Society

Herbert Hoover - US Presidents in History

The acting president during the infamous Great Depression, Hoover's legacy has been filled with his many challenges.

5. Early Life

Herbert Hoover was born on August 10, 1874, in West Branch, Iowa. Growing up in a hardworking Quaker family, his childhood was marked by various hardships. He was a very ill child, and required extensive care. To make the situation even harder, both of his parents died when he was nine years old. After living with his grandparents in Iowa for a short period, he and his siblings went to Oregon to live with their uncle in 1885. He attended Friends (Quaker) Pacific Academy but did not go on to high school. Instead, he worked as an office assistant for his uncle, during which time he attended night school and successfully applied for acceptance into Stanford University in 1891. He would graduate there with a degree in Geometry in 1895.

4. Rise to Power

After graduation, Hoover worked as an engineer for various mining companies, and traveled extensively around the world for ten years. He then made many successful investments, and had become very wealthy by the onset of World War I. He then became very involved in war relief, devoting much of his money and time to it. His successful war relief measures caught the attention of President Woodrow Wilson, who appointed Hoover to head the US Food Administration in 1917. After the war, Hoover served as Secretary of Commerce and became the Republican Party's presidential candidate for the 1928 US Presidential Election. In the race for the White House against Democratic nominee Al Smith, he was elected as the 31st President of the United States in a landslide victory.

3. Contributions

During Hoover's presidency, he made many important contributions in both domestic and foreign policies. He aimed for social justice and the elimination of poverty by expanding civil services, introducing progressive tax policies, advocating for children's rights and pension plans, and supporting governmental cooperation with private businesses. In the realm of foreign relations, Hoover cultivated a friendly relationship with Latin American countries. He withdrew a large number of US troops from the nations of Haiti and Nicaragua, and mediated territorial disputes between Chile and Peru. He also pushed for the disarmament of aggressive nations, and the scaling back of defenses by all major world superpowers, especially at sea.

2. Challenges

The Great Depression, the biggest economic crisis the capitalist world had ever seen, hit the US during the first year of Hoover's presidency. Although he sought proactive measures to deal with the crisis, including heavy government subsidies to major industries and agriculture, the establishment of the Division of Public Construction to stimulate public works planning, and establishing the Reconstruction Finance Cooperation to grant government loans to financial institutions to address the pressing problems in that industry, unfortunately none of those measures proved effective in relieving such a large scale economic crisis. Inflation was skyrocketing, and the increased taxation prompted by the measures merely impoverished the people further. After such failures economically, the 1932 US Presidential Election proved to be a great challenge to Hoover in itself. He lost the race by a margin of almost 30 percent to Democratic nominee Franklin D. Roosevelt.

1. Death and Legacy

Hoover died on October 20th, 1964, at the age of 90, in his New York City suite. He suffered from a massive internal bleeding. A state funeral was held for him on October 22nd of the same year. Although he was not seen as a successful President at his time, and people often criticized him for him for being too passive and incompetent in facing the onset of the Great Depression, later scholars have defended him against such charges, and argued that Hoover's measures were actually precursors to FDR's New Deal. His war relief measures during both world wars also left him remembered as a honorable man. By the time of his death, he had largely rehabilitated his image. Today, statues of him can be found in his birthplace, as well as at his alma mater of Stanford University.

More in Society