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Herbert Hoover: 31st President: Lived the American Dream

Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else we're destined to repeat it.

Basic Facts

Question Answer


August 10, 1874 - Iowa

President Number




Military Service


Wars Served


Age at Beginning of Presidency

55 years old

Term of Office

March 4, 1929 - March 3, 1933

How Long President

4 years


Charles Curtis

Age and Year of Death

October 20, 1964 (aged 90)

Cause of Death

massive internal bleeding

Rags to Riches

Herbert Clark Hoover was born on August 10, 1874, in West Branch, Iowa, to a blacksmith, making him the first president to be born west of the Mississippi River. When he was six, his father died of a heart attack. Three years later, his mother also died, leaving him orphaned and separated from his two siblings, a brother that was older and a younger sister. His aunt and uncle raised him in Newburg, Oregon.

In 1891, he took the entrance exam to attend Stanford University. Although he failed the test, a professor admitted him conditionally because he saw potential. While there, he studied to become a mining engineer, majoring in geology. He was so poor that he occasionally lived in the barracks housing where the construction workers building the university stayed.

He met his wife, a fellow geologist, at Stanford. His wife Lou Henry traveled with him as he became a successful engineer with Bewick, Moreing, and Company. They went around the world together, and he eventually became one of the company's four partners. While in both Australia and China, he discovered rich deposits of gold and iron and had success on every continent except Antarctica. This success allowed him to become China's chief mining engineer and to be able to donate his entire presidential salary to charities. Despite his disadvantaged beginnings, he became a millionaire by 40.

Herbert Clark Hoover listening to a radio

Herbert Clark Hoover listening to a radio

The Humanitarian

After his success in the mining business, he wanted to give back to people. When the American Consul General asked for his help after Germany declared war on France, only a week after his 40th birthday, Hoover was eager to help. He successfully ensured the safe arrival of 120,000 American tourists stranded in Europe.

The United States recruited him as head of the Food Administration, where he supervised and distributed food to millions of starving war refugees from Belgium and France. In Belgium alone, 7 million people were facing starvation.

He then headed the American Relief Administration, which focused its efforts on 20 countries affected by the war. This administration was responsible for delivering food to tens of millions of people. He managed to cut the consumption of food needed overseas and avoided rationing at home. Meanwhile, the United States Allies were being fed.

Many criticized him for extending his services to the Soviet Union between 1921 and 1923, saying he supported communism. He argued that starving people deserved food regardless of their political beliefs, and he made good on that remark. He made sure 15 million people from the Soviet Union had food daily. He often served without pay and used some of his fortunes towards the cause.

Due to these tremendous humanitarian efforts, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times. Neil MacNeil, an associate of Hoover's, said, "He (Hoover) fed more people and saved more lives than any other man in history."

Many were impressed, including President Harding and President Coolidge. They both appointed him Secretary of Commerce. Republicans and Democrats alike felt he would become a great president because of all he did for those starving. Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1920, stated, "He is certainly a wonder, and I wish we could make him President of the United States. There could not be a better one." Roosevelt was the assistant secretary of the Navy at the time. Hoover's popularity eventually led him to become the 31st President in 1928. He won with a landslide, earning 444 electoral votes to 87.

The Presidency and the Great Depression

Despite his rags to riches story, his presidency did not bring American's the same success. In 1929 shortly after he became president, the United States had the most significant economic crash our country has ever seen, eventually leading us to the Great Depression. Twelve million Americans lost their jobs, and thousands of businesses failed.

The people felt they needed a bold leader to get them out of the country's situation, but Hoover was very cautious. He promised he would keep the Federal budget balanced and cut taxes. He also asked Congress to create the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, which would aid businesses, give additional help to farmers facing mortgage foreclosures, help banking reform, and loan money to states for feeding the unemployed.

