation was the way to achieve high long-term growth. Hoover feared that too much intervention or coercion by the government would destroy individuality and self-reliance, which he considered to be important American values. Both his ideals and the economy were put to the test with the onset of the Great Depression. At the outset of the Depression, Hoover claims in his memoirs that he rejected Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon's suggested "leave-it-alone" approach, and called many business leaders to Washington to urge them not to lay off workers or cut wages. Lee Ohanian from UCLA has argued that President Hoover adopted pro-labor policies after the 1929 stock market crash that "accounted for close to two-thirds of the drop in the nation's gross domestic product over the two years that followed, causing what might otherwise have been a bad recession to slip into the Great Depression.". This argument is at odds with the mainstream view of the causes of the great depression, and is strongly contested by both Keynesians and monetarists, for example Prof. Brad DeLong of U.C. Berkeley.
Calls for greater government assistance increased as the US economy continued to decline. Hoover rejected direct federal relief payments to individuals, as he believed that a dole would be addictive, and reduce the incentive to work. He was also a firm believer in balanced budgets, and was unwilling to run a budget deficit to fund welfare programs. However, Hoover did pursue many policies in an attempt to pull the country out of depression. In 1929, Hoover authorized the Mexican Repatriation program to combat rampant unemployment, the burden on municipal aid services, and remove people seen as usurpers of American jobs. The program was largely a forced migration of approximately 500,000 Mexicans and Mexican Americans to Mexico, and continued through to 1937. In June 1930, over the objection of many economists, Congress approved and Hoover signed into law the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. The legislation raised tariffs on thousands of imported items. The intent of the Act was to encourage the purchase of American-made products by increasing the cost of imported goods, while raising revenue for the federal government and protecting farmers. However, economic depression now spread through much of the world, and other nations increased tariffs on American-made goods in retaliation, reducing international trade, and worsening the Depression.
In 1931, Hoover issued the Hoover Moratorium, calling for a one-year halt in reparation payments by Germany to France and in the payment of Allied war debts to the United States. The plan was met with much opposition, especially from France, who saw significant losses to Germany during World War I. The Moratorium did little to ease economic declines. As the moratorium neared its expiration the following year, an attempt to find a permanent solution was made at the Lausanne Conference of 1932. A working compromise was never established, and by the start of World War II, reparations payments had stopped completely. Hoover in 1931 urged the major banks in the country to form a consortium known as the National Credit Corporation (NCC). The NCC was an example of Hoover's belief in volunteerism as a mechanism in aiding the economy. Hoover encouraged NCC member banks to provide loans to smaller banks to prevent them from collapsing. The banks within the NCC were often reluctant to provide loans, usually requiring banks to provide their largest assets as collateral. It quickly became apparent that the NCC would be incapable of fixing the problems it was designed to solve, and it was replaced by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation.
By 1932, the Great Depression had spread across the globe. In the U.S., unemployment had reached 24.9%, a drought persisted in the agricultural heartland, businesses and families defaulted on record numbers of loans, and more than 5,000 banks had failed. Tens-of-thousands of Americans who found themselves homeless and began congregating in the numerous Hoovervilles (also known as shanty towns or tent cities) that had begun to appear across the country. The name 'Hooverville' was coined by their residents as a sign of their disappointment and frustration with the perceived lack of assistance from the federal government. In response, Hoover and the Congress approved the Federal Home Loan Bank Act, to spur new home construction, and reduce foreclosures. The plan seemed to work, as foreclosures dropped, but it was seen as too little, too late.
Prior to the start of the Great Depression, Hoover's first Treasury Secretary, Andrew Mellon, proposed and saw enacted, numerous tax cuts, which cut the top income tax rate from 73% to 24%. When combined with the sharp decline in incomes during the early depression, the result was a serious deficit in the federal budget. Congress, desperate to increase federal revenue, enacted the Revenue Act of 1932, which was the largest peacetime tax increase in history.. The Act increased taxes across the board, so that top earners were taxed at 63% on their net income. The 1932 Act also increased the tax on the net income of corporations from 12% to 13.75%.
The final attempt of the Hoover Administration to rescue the economy occurred in 1932 with the passage of the Emergency Relief and Construction Act, which authorized funds for public works programs and the creation of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC). The RFC's initial goal was to provide government-secured loans to financial institutions, railroads and farmers. The RFC had minimal impact at the time, but was adopted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and greatly expanded as part of his New Deal.
