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Presidential Library of President Herbert Hoover in West Branch, Iowa: His Life and Times

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

The small cottage where Herbert Hoover was born in West Branch, Iowa.

The small cottage where Herbert Hoover was born in West Branch, Iowa.

West Branch, Iowa

Former President Herbert Hoover's Presidential Library, his early childhood home and his place of burial are several of the more significant attractions in the small town of West Branch, Iowa.

Herbert Hoover was born in the small cottage pictured above on August 10, 1874. The tiny abode is only 14 by 20 feet and was built by Herbert's father Jesse and his grandfather Eli in 1871.

Herbert was one of three children born to Hulda Minthorn Hoover and Jesse Hoover. He was the middle child. Theodore was his older brother and Mary was his younger sister. Prior to marriage, his mother was a teacher. She had been born in Canada but had moved to West Branch with her parents when they relocated there.

This was a community where the majority of people earned their livelihoods from farming. Herbert's dad was a blacksmith who owned his own successful business. After selling his blacksmith shop Jesse Hoover opened a farm machinery business. One of the ads for his business was on display in the Hoover Presidential Museum which is located near the home of Herbert's birth.

By 1879 Jesse had sold this small cottage and had moved into a larger house. The cottage, as well as a few other buildings, are now part of a national historic site where one can view the humble beginnings of this man who was to become the 31st President of the United States.

His birthplace is filled with appropriate furnishings as would have been found during the late 19th century in the Midwest. Much of the original furniture was acquired for the house. The trundle bed in the one bedroom house was pulled out at night and the children slept on the lower level with their parents sleeping on the top portion of the bed.

The living room also doubled as the kitchen during cold weather where the stove would be utilized for both cooking and heating of the small cottage. When the weather warmed up the stove would be moved to the back porch as was commonly done back then. Not only would the stove not heat up the house during the warmer months but also it posed less risk of a fire.

Early School Days

The small schoolhouse in which Herbert and his fellow classmates would have attended stands as a monument to how classes were taught during that time. One teacher in one room teaching a multiple of class levels was standard.

Notice the wooden desks and the slate chalkboards on each desk which would have been used by the students in learning their lessons of math, penmanship and other subjects.

This building started its life being utilized as the Friends meetinghouse in 1853 when it was built by the Quakers at a cost of $800. Once they succeeded in building another place of worship it reverted to being solely a school which was the initial intent.

The Friend's Church

The Friend's Church that the Hoover's attended is open for all to see. Men sat on one side of the room and the women sat across the aisle on the other side. Herbert's mother was a recorded minister in the Society of Friends or Quakers as they were also known.

Silent meditation was the rule when attending these church functions. They did not have preachers or ministers as we commonly have in most churches today. If anyone was inspired to get up in front of the room to relate a special spiritual message or something that they thought the rest of the people might like to hear, they did so. Hulda Hoover was one who often spoke before the assembled group of Friends.

Because of this Quaker background which stressed rugged independence but also a great spirit of lending a hand to people in need, Herbert Hoover slowly developed into the man he would become.

The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum

The Presidential Museum of the 31st President of the United States, that of Herbert Hoover, is as unpretentious as one might expect of a person who embraced his Quaker background. It was built entirely with private funds.

Furniture, photos, manuscripts, and mementos from the Hoover presidency can all be viewed in the museum. It was dedicated in 1962 and is administered by the National Archives and Records Administration.

My mother, niece and I spent quite a few hours going through the museum reading and looking at many of the exhibits. Of course, we could not begin to absorb all that was available in the few hours we had allowed ourselves to be there. Various rooms contain different displays and there is also a 180-seat auditorium that is located at one end of the building.

One of the special exhibits being shown when we happened to be there was one regarding the mothers of the Presidents. That was most informative along with another one about the First Ladies. Pictures, clothing worn by them, videotapes and so forth showed the differing styles and interests of each lady. They each had their own important stories and this absorbed some of our time while we were wandering through the museum.

Space is allotted for traveling exhibits regarding other people and topics that would keep frequent visitors entertained and constantly learning about new things.

Just inside the portico of the Presidential Museum was a tiny house with a well and other tiny structures. It housed a mother cat and her kittens. It drew much attention as one might imagine. We saw many smiles and I was not the only one snapping a photo of it.

