Assignment Iowa Classics; Hoover Library; 201
This week from West Point.
In 1928 Robert who ran for president of United States he was successful and he became our thirty first president within a year the economy collapsed and we were in the Great Depression.
Most people remember Hoover is the president who failed us during that depression and was soundly defeated by Franklin Roosevelt. But regardless of how one views his presidency it should be remembered that he led a very full and successful life. As a public servant both before and after becoming president. And it all started right here in this house in West Branch in 1874. By the way. Our sources tell us that Hoover himself never did promise a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.
This is the house where Herbert Hoover was born August 10th 1870 for 1871. His father and grandfather.
You know that your the point. People ask you questions. This place is so small.
They must have been. Really poor lower middle class income blacks. But there were only two rooms for instance where did they cook in the winter time right here in the house. But they moved it out to the summer to see how many children do they have here. They had three children.
But we think by time they were three they had enclosed back porch to make another room and then later moved. Right. There. The children often because his father died when he was six but he died of heart failure. And then his mother when he. Heard of typhoid.
When they were all living here for instance is the furniture in here that we see all the authentic stuff.
Is that the real cradle where we think it is. Rethink the cradle in the high chair where his father who knows. Other things like what they had there from the same time period. Where is the blacksmith shop here. The replica of his fathers is right around the corner you just go through the back porch pass a summer kitchen and through the gate youll see it.
The first place and the blacksmith's shop are part of the grounds maintained by the National Park Service is part of the national historic monument to the Hoover and Grant Peterson is the superintendent.
The birth place but what else does the grounds include.
Well you are standing here in the store corridor your portion and include structures which are all of the Hoover period we have a number of houses here which are on the eight hundred sixty nine hundred seventy one. The original on our right of the 10 houses that you see in your media Korea area here six of them are on their original creations were here one who was a child so he would have been familiar with the homes of the people who actually lived in them. What else. Well we also have the friends meeting house which is located just south of the birthplace cottage it was in this meeting house where he worshipped as a child and his mother was quite active in the Friends Society at that time. What are the plans for the future. Plans for the future call for continued restoration of some of the structures within the site removal of non historic structures which do not date to the early. Turn of the century period that's required a great deal of research. Yes yes it is and we make a point of making sure we've done our research before we actually do the work because quite often we surmise certain things ought to be done and research shows otherwise.
This is the goddess of life and her birthplace in Belgium. And by the soldiers and officers of the Belgian army.
And right now we're going to talk with Lawrence Rommel's who is one of the original members of the Herbert Hoover birthplace. Who first got the idea of doing this making this. Into A.
National. Trend nationwide want to. Preserve this book because it was unique. No other birth no other president has been born. As we. Have seen here today. Yes we did. We started in 1933 the year after President Hoover was elected. But Mrs. Sellers didn't want to give up her home even for her. But she passed away 19. The latter part of 34. And in 1935 then the family did become interested in. Cooperating with. Hoover's friends and Hoover's. Friends. And of course. Her family was. We're pleased that people were interested.
Then you were later able to acquire additional ground so that you could have the other parts of it right. Yeah.
This really Hoover's friend contacted me just because I was secretary and 40 or 60 acres of land. Which we finally that was in the year of 1945.
Also on the grounds here is a very it's maintained by the National Archives and Records service under the General Services Administration. And it displays of memorabilia of Mr. Hoover papers after his release over documents here. Now the museum is open to the public library. Mr. HOOVER.
We're now inside the museum in what is called the walnut library book cases which lie in this room are filled with rare manuscripts books rare Chinese vases and memorabilia. We're talking with Mr. Robert Wood who is assistant director of the Hoover library.
Mr. WOOD This is a beautiful beautiful museum and of course it has so many things we can't possibly get them all so we will just sort of do the highlights. But first of all this is the you know the purpose of the museum.
Well we have two functions one is a research center and the other is as a museum depicting the life and career of Mr. food.
What does it contain. Because I've taken the tour but there's so many things it's hard to categorize them in my mind.
Well and in an imperfect way we've tried to outline Mr. Hoover's career in a chronological sequence of events through his early childhood through his engineering career into his early relief operations his Commerce years when he was secretary of commerce the presidency in the post presidential periods.
Mr. Hoover was 55 when he became president but I don't think many people remember his career before that he was a very successful mining engineer wasn't he.
Yes it was and thanks to some people up argued that by when he was became president he was perhaps the best known man in the world. Yet here we are not too many years later and I think he's not too well known by the younger generation of America. He was a very successful engineer by the time he was 35 Some people have argued that he was the highest paid man of his age in the world.
He had there was an interesting story that amused me. Before he went to Australia as a mining consultant he needed to look older so he grew a mustache bought some good clothes and off he went.
