Herbert Hoover (Book Review)
Herbert Hoover by David Holford, Eslow Publishers, Berleley Heights, NJ, Copyright 1999, 128 pages
Once again, rather than slog my way through an expensive 400 page length book to learn about Herbert Hoover, I selected a book of 128 pages from the juvenile section of the library. It is written in 6th grade level. All I really knew about Hoover was that he was President when the stock market crashed and that when one diligently cleans out all of the contents of an egg (wasting none of the white) is to “Hooverize” the egg. It was a popular stigma that at one time, Hoover was the most hated man in America. I wanted to know why.
Holford begins the book with a chapter on the Bonus Army. This was a large group of World War I veterans who held certificates that would collect one thousand dollars in 1945. They loudly demanded that the bonus money be paid in 1932 when the Depression was about at the lowest point. Somehow they found the resources to come to Washington D.C. and camp outside the capitol leaving decay and destruction in their wake. When Congress voted no on their demands, they refused to leave. The U.S. Army in an attempt to push the protestors off the capitol grounds set the camp on fire. Hoover took the blame once more although he did not order the extreme measure.
Then Holford starts at the beginning of Hoover’s life in West Branch, Iowa. “Bert” was a sickly child and at one time believed to be dead; the family left him, a two-year old lying on the table with a blanket over his head. When someone saw movement and just then the doctor arrived Hoover survived. One family member prophetically said, “He will do great things some day.” Hoover was orphaned when both parents died. He was 11 years old when he was sent to live with an uncle in Oregon.
He enrolled in Stanford University in its first year open. With scanty education, he took the enrollment test twice to pass. His English composition scores were the blame. He graduated with a degree in geology and entered the field of mining. Although he had a college degree, he was forced to start from the ground up. From that beginning, Hoover learned to be resourceful and respectful of the average working man. Although he prospered in the mining business eventually working in several foreign countries; his beginning was meager. Before becoming President, he was independently wealthy. He was forced to receive pay for serving as President, but he donated all of the money to charities. Only one other President has done that: John F. Kennedy.
Hoover never yearned to be active in government. Woodrow Wilson asked Hoover to go to Europe after World War I to run a relief program to feed those who were left in dire poverty after the War. Harding appointed Hoover as Commerce Secretary and Coolidge left Hoover in place in that cabinet office. During the 1920’s America prospered and the economy boomed. It seemed that everyone wanted a piece of the stock market. The policies of the Coolidge administration helped the economy to thrive.
Overconfident, banks loaned money to people in order for them to buy stock. The loans were unsecured. When the stock market crashed, so did the banks. The Depression was not Hoover’s fault. It was caused by greed, Holford explains.
Hoover went on after his four years as President to continue humanitarian efforts. Truman asked him to go to Europe again after World War II. Truman and Hoover enjoyed a long time friendship as unlikely as that would seem. The book shows a picture of a telegram that Truman sent thanking Hoover for a birthday greeting.
Children were always important to Hoover, and for more than 25 years he was chairman of the Boy’s Club of America that strove to keep boys occupied with good things rather than roam the streets in gangs. He hand wrote thousands of letters to children in reply if they sent him a letter. That practice continued right up to his death in 1964. He was 90 years old. He is buried in the town of his birthplace in West Branch, Iowa. It is also the site of his Presidential Library.
Holford’s presentation of Hoover is a very healthy, honest approach for the fifth or sixth grade reader. I’d recommend his book and other biographies to this age group as well. Holford also incorporates Mrs. Hoover into the biography very well. Like “Bert” she also donated, perhaps millions of dollars, to groups because she never cashed any of the checks she received in speaker fees. I applaud the Hoovers for all they did for our nation.