Seen at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library - The mother cat and kitten abode inside the portico of the museum.

Seen at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library - The mother cat and kitten abode inside the portico of the museum.

Full Circle

From the place of his birth to his Presidential Museum and Library to his final resting spot Herbert Hoover and the town of West Branch, Iowa will be forever linked. He was a fascinating person of history and we learned much about this tireless humanitarian.

All of these buildings are located in close proximity and no matter which side of the political spectrum with which one might be aligned this historical place is well worth a visit.

President & Mrs. Herbert Hoover's grave markers in West Branch, Iowa

President & Mrs. Herbert Hoover's grave markers in West Branch, Iowa

Town of West Branch, Iowa

See photos below of the town of West Branch, Iowa. Many buildings in the town are on the National Historical list.

Hoover From Orphan to Millionaire

Unfortunately, both of Hoover's parents died and by the age of nine, he and his siblings became orphaned. Herbert's teacher wanted to adopt him but she was single and his relatives thought that he would be better off with them. Those were the days when single people were not often considered to be the best choice for parenting a child.

After living with one of his uncles who lived on a farm near West Branch at age 11 Herbert moved to Newburg, Oregon to live with another one of his uncles, Dr. H. John Minthorn.

At age 17 he was one of the first class students to study engineering at Stanford University. Those first students did not have to pay any tuition! Hoover ended up receiving a degree in geology as did his future wife whom he met at the same university.

Herbert Hoover started his career as a mining engineer and not only applied himself wholeheartedly to that effort but actually came up with ideas that made sense saving the company money, authoring books and ultimately making a lot of money for himself and that of his family. He had made his first million dollars as an engineer prior to becoming 40 years of age. That was a lot of money in those days!

Herbert Hoover married Lou Henry in 1899 and they had two sons. She accompanied him on many of his world travels. While Mrs. Hoover never worked using her teaching and geology degrees she was highly educated and made a good life partner for Herbert.

Some of the places Herbert Hoover worked included the states of California and Colorado. He also worked in Australia, China, and England. He was definitely a globetrotter encircling the planet many times during the course of his engineering work.

Herbert Hoover photo portrait

Herbert Hoover photo portrait


During World War 1, Hoover was working in London. He was contacted by the U.S. Consul General to help enable many of the stranded Americans to be able to return home. He also started helping in many relief efforts to feed hungry people in many countries affected by the war including Belgium, France, and Germany.

President Woodrow Wilson appointed him to be the Director General of Post War Relief and Rehabilitation in 1919.

Hoover became Secretary of Commerce under President Warren G. Harding in 1921 and continued to serve in that capacity under President Calvin Coolidge.

When President Coolidge decided not to run for reelection in 1927 Herbert Hoover was encouraged by the Republican Party to run on that ballot. Although at one time he considered himself to be a Democrat he decided to accept and won an overwhelming victory over Alfred E. Smith.

Eight months after Hoover was elected President, the Wall Street Stock Market crash of 1929 occurred which led to the Great Depression.

Herbert Hoover (Speaking in his own words encouraging people to vote)

The Great Depression and The Dust Bowl

While Hoover entered the Presidency as a highly revered man he exited the office with many people thinking that perhaps he was the worst President in history. Many historians are now taking another look at what he had accomplished and the overwhelming circumstances which were taking place at that time causing much of the distress that echoed all across our land and beyond.

While he may not have been the best communicator with regard to dealing with other politicians and may have seemed lacking in charisma, Hoover actually set into place much of what would be credited to the New Deal during the Franklin D. Roosevelt presidency. Many massive federal government projects were set into motion to help reverse the economic collapse experienced at the time.

Had not the collapse of banking and the stock market been bad enough, the dust bowl of the 1930s cemented Herbert Hoover's fate. Unemployment was at a whopping 24.9% and soup lines and tent cities had mushroomed all across America. It took years to recover from the damage inflicted by the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. Hoover got the blame for most of the lingering effects at that time.


Hoover Institution

After losing the election to FDR in 1932, he retired to his home in California and concentrated his time and efforts to the Hoover Institution on the Stanford University campus.

Hoover's Food Relief Efforts

Because of his great success in handling food aid relief efforts during World War I, his help was once again solicited during World War II by President Harry Truman.