Yes I can understand that my father did it in the first world war trying to look old enough to be a captain when he was 19 but. This is true. Mr who was supposed to be 33 years old when he went to Australia and in actuality he was only 23 so his sponsor urged him to grow a mustache which he did do and more for a number of years. When he came back.
Then from Australia he married a girl who was born in Waterloo right. Fracht Yes and they had met at Stanford University.
Yes she was the first geology girl geology major and the University of Stanford.
And interesting woman in her own right. Very interesting who I am sure must have helped him a great deal with his mining career.
She was able to appreciate his mining careers and she had been trained in geology but she was also more than that.
Mr was very shy man and she made up for some of his lack of the social graces and had a very interesting group of. Literary and intellectual friends I'm sure stimulated Mr. Hoover tremendously.
Her name was Lou Henry. And after they were married they went rather quickly didn't they to China.
Yes they went directly from their marriage ceremony to a ship which carried them to China. Here in 1899.
And what was he doing there.
The Chinese government asked Mr. Hoover to be the chief engineer for their Bureau of Mines in the last days the Manchu dynasty and they were trying desperately to institute a reform program which was too little too late.
While while there. Mrs. Hoover started what has become the beautiful collection of china vases China do you have any idea how many there are in the in the collection.
Well it's difficult to tell. I think we have the the bulk of it here. About sixty pieces but they gave some to the Hoover Institution of war revolution and peace at Stanford University and they gave some to Whittier College they built a dormitory on the campus of Whittier and some of these bases. On display there in the dormitory.
He was called according to what I read. A doctor of sick mind. Yes he traveled a great deal in that capacity.
Yes I would think it's safe to say that Mr Hu was our best traveled president. As a mining consultant he traveled around the world and one five. Year period for instance he circled the world five times.
At one point in his career he sat down to try to figure out how many months he'd spend in each country and in doing this he estimated that he'd spend two and a half years at sea between eighteen ninety five thousand nine hundred fourteen.
Think how many places he could have gotten in the jet age. Oh yes different time yeah. While he was in Russia. One point he found out about something called The Tommyknockers. When you tell us what that is.
Well. He discovered that no matter where you went and what nationality he was dealing with the miners had a common superstition that spirits or. Leprechaun mind. Spirits and habit of these minds and were an aid and a guy to the miners and we have in our collection one of the numerous so-called Tommyknockers these these castings that the miners made up depicting the spirits of both Mr. and Mrs. Hoover.
Were of course very well-read and extremely intelligent. They collaborated on a translation of a book about mining. Was that a translation from the Latin.
Yes Duran metalic is written by a German who'd taken a Latinized name of Agricola and it's interesting that in the last moon shot. Civilian geologists accompanied the astronauts and he named one of the mountain ranges on the moon in honor of this text because it's a primary text in early medieval mining techniques and used in geology and mining in schools today. It is. Yeah I didn't realize the problem was they couldn't translate the technical terms because Latin being a dead language the author had to make up words and.
Mr. and Mrs. who were with their knowledge of geology and engineering. Plus Mrs. Hoover's knowledge of Latin were able to break this code and translated in English.
There are two threads which seem to me to run through Herbert Hoover's life. One was his interest in ecology and the land partly because I suppose of his career in mining and partly because his love of fishing and the outdoors. You know what the other was children and their hunger and their welfare.
Well I think it started before World War 1 and the relief program.
Oh I definitely think so. Mr. Hoover as soon as he began earning a salary used to tie themself and send the money to a friend in Palau to assist young students who were in need.
As he had been and the time he was going through college and this was an effort I think in his part to be of service. But also I think as an engineer and as an orphan himself he recognized that children were our most precious resource and we had to do everything we could to preserve that resource was a matter of humanity but also there was an element of the efficiency in there.
Would you tell us about the relief work that he did after World War 1.
Well after both wars mr who were 16 seemingly active as director of relief operations during the war he had directed the Belgian Relief Program which was the first massive relief program and in world history and. Controlled all food production as well as imported food into Belgium. I was four years some 12 million people.
He then carried on as director general of the European relief director of European rail systems are alternating chairman of the supreme economic council the first side conference as well. Mr Wilson's chief advisors and in this capacity he was feeding hundreds of millions of people in Europe and the Middle East as well.
Was that call the America really through administration. Yeah.
And. Then when this government operation shut down he continued a children's really fun to carry the children through yet another year for relief through hot lunch programs in the schools throughout this area.
One of the things that is I think most beautiful in the museum is the display that you have of the flower sack which I believe will you tell the story.