Many felt his attempts were wrongly directed. They thought he should focus less on public works and business financing programs and more on food for those in his country. Although he strongly felt that the people needed help, he believed that feeding the hungry in our country should come from the local level.

Those in Congress who did not like Hoover painted him as a very cruel, callous President since he encouraged feeding at the local level, which resulted in the public blaming him for the suffering during the Depression. His popularity suffered greatly before the next election.

Even Roosevelt, who praised him before his presidency, disliked him so strongly that he ran against himself in the next election. Roosevelt won with a landslide in the 1932 election.

After his presidency, he went back to his humanitarian efforts and was assigned to supervise relief programs in Europe that fed starving victims of World War II. In 1947, President Truman gave Hoover the responsibility of the coordinator of a committee to reorganize the executive branch of government. He was then elected chairman to reorganize the Executive Departments. President Eisenhowerelected him to a similar position in 1953. He was successful in both these positions.

After retirement from politics, he wrote many articles and books. He was working on one when he died on October 20, 1964, at ninety years old in New York City.

Official Presidential Portrait

Fun Facts

  • He was the first president to be born west of the Mississippi River; he was 22 before he ever ventured east of the Mississippi River.
  • He was orphaned at age 11.
  • He met his wife in a geology class while attending Stanford and graduated with a geology degree.
  • He lived the American Dream and went from rags to riches. By the time he was 40, he was a millionaire, despite having grown up with barely any money.
  • Hoover starred in the first television broadcast in American history while serving as secretary of commerce under his predecessor Calvin Coolidge.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt actually stated he wanted Hoover to become president; ironically, Roosevelt defeated Hoover when they ran for the presidency.
  • He was nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize due to his efforts in providing food to millions after two world wars.
  • Despite the Hoover Dam bearing his name, he was not invited to the dedication ceremony.

2014 Issued Dollar Coin

List of United States Presidents

1. George Washington

16. Abraham Lincoln

31. Herbert Hoover

2. John Adams

17. Andrew Johnson

32. Franklin D. Roosevelt

3. Thomas Jefferson

18. Ulysses S. Grant

33. Harry S. Truman

4. James Madison

19. Rutherford B. Hayes

34. Dwight D. Eisenhower

5. James Monroe

20. James Garfield

35. John F. Kennedy

6. John Quincy Adams

21. Chester A. Arthur

36. Lyndon B. Johnson

7. Andrew Jackson

22. Grover Cleveland

37. Richard M. Nixon

8. Martin Van Buren

23. Benjamin Harrison

38. Gerald R. Ford

9. William Henry Harrison

24. Grover Cleveland

39. James Carter

10. John Tyler

25. William McKinley

40. Ronald Reagan

11. James K. Polk

26. Theodore Roosevelt

41. George H. W. Bush

12. Zachary Taylor

27. William Howard Taft

42. William J. Clinton

13. Millard Fillmore

28. Woodrow Wilson

43. George W. Bush

14. Franklin Pierce

29. Warren G. Harding

44. Barack Obama

15. James Buchanan

30. Calvin Coolidge

45. Donald Trump


  • Freidel, F., & Sidey, H. (2009). Herbert Hoover. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from
  • Klein, C. (2014). 10 Things You May Not Know About Herbert Hoover. Retrieved April 28, 2016, from
  • Sullivan, G. (2001). Mr. President: A book of U.S. presidents. New York: Scholastic.

© 2016 Angela Michelle Schultz


Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on February 24, 2018:

Thanks for sharing some of your own knowledge.

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on February 24, 2018:

As I recall my long ago history classes, Truman gave Hoover a place in his administration. FDR, as I recall attracted Hoovers policies when Hoover as presicent but the Roosevelt administration used many of Hoovers policies themselves.

CJ Kelly from the PNW on May 19, 2016:

He was probably one of the most qualified men to become President. But sadly, circumstances forever doomed his reputation. It was nice that JFK invited him to the inauguration, gaining him some well deserved recognition.