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Historical Voices

Herbert Hoover and the Government

The second of three children, Herbert Hoover was born to Quaker parents in West Branch, Iowa on Aug. 19, 1874. After both of his parents died early in his childhood, Hoover went to live with his uncle in Oregon where he remained until entering Stanford University in 1891. At Stanford, Hoover earned a degree in engineering and met his future wife, Lou Henry, whom he married in 1899. That same year, Hoover was offered an engineering position by the Chinese government which he accepted.

In 1901, Hoover became a junior partner with Bewick, Moreing and Company in London and, as a result of his job, traveled extensively, building an international reputation in his field. During World War I, Hoover established and directed the American Relief Committee, an organization that provided assistance to stranded American tourists. He was also appointed to head the Commission for Relief in Belgium, a position that brought him worldwide acclaim. In 1917, President Wilson appointed Hoover the U.S. food administrator, and after the war ended Hoover established the American Relief Administration which fed millions of starving Europeans. Under Presidents Harding and Coolidge, Hoover served as the Secretary of Commerce, and in 1928, became the Republican Party's presidential candidate.

During his campaign, Hoover's speeches were filled with promises of continued prosperity; however, soon after his inauguration, the stock market crashed and an economic depression ensued. Although Hoover's administration established the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, through which $500 million of assistance was allocated to "trickle down" to the unemployed, he is best remembered for his assertion that social services should be provided to individuals not by the federal government, but by local and state organizations. As the depression deepened, Hoover lost the 1932 election to Franklin Roosevelt, whose policies Hoover openly criticized. After his presidency, Hoover published numerous books and served on several commissions under Presidents Truman and Eisenhower. Know as a great engineer, humanitarian, secretary, and public servant, he died at age 90 on Oct. 20, 1964.

Audio files:

Herbert Hoover speaks during acceptance of an economic relief proposal, (1930?). Listen

Herbert Hoover campaign speech, 1932; offers alternative to radical "new deal" Listen

Hoover gives a readio address, from Elko, Nevada, on election eve 1932 - Recorded November 7, 1932. Please note that this recording has been processed for better listening, but is still difficult to hear. Listen

Herbert Hoover speaks to the GOP National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on the subject of "The Road to Freedom," attacking the four-year record of Roosevelt's New Deal; 10 June 1936. Listen