To pay for these and other government programs and to make up for revenue lost due to the Depression, Hoover agreed to roll back previous tax cuts his Administration had effected on upper incomes. In one of the largest tax increases in American history, the Revenue Act of 1932 raised income tax on the highest incomes from 25% to 63%. The estate tax was doubled and corporate taxes were raised by almost 15%. Also, a "check tax" was included that placed a 2-cent tax (over 30 cents in today's dollars) on all bank checks. Economists William D. Lastrapes and George Selgin, conclude that the check tax was "an important contributing factor to that period's severe monetary contraction." Hoover also encouraged Congress to investigate the New York Stock Exchange, and this pressure resulted in various reforms.
For this reason, years later libertarians argued that Hoover's economics were statist. Franklin D. Roosevelt blasted the Republican incumbent for spending and taxing too much, increasing national debt, raising tariffs and blocking trade, as well as placing millions on the dole of the government. Roosevelt attacked Hoover for "reckless and extravagant" spending, of thinking "that we ought to center control of everything in Washington as rapidly as possible." Roosevelt's running mate, John Nance Garner, accused the Republican of "leading the country down the path of socialism".
Ironically, these policies pale beside the more drastic steps taken under Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration later as part of the New Deal. Hoover's opponents charge that his policies came too little, and too late, and did not work. Even as he asked Congress for legislation, he reiterated his view that while people must not suffer from hunger and cold, caring for them must be primarily a local and voluntary responsibility.
Thousands of World War I veterans and their families demonstrated and camped out in Washington, D.C., during June 1932, calling for immediate payment of a bonus that had been promised by the Adjusted Service Certificate Law in 1924 for payment in 1945. Although offered money by Congress to return home, some members of the "Bonus army" remained. Washington police attempted to remove the demonstrators from their camp, but they were outnumbered and unsuccessful. Shots were fired by the police in a futile attempt to attain order, and two protesters were killed while many officers were injured. Hoover sent U.S. Army forces led by General Douglas MacArthur and helped by lower ranking officers Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton to stop a march. MacArthur, believing he was fighting a communist revolution, chose to clear out the camp with military force. In the ensuing clash, hundreds of civilians were injured. Hoover had sent orders that the Army was to not move on the encampment, but MacArthur chose to ignore the command. Hoover was incensed, but refused to reprimand MacArthur. The entire incident was another devastating negative for Hoover in the 1932 election. That led New York governor and Democratic presidential candidate Franklin Roosevelt to declare of Hoover: "There is nothing inside the man but jelly!"
Although Hoover had come to detest the presidency, he agreed to run again in 1932, both as a matter of pride, but also because he feared that no other likely Republican candidate would deal with the depression without resorting to what Hoover considered dangerously radical measures.
Hoover was nominated by the Republicans for a second term. He had originally planned to make only one or two major speeches, and to leave the rest of the campaigning to proxies, but when polls showed the entire Republican ticket facing a resounding defeat at the polls, Hoover agreed to an expanded schedule of public addresses. In his nine major radio addresses Hoover primarily defended his administration and his philosophy. The apologetic approach did not allow Hoover to refute Democratic Party nominee Franklin Roosevelt's charge that he was personally responsible for the depression.
In his campaigns around the country, Hoover was faced with perhaps the most hostile crowds any sitting president had ever faced. Besides having his train and motorcades pelted with eggs and rotten fruit, he was often heckled while speaking, and on several occasions, the Secret Service halted attempts to kill Hoover by disgruntled citizens, including capturing one man nearing Hoover carrying sticks of dynamite, and another already having removed several spikes from the rails in front of the President's train. He lost the election by a huge margin, winning only six out of 48 states.
Hoover suffered a large defeat at the election, obtaining 39.7% of the popular vote to Roosevelt's 57.4%. Hoover's popular vote was reduced by 26% from his result in the 1928 election. In the electoral college he carried only Pennsylvania, Delaware, and four other Northeast states to lose 59–472. The Democrats also extended their control over the U.S. House and gained control of the U.S. Senate.
After the defeat, Hoover's attempts to reach out to Roosevelt to help calm investors and begin to resolve the economic problems facing the country were rebuffed; since Roosevelt was not inaugurated until March 1933, this "guaranteed that Roosevelt took the oath of office amid such an atmosphere of crisis that Hoover had become the most hated man in America."
