Herbert C. Hoover
Herbert Clark Hoover was born on August 10, 1874, in West Branch, Iowa. Hoover's parents died by the time that he turned eight years of age, and he spent the rest of his youth living with other relatives, including an aunt and uncle in Newberg, Oregon. Hoover attended Newberg College, a Quaker preparatory school, and at the age of fifteen years, took a position as an office boy in his uncle's real estate business.
In 1891, Hoover enrolled in Stanford University to study engineering. He graduated in 1895, and spent the next several years trying to find work in his chosen profession. He worked as a typist, a miner's helper, and other occupations, before receiving a position with a British mining firm that used Hoover's talents in the firm's Australian gold mines. In 1899, Hoover accepted a position with the Chinese government as the chief engineer of the country's mine bureau. Hoover and his wife, Lou Henry, were in China during the Boxer Rebellion. He left China in 1900, but he returned the following year. Later in 1901, Hoover became part owner of a British engineering company. He spent the next dozen years traveling around the world, directing various engineering projects.
At the outbreak of World War I, Hoover embarked upon a career in politics and civil service. He helped more than 100,000 Americans return to the United States from war-torn Europe. He also chaired the Commission for Relief in Belgium, an agency that sent food and supplies to people in German-occupied Belgium. In 1917, the United States entered the conflict, and President Woodrow Wilson appointed Hoover as the administrator of the Food Administration. This government bureaucracy's mission was to keep prices for food stable and to ensure that America's soldiers, civilians, and allies had sufficient food. In 1918, Hoover also served as chairman of the Allied Food Council, which provided food to people living in war-torn areas of Europe.
Because of Hoover's important contributions to humanity during World War I, many supporters of both the Democratic and Republican Parties asked Hoover to seek their party's nomination for the presidency in 1920. A life-long Republican, Hoover rejected these offers. In 1921, he became President Warren G. Harding's Secretary of Commerce. He also served in this capacity for most of Calvin Coolidge's administration, before resigning to seek the presidency.
In the election of 1928, Hoover, the Republican candidate, won easily over Al Smith, the Democratic candidate. Unfortunately for Hoover, the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression erupted just seven months after he assumed the presidency. The Great Depression consumed the rest of Hoover's presidency. The president initially believed that the depression was just a slight economic downturn. Very quickly, however, twelve million Americans found themselves unemployed. Hoover did convince the U.S. Congress to reduce income tax rates, hoping that this would spur the economy, but millions of Americans had no income in the first place. He offered government loans to businesses so that they could expand, thus creating more jobs, but few businesses wanted to go into debt, as other firms across the country were closing their doors due to bankruptcy. In 1932, veterans from World War I marched on Washington, DC, seeking assistance. Unfortunately for these men and their families, Hoover refused and forcibly removed the veterans from the nation's capital. In the election of 1932, the American people overwhelmingly elected Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Democratic candidate. Hoover had sought reelection, but a majority of Americans were disgruntled with Hoover's failure to provide them with more aid during the Great Depression.
Upon leaving office, Hoover retired to Palo Alto, California. He authored several books, including his memoirs and a history of Woodrow Wilson's presidency. With his wife's death in 1944, Hoover moved to New York City. Following World War II, Hoover returned to government life, helping rebuild war-torn Europe as chairman of the Famine Emergency Commission. He also directed two commissions to review the internal workings of the federal government. Hoover died on October 20, 1964.