Our 31st President: 1929-1933
Just the Facts:
- Herbert Hoover was the first president born west of the Mississippi.
- His nickname was “The Great Engineer.”
- He refused to accept a salary while he was president.
- He graduated from Stanford University, despite failing a German language course.
- He designated the “Star Spangled Banner” as the national anthem.
- The “Hoover Dam” is named after him.
- He had many dogs as pets – - Piney, Snowflake, and Tut lived in the White House. He also had a pet opossum and his son had 2 crocodiles.
Herbert was born in Iowa. He became an orphan when he was nine and was raised by his uncle in Oregon. He grew up as a Quaker. He worked hard and made a lot of money in the mining industry. Then, he went into public service during World War I, helping to evacuate American soldiers, ration food in America, and provide food to Europeans. After the War, he was in charge of the American Relief Association, which helped millions of suffering Europeans every day.
He moved on to become Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Harding and Coolidge. He oversaw some large public work projects, including a dam along the Colorado River that bears his name – the Hoover Dam. The Hoover Dam provides water to most of the American Southwest (including southern California). He was also in charge of the St. Lawrence Seaway project, which gave the Great Lakes access to the Atlantic Ocean.
Hoover became president by promising prosperity – “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” He was President for only less than a year when the stock market crashed – October 29 has been called Black Tuesday ever since. The crash was officially the start of the Great Depression. Millions of people lost their jobs, banks closed, businesses failed.
The economy took most of his time, so he wasn’t able to accomplish some of his goals as president. He tried to reform the banks and give assistance to businesses – but it wasn’t enough to pull America out of the Great Depression. He didn’t think the government should give people handouts, so many people blamed him for their troubles. As a result, he didn’t win re-election.
Hoover met his wife, Lou, in college (she was the only woman geology student at Stanford). They had two sons, Herbert Jr. and Allan. Lou was involved in the Girl Scouts organization most of her life – she was even elected president of the organization. She also spoke several languages, including Chinese (which was helpful when she and Herbert lived there, before he was president). The First Lady ran an elegant White House – she imported food and expected it to be prepared in only the best way. She also used a new invention, the radio, to connect with the American people.
After his presidency, the Hoovers retired to New York. He continued trying to reform the government and wrote many books. He died when he was 90 years old.
“Freedom is the open window through which pours the sunlight of the human spirit and human dignity.”
“Children are our most valuable natural resource.”
“When there is a lack of honor in government, the morals of the whole people are poisoned.”