Hoover broke party lines to appoint the Democrat Cardozo. He explained that he "was one of the ancient believers that the Supreme Court should have a strong minority of the opposition's party and that all appointments should be made from experienced jurists. When the vacancy came... [Hoover] canvassed all the possible Democratic jurists and immediately concluded that Justice Cardozo was the right man and appointed him."
Hoover departed from Washington in March 1933 with some bitterness, disappointed both that he had been repudiated by the voters and unappreciated for his best efforts. The Hoovers went first to New York City, where they stayed for a while in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Later that spring, the Hoovers returned to California to live at their home in Palo Alto. Hoover enjoyed the return to the men's clubs he had long been involved with, including the Bohemian Club, the Pacific-Union Club, and the University Club in San Francisco.
Herbert Hoover liked to get behind the wheel of his car, accompanied only by his wife, or a friend (former Presidents did not get Secret Service protection until the 1960s), and drive for hundreds or thousands of miles on wandering journeys, visiting Western mining camps or small towns where he often went unrecognized, or heading up to the mountains, or deep into the woods, to go fishing in relative solitude. A year before his death, his own fishing days behind him, he published Fishing For Fun—And To Wash Your Soul, the last of his more than sixteen books.
Although many of his friends and supporters called upon Hoover to speak out against Franklin D. Roosevelt's (FDR) "New Deal" and to assume his place as the voice of the "loyal opposition", he refused to do so for many years after leaving the White House, and he largely kept himself out of the public spotlight until late in 1934. However, that did not stop rumors from springing up about him, often fanned by Democratic politicians who found the former President to be a convenient scapegoat. One rumor had it that he had attempted to flee the country in a yacht with $5 million in gold, another that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had arrested him and placed him in protective custody "for his own safety."
The relationship between Hoover and Roosevelt was one of the most severely strained in Presidential history. Hoover had little good to say about his successor. FDR, in turn, supposedly engaged in various petty official acts aimed at his predecessor, ranging from dropping him from the White House birthday greetings message list to having Hoover's name struck from the Hoover Dam along the Colorado River border, which would officially be known only as Boulder Dam for many years to come.
In 1936, Hoover entertained hopes of receiving the Republican presidential nomination again, and thus facing Roosevelt in a rematch. However, although he retained strong support among some delegates, there was never much hope of his being selected. He publicly endorsed the nominee, Kansas Governor Alf Landon, although privately he worried that Landon was too willing to accept the New Deal policies. But Hoover might as well have been the nominee, since the Democrats virtually ignored Landon, and they ran against the former President himself, constantly attacking him in speeches and warning that a Landon victory would put Hoover back in the White House as the secret power "behind the throne". Roosevelt won 46 of the 48 states, burying Landon in the Electoral College, and the Republican Party in Congress in another landslide.
Although Hoover's reputation was at its low point, circumstances would now begin to develop that would help rehabilitate his name and restore him to a position of prominence in the life of the nation. Roosevelt overreached on his Supreme Court packing plan, and a further financial recession in 1937 and 1938 tarnished his image of invincibility.
By 1940, Hoover was again being spoken of as the possible nominee of the party. Although he trailed in the polls behind Thomas Dewey, Arthur Vandenberg, and his own former protege, Robert A. Taft, he still had considerable first-ballot delegate strength, and it was believed that if the convention deadlocked between the leading candidates, the party might turn to him as its compromise. However, the convention nominated the utility company president Wendell Willkie, who had supported Roosevelt in 1932 but turned against him after the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority forced him to sell his company. Hoover dutifully supported Willkie, although he despaired that the nominee endorsed a platform that, to Hoover, was little more than the New Deal in all but name. Following 1940, Hoover never again considered holding public office, even when the opportunity to return seemingly presented itself.
With the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939, Hoover joined with the majority of Americans to declare for neutrality from the conflict. Like many, he initially believed that the Allies would be able to contain Nazi Germany. When the Germans overran France and then had Britain held in a stalemate, many Americans saw Britain as on the verge of collapse. Nonetheless, Hoover declared that it would be folly for the United States to declare war on Germany and to rush to save the United Kingdom. Rather, he held, it was far wiser for this nation to devote itself to building up its own defenses, and to wash its hands of the mess in Europe. He called for a "Fortress America" concept, in which the United States, protected on the East and on the West by vast oceans patrolled by its Navy and its Air Corps (the USAAF), could adequately repel any attack on the Americas. Hoover publicly opposed Roosevelt's peacetime draft of men, the Lend-Lease Program, and the "shoot on sight" command that FDR gave the U.S. Navy should it cross paths with any German U-boats in the shipping lanes between the United States and the U.K., viewing them all as threats to America's official neutrality.
