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Joe Palaski
Mr. Widenhofer
AP US History
5/19/17
Herbert Hoover

Herbert Hoover was the thirty-first president of the United States. The first president born

west of the Mississippi, he was a humble man who had a heart for service. Thrown into the Great

Depression within a few months of becoming president, the popular humanitarian proved to be

the wrong man for the presidency. Although Hoover was a man of great dignity and kindness, his

actions regarding agriculture reform, the Bonus Army, and unemployment during the Great

Depression made him a poor president.

Herbert Clark Hoover was born into a Quaker family on August 10, 1874 in the small

town of West Branch, Iowa. He was the middle child of a blacksmith and school teacher; having

an older brother and a younger sister. At the age of six, his father died of a heart attack. Just three

years later, his mother contracted pneumonia and also passed, orphaning all three children.

Herbert was then sent to live with his uncle, Dr. John Minthorn, in Oregon. In 1891, Stanford

University opened and Hoover applied to get in. Barely passing the entrance exam, Hoover was

accepted into the first graduating class. Hoover was not wealthy so in order to pay his tuition he

started his own laundry service for students and also worked as a clerk in the registration office.

In 1895, he graduated with a degree in geology. He began looking for a job as a surveyor, but

upon having no luck, he took a job in a gold mine, pushing ore carts around. He eventually found

a better job working for a firm as a mining engineer. As a mining engineer, it was his job to

evaluate different mines to see if they were suitable for purchase. The job took him all over the
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world; from Australia, to China, and eventually to London, making him a very wealthy man. He

married Lou Henry, the only female who was a geology major at Stanford, in 1899 and they had

two boys.

When World War I erupted in Europe, the US Ambassador to Britain, Walter Hines Page,

asked Hoover for help. There were 120,000 Americans trapped in Europe and Ambassador Page

wanted Hoover to help evacuate them. Hoover immediately came to relief by providing food,

clothing, and steamer tickets to the distraught Americans. A few months later, Germany invaded

Belgium leaving the Belgium people in despair. Thus, Hoover and a few fellow colleagues

banded together to form the Committee for the Relief of Belgium. This organization gave

medicine, food, clothing, and protection to Belgians caught in the middle of the war. These two

humanitarian efforts funded by Hoover pushed him into the American and international

spotlights. The president at the time, Woodrow Wilson, acknowledged Hoovers efforts and

asked him to run the US Food Administration. As head of this organization, Hoover encouraged

Americans to limit their consumption of certain foods or goods that were needed to help the

Allied troops in the war. Woodrow Wilson was so fond of Hoover and his work that he brought

him along to the Versailles Peace Conference at the end of World War I in order to gain his input.

World War I proved to be a turning point for Hoovers life because he left engineering and

entered politics.

The Roaring Twenties brought new opportunities for Hoover too. His actions during the

Great War made him quite popular, so he ran for the Republican nomination for president in the

1920 election. Hoover was defeated, but Republican Warren G. Harding was elected president.

Harding thought highly of Hoover and so appointed him as Secretary of Commerce, a position

that he would also hold under President Calvin Coolidge. As secretary, one of Hoovers
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achievements was regulating the aviation and radio industries. He also encouraged industries to

adopt standardized tools and building materials to help regulate commerce. Another achievement

of Hoovers was the Hoover Dam. For years, the Colorado River regularly flooded, causing

problems throughout the region. He negotiated with state officials and, despite opposition from

many power companies, passed the Boulder Canyon Project Act of 1928 granting permission to

build a dam on the Colorado. The dam was built during his presidency, but a majority of the

work allowing it to happen occurred before. In 1927, Hoover became even more well-known

after he led the relief effort for Americans effected by the flooding of the Mississippi River. In

that same year, President Coolidge announced that he would not be running for reelection,

opening the door for Hoover to step in.

By this time, Hoover was extremely popular in the United States because of his

humanitarian efforts. Thus, he was able to win the Republican nomination for President in the

1928 election quite easily. His opponent for the presidential election was New York governor Al

Smith, a Catholic who opposed Prohibition. Hoover won handily by an electoral vote of 444-87.

On March 4th, 1929, Hoover was inaugurated president and gave an inspiring and influential

inaugural speech. At the end of his speech, Hoover stated, I have no fears for the future of our

country. It is bright with hope (Inaugural Address of Herbert Hoover). Hoover may have had

high hopes for the United States, but they came crashing down in October of 1929, when the

stock market crashed. During the months between his inauguration and the crash, Hoover

focused on the struggling agriculture sector. Many farmers were in need of government subsidies

to help them continue farming. Hoover however did not like the idea of giving farmers

government money, so he created the Federal Farm Board. This program would loan money to

farmers in order to help them to control production and thus create sufficient revenue. The
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Federal Farm Board saw opposition not only from farmers, but from other members of Congress

who supported subsidies. However, Congress passed the Agricultural Marketing Act that

officially launched the Federal Farm Board. Even though Hoover got the Federal Farm Board

passed by Congress, it left many Americans, especially farmers, unhappy. Hoovers first few

months in office did not go as well as hoped, and his skills would be put to the ultimate test in a

crisis that would change America forever.