Hoover initiated efforts here at home for everyone to pitch in and stop eating meat products on Mondays and forego eating wheat products on Wednesdays. His idea was that "food will win the war." Food not eaten at home could be shipped to help feed our soldiers and also war victims in countries affected by World War II.

Victory Gardens became commonplace in home yards and in public parks. Food coupons were issued for foodstuffs that were limited in supply for use in America. Classes were taught all across the country on how to cook more economically.

Once again due to his leadership role 20 million people were aided who might otherwise have starved in Europe during and after the war. In Belgium alone, Herbert Hoover was considered to be a hero. Near his birthplace is a statue honoring him for his successful efforts on their behalf during this troubled time in history.

Hoover became Secretary of Commerce under President Warren G. Harding in 1921 and continued to serve in that capacity under President Calvin Coolidge.

Truman and Hoover developed a long-lasting friendship that remained in effect the rest of their lives even though they were in opposing political parties. In fact, Harry Truman was a guest at the dedication of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in 1962.

Herbert Hoover will always be considered a great humanitarian. He never kept one dime of money earned from being a public servant. Instead, he donated that money from his salary to volunteer organizations.

Boy's Clubs of America

One of his favorite charities was the Boy's Clubs of America. He helped raise millions of dollars and was Chairman of the Board for that organization from 1836 to 1964. He helped increase membership by over 200%.

Hoover was quoted as saying that his association with the Boy's Clubs had been "nearest to my heart in all my public life."

Official Presidential portrait of Herbert Hoover

Official Presidential portrait of Herbert Hoover

Well Narrated Video of Hoover's Legacy


Wikipedia: Herbert Hoover

Wikipedia: Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum

National Park Service: Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 15, 2019:

Hi Dale,

I agree with you and your wife in that road trips offer much in the way of great discoveries. I am pleased that you enjoyed learning about President Herbert Hoover's birthplace, Presidential library, and burial place. It is well worth a visit if you are ever in that part of our country.

Dale Anderson from The High Seas on March 15, 2019:

It's places like these that beg for a road trip. Every time my wife and I get out on the road we are always looking for places of interest like this to discover. Many of our friends talk about going to Las Vegas and Disney Land and they think we are a little nuts when we tell them we are driving to out of the way and forgotten places to see landmarks like this one. Thanks for sharing.

Robert Sacchi on April 01, 2018:

I think you're right.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 01, 2018:

Hi Robert,

Sometimes it takes a bit of maturity to understand the importance of history.

Robert Sacchi on April 01, 2018:

That is true. Regrettably young people often don't see the advantage of museums and historic places. When I bring school children to such places I think about how they can use these places for various school projects.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 01, 2018:

Hi Robert,

I certainly learned more about Herbert Hoover by visiting his Presidential Library than anything I had learned while in school. It was also probably more of interest to me as an adult than when I was a child in school.

Robert Sacchi on March 31, 2018:

You are right it is better to see some than not at all. Often times someone can learn more in an hour about a subject then what they learned in school.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 21, 2016:

Hi Robert,

I fully agree...but better to see some of it than nothing at all. We certainly enjoyed the hours we spent at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library.

Robert Sacchi on May 20, 2016:

That is a problem with the better museums. There is much to learn and if you are an out of town visitor there is little time to learn.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 20, 2016:

Hi Robert,

Glad to know you liked learning more about Herbert Hoover. My photos had more to do with the small home he grew up in and the Friends Church he attended as well as his gravesite. The museum was very interesting. One could literally spend days there if one intended to read and see everything there.

Robert Sacchi on May 18, 2016:

Nice shots of the Library. It is an interesting bio of President Hoover.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 20, 2012:

Hi moonlake,

I'm glad that my mother was interested in seeing the Herbert Hoover Presidential home, library and burial place. My young niece who accompanied us also found it to be of interest. Had we not needed to get back on the road on our return trip home we would have doubled or tripled the time spent there as it was so very interesting. I learned so much more than I had ever been taught in history books! Appreciate your comment. His cottage probably would look great in your meadow! :))

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 20, 2012:

Hi Mary,

Many people in Europe will be forever grateful for his efforts in getting food to them after the World War. Sometimes it is nice to revisit the accomplishments of men such as former President Herbert Hoover. Most people probably just associate him with the Great Depression which took place shortly after he took office. Glad to know that you learned something about him that you did not know. Presidential Libraries are great places to visit and learn many things about our past Presidents. Appreciate your comment & votes.

moonlake from America on July 20, 2012:

I'd like Herbert's cottage to put down in our meadow. Very interesting hub. You've been to so many places that's nice. My husband is not much on stopping at places like this when we're traveling. Voted up.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on July 19, 2012:

Hi Peggy, you did such a great job with this informative Hub. There is a lot about Herbert Hoover that I never knew until now. At the risk of telling my age (who cares?) I remember FDR pretty well, and everything he did in WWII, but just never knew of HH's involvement.