During a radio broadcast on June 29, 1941, one week after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, Hoover disparaged any "tacit alliance" between the U.S. and the USSR by saying:
When the United States entered the war following the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hoover swept aside all feelings of neutrality and called for total victory. He offered himself to the government in any capacity necessary, but the Roosevelt Administration did not call upon him to serve.
Because of Hoover's previous experience with Germany at the end of World War I, in 1946 President Harry S. Truman selected the former president to tour Germany to ascertain the food status of the occupied nation. Hoover toured what was to become West Germany in Hermann Göring's old train coach and produced a number of reports critical of U.S. occupation policy. The economy of Germany had "sunk to the lowest level in a hundred years." He stated in one report:
As the Cold War approached and deepened, Hoover expressed reservations about some of the activities of the American Friends Service Committee, which he previously had strongly supported.
On Hoover’s initiative, a school meals program in the American and British occupation zones of Germany was begun on April 14, 1947. The program served 3.5 million children aged six through 18. A total of 40,000 tons of American food was provided during the Hooverspeisung (Hoover meals).
In 1947, President Harry S. Truman appointed Hoover to a commission, which elected him chairman, to reorganize the executive departments. This became known as the Hoover Commission. He was appointed chairman of a similar commission by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953. Both found numerous inefficiencies and ways to reduce waste, but Hoover was disappointed that the government did not enact most of the recommendations that the commissions had made.
Following World War II, Hoover became friends with President Harry S. Truman. Hoover joked that they were for many years the sole members of the "trade union" of former Presidents (since Calvin Coolidge and Roosevelt were dead already).
Throughout the Cold War, Hoover, always an opponent of Marxism, became even more outspokenly anti-Communist. Despite his advancing years, he continued to work nearly full-time both on his writing (among his literary works is The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson, a bestseller, and the first time one former President had ever written a biography about another), as well as overseeing the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, which housed not only his own professional papers, but also those of a number of other former high ranking governmental and military servants. He also threw himself into fund-raising for the Boys Clubs (now the Boys & Girls Clubs of America), which became his pet charity.
In 1960, he appeared at his final Republican National Convention. Since the 1948 convention, he had been feted as the guest of "farewell" ceremonies (the unspoken assumption being that the aging former President might not survive until the next convention). Joking to the delegates, he said, "Apparently, my last three good-byes didn't take." Although he lived to see the 1964 convention, ill health prevented him from attending. The Presidential nominee Barry Goldwater acknowledged Hoover's absence in his acceptance speech.
Hoover died at the age of 90 in New York City at 11:35 a.m. on October 20, 1964, 31 years and seven months after leaving office. He had outlived by 20 years his wife, Lou Henry Hoover, who had died in 1944, and he was the last living member of both the Harding and Coolidge administrations. He also outlived both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt who died in 1945 and 1962, respectively. By the time of his death, he had rehabilitated his image. His birthplace in Iowa, as well as a home he lived in as a child in Oregon, became National Landmarks during his lifetime. His Rapidan fishing camp in Virginia, which he had donated to the government in 1933, is now a National Historic Landmark within the Shenandoah National Park. As of 2010, he had the longest retirement of any President. Hoover and his wife are buried at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa. Hoover was honored with a state funeral, the last of three in a span of 12 months, coming as it did just after the deaths of President John F. Kennedy and General Douglas MacArthur, former Chaplain of the Senate Frederick Brown Harris officiated.
The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum is located in West Branch, Iowa next to the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site. The library is one of twelve presidential libraries run by the National Archives and Records Administration. The Lou Henry and Herbert Hoover House, built in 1919 in Palo Alto, California, is now the official residence of the president of Stanford University, and a National Historic Landmark. Hoover's rustic rural presidential retreat, Rapidan Camp (also known as Camp Hoover) in the Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, has recently been restored and opened to the public. The Hoover Dam was also named in his honor, as are five Herbert Hoover High Schools.
On December 10, 2008, Hoover's great-granddaughter Margaret Hoover and Senate of Puerto Rico President Kenneth McClintock unveiled a life-sized bronze statue of Hoover at Puerto Rico's Territorial Capitol. The statue is one of seven honoring Presidents who have visited the United States territory during their term of office.
One line in the All in the Family theme song—an ironic exercise in pre-New Deal nostalgia—says "Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again."
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