October 29th 1929, the day known infamously as Black Tuesday, proved to be a

detrimental day to the Hoover administration. The stock market crashed causing the failure of

numerous banks and businesses, millions of Americans to lose their jobs, and many people to

become homeless. To help the Americans, Hoover did what he was used to: provide food, water,

clothes and shelter to the afflicted. Hoover underestimated this crash thinking it was just an

economic downturn rather that a complete crash. For years, Hoover had speculations that the

economy would decline, but not on the scale that it did. Although Hoover did not do much to

cause the Great Depression, he did not do much to help it either. He realized that the tariff

needed to be altered, but left this job for Congress to take care of. The Hawley-Smoot Tariff was

passed by Congress in 1930 and was designed to help farmers. In addition, it was the highest

protective tariff in United States history. Once again, this angered many progressive Republicans

who wanted the government to compensate farmers for the money they lost, if any, by selling

their crops overseas. Even as the economic crisis worsened, Hoover still believed that individual

effort from the people would fix it saying Economic depression cannot be cured by legislative

action or executive pronouncement. Economic wounds must be healed by the action of the cells

of the economic body - the producers and consumers themselves (Herbert Hoover). This belief

is a huge reason why his presidency failed to provide the aid that the Americans needed so much,
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thus making him a poor president. However, Hoover did try to help Americans by forming the

Presidents Emergency Committee on Employment in an effort to help those that were

unemployed, but it was virtually ineffective. Hoover finally caught a break by forming the

Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC). This organization was meant to help stablize the

economy by providing credit to banks in hope that this would lead to other economic

improvements. The RFC proved somewhat effective by aiding banks, but it did not help the

unemployment rate, which Hoover had hoped it would have.

Another major dark spot on the Hoover presidency is in regards to the Bonus Army. In

1932, unemployed American veterans of World War I marched on Washington DC to claim their

bonuses. The veterans had been devastated by the Great Depression and demanded that the

government give them their bonuses. Hoover and Congress rejected the veterans demands, but

Hoover, being the humanitarian that he is, did provide them with some shelter and supplies. Most

of the protestors left Washington after their demands were not granted, but still some stayed and

continued to protest. Hoover ordered the military to peacefully escort the veterans who were

living in abandoned government buildings in the city to nearby camps. However, General

Douglas MacArthur disobeyed these commands and removed the protestors with force, attacking

them with tear gas and guns, resulting in the death of one veteran. The whole nation erupted after

these attacks, condemning Hoovers administration. Citizens from around the nation backed the

veterans, who claimed Hoover saw them all as criminals (Veterans march to Washington).

MacArthur refused to take responsibility for his actions, so Hoover did so, an action that only

hurt his administration even more.

As unemployment was on the rise and the economic conditions kept worsening, many

Americans were forced out of their homes. These people gathered outside of cities in
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communities dubbed Hoovervilles, named after the president whom the people blamed all their

suffering on. These little towns were filled with homeless men, women, and children, who lived

in shacks most often made of cardboard or scrap metal. All over the nation, Hoovervilles sprung

up, gradually increasing in size as time went on. In Seattle, Washington for example, homeless

people petitioned to the mayor and city council to give them aid. They criticized Hoover and the

government for doing very little to help the homeless and unemployed saying that they refuse to

feed the hungry masses in the farming areas (Petition to Mayor and City Council). Mindsets

like these were common all across the nation, crippling the dignity of the Hoover administration.

The nation was becoming more and more frustrated with Hoover as the early 1930s progressed.

Thus, Hoover was easily defeated by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the election of 1932, who

campaigned by promoting his New Deal policies.

Although Hoover became well-known for his humanitarian work, when he was elected

president, his popularity diminished. Hoover was immersed into the Great Depression right out

of the gate and struggled to recover the nations wellbeing. His shoddy efforts to reform

agriculture only made conditions worse, eventually leading to another crisis, the Dust Bowl. As

unemployment rose, Americans begged Hoover for help, but he failed to provide much aid other

than the basic necessities of food and shelter, thus allowing unemployment to continue to rise.

From his resume, one would think Hoover would be the ideal president to relieve the nation of a

crisis, but this was not the case. His belief that the depression would only be fixed through the

effort of individuals alone greatly damaged his reputation. Hoover may have helped thousands of

people with his relief efforts during World War I and the 1920s, but when he stepped into the

White House, he failed to effectively limit the effects of the Great Depression, mistreated the

Bonus Army, and only made unemployment worse, thus making him a poor president.
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Works Cited

"Herbert Hoover." BrainyQuote.com. Xplore Inc, 2017. 15 May 2017.


"Herbert Hoover: Domestic Affairs." Miller Center. University of Virginia, n.d. Web. 15 May
2017.
"Herbert Hoover." History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 14 May 2017.
Hoover, Herbert. "Inaugural Address of Herbert Hoover." Herbert Hoover Presidential Library
and Museum. National Archives and Records Administration, n.d. Web. 14 May 2017.
"Herbert Hoover: Life Before the Presidency." Miller Center. University of Virginia, n.d. Web.
15 May 2017.
"Herbert Hoover Museum Permanent Galleries." National Archives and Records Administration.
National Archives and Records Administration, n.d. Web. 15 May 2017.
Petition to Mayor and City Council, February 13, 1931. CF 130044. Comptroller Files, 1802-01,
Seattle Municipal Archives
Veteran's Rank And File Committee. Veterans march to Washington to arrive at opening of
Congress, December 5th, 1932 to demand cash payment of bonus. New York, 1932. New
York, 1932. Pdf. Retrieved from the Library of Congress.