This is a great Hub to refresh all our memories of this great man. What a nice trip and tour this must have been to visit his birthplace and learn more of HH.

I voted this UP, etc.etc. and will share with others.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 28, 2010:

Hi dahoglund,

I smiled when I read this. What boy wouldn't rather play in the woods rather than study?

That Hoover Presidential Museum in West Branch, Iowa is so interesting! We spent quite a bit of time there, but obviously one could spend days reading and looking at things. Glad that we got to see what we did at the time.

Thanks for adding this bit of interesting history.

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on June 27, 2010:

Peggy W

Back in the sixties I worked on a newspaper in Iowa City for a short tiem. Later when I worked at the Rock Island Arsenal We used the Dental school at the University of Iowa for having dental work done.Wo we were in the area quite a bit and did visit the Hoover Library a few time.

One bit of lore you might not know about Hoover that I got from a biography is that he went to an Indian school on a reservation. His uncle was an Indian agent so Herbert went to school with the Indian kids.

Like all boys, they preferred playing in the woods to study.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 03, 2009:

Hi James,

Thanks for coming back and leaving another comment. Have no idea what happened to the first one which seemed to have vaporized in thin air. Undoubtedly something I must have done by mistake. In any case, always nice to hear from you!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 03, 2009:

Hi Candie,

Happened across this in our travels and it was natural to expand upon what we learned and got to see. Thanks!

James A Watkins from Chicago on July 03, 2009:


I've always admired President Hoover.  Maybe not for his presidency, but he was an extremely accomplished person who did a whale of a lot of good for millions of people as you note above.  This is another great Hub by you.  Pretty town, too, as you say.  Kudos!

Candie V from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure! on July 03, 2009:

You are a well of information, Miss Peggy!! Well done!

Cheryl Williams on July 02, 2009:

This is a wonderful history lesson. You have shared information that I never knew. You are a great narrator.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 02, 2009:

Hi Ethel, I would probably never have thought about it...but you are right. LOL

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on July 02, 2009:

Interesting Peggy. He looks a little like Jimmy Cagney :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 01, 2009:

Hello kiran, You are such a faithful reader of my hubs. I appreciate your comments. Glad you liked this. My husband read this and thought that this hub might have more limited interest. Guess time will tell...

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 01, 2009:

Hi Melody, Glad that you liked this hub. Seeing Herbert Hoover's place of birth, final resting spot and the Presidential Library and Museum all in one place...the small town of West Branch, Iowa...we left with much more of that period of history in our heads. It becomes more "real" for those of us who only read about this in history books.

I have some friends that emigrated from Germany and who are old enough to remember getting food help from the U.S. due to Hoover's efforts. They vividly recall those days with gratitude.

Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 01, 2009:

Hello gurgl1, Well...thanks for the partial read anyway. LOL

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 01, 2009:

Hello shamelabboush, Very happy that you liked reading this and found it informative. Thank you for commenting.

kiran8 from Mangalore, India on July 01, 2009:

Very informative and interesting as always :) thanks a lot Peggy..

Melody Lagrimas from Philippines on July 01, 2009:

A very well-researched hub...informative interesting and entertaining, thnaks Peggy.

gurgel1 from profile on July 01, 2009:

I didn't exactly read all of it

shamelabboush on July 01, 2009:

What a man and what a rich history! I am amazed! This a real struggling man who deserved to be the president. Thank YOU for all this effort dear Peggy.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 30, 2009:

Hi Pete,

That is quite a compliment coming from you! All of this information and more is available to people who are curious. This is the tip of the iceburg so to speak. Thanks for your comment.

Pete Maida on June 30, 2009:

That is a good lesson in history. Maybe HubPages needs to collect all of these great hubs and make them available to schools. There is a lot of information here that isn't in the standard textbook.

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