Well these are more or less visual thank yous from the people of Belgium and Northern France. When Mr. who was director of that relief operation these are flour sacks that are embroidered. Some have original designs and some are merely outlining the stamp that's on the side of the flowers.
Now the Russian famine was what in the 900 21 21 21 22. Yeah. What did he do during that period.
Well the United States from the inception of the Russian Revolution had offered to aid this new government. Under certain circumstances. We insisted that the food be distributed by Americans so that it could not be perverted from military or political purposes. And the Russians for a number of years resisted this but the famine became so intense that finally Maxim Gorky the famous writer. Wrote Mr. Hoover and ask him to institute such a program under these conditions and we were able to say by the Russian's statement at least. 12 million lines and they the Soviet government formally thank Mr. Hoover and sent him a scroll which was put within and laid box within a carved box and shipped it as a gesture of thanks not only to Mr. Hoover but to the American people for their role in this relief.
That's a very interesting display here in the museum. The way he was secretary of commerce. Yes summary of greatest accomplishments. Do you feel as as Secretary.
Well it's it's hard to pin that down I think Mr. who was perhaps the most active cabinet member we've had since Alexander Hamilton. He was all over all over the lot so to speak.
He was our dominant voice on labor matters and I might add the liberal voice within the Harding Coolidge cabinet some labor matter and the eight hour day I think is one of his primary accomplishments and I think he was particularly proud of this achievement because it was done without formal legislation it was done through the bringing to bear the force of public opinion in the United States Steel Corporation to finally Institute three eight hour shifts rather than two 12 hour shifts. He is the author of the first river and harbor Pollution Act which was a landmark in 1924 and we don't get another one until nineteen forty four. He was one of the prime movers in the simplification and standardization movement the United States which gave this country a tremendous jump on the rest of the world because we had standardised threads.
For knots and standardized interchangeable parts when others had not gone into this. If you've ever been to Europe and have to use it down there I wasn't aware about such things with bottles or. Standardized size of bottles. There were 44 different sizes of bricks and got them to reduce this down there were I think. 13 sizes a bed springs and bedding mattresses and sheets set Reason why don't you have you know three king size queen and regular.
Yeah. And then here's this magnificently accomplished man as you pointed out one who certainly came to the office with. A great background at the exact wrong time in history and is remembered for the depression. Yes. How would you characterize his presidency.
Well I think you've already touched upon part of the problem and that is that. He was unfortunate enough to come to the presidency just at the wrong moment at the same time I think the United States is extremely fortunate having had him at that particular moment because I don't think any man had a greater broader grasp of the economic and political problems in the United States than Mr. HOOVER. He chaired a four year study on unemployment. The United States during the commerce years he chaired a three year study on business cycles. His response to the depression really was twofold. He said it boils down to two things credit and confidence and private care credit contracts the government must step in and provide government credit through the Reconstruction Finance Corporation through the federal farm loans and the land banks and through the federal home loan banks. That was to provide credit.
The other thing was to try to stabilize the American people emotionally that the depression was a gigantic nervous breakdown. And the first thing that the president had to do was try to stabilize the emotional. The state of mind of the people so that they would then begin to reinvest into the economy and get things back on a normal healing and I think this is what he attempted to do. Whether Letterman is calling him the first active US president in that he took the most active response to oppression and used every two to progressives and then invented a few more.
As Will Rogers said in this booklet you have Mr. Hoover we all knew that you was handed a balloon that was blowed up to its utmost. You held it as carefully as anyone could. But the thing busted right in your hands.
That's right you and I might add that he was a staunch Democrat.
Yeah I know. Do you feel there is a how do you feel about a re-evaluation of the Hoover presidency hasn't really taken place particularly now when in today's politics they say let's get the government off our back.
Well I think this is occurring yes. And I find it interesting that it's coming from the New Young left historians. They recognize that many of the things that Mr. Hu was talking about in the long term have come to pass and that in many ways he was a prophet that wasn't honored in his own time. That his concerns were very real concerns. As a politician this is one of his shortcomings. Instead of looking at a program and how will this affect the next election. He looked at it and said How will this affect the quality of American life.
Fifty years from now and then as a result he he rejected some of the short term perhaps popular proposals made. In defense of what he felt was some of the basic qualities of life for the American people.
Interesting that after his presidency. He became. He received more nanny awards he was called by really every president who followed him wasn't yes except Roosevelt. Well yes. Yeah.
Starting with Truman although they have been very good friends at one time. Who were actually Roosevelt had wanted Mr Hoover to be the Democratic nominee in 1920 and said he'd be his running mate since there could be no finer president and in fact Truman asked Mr. Hoover to do a number of chores for and post war famine Emergency Relief Program. Special survey of Austria and Germany which Ramos said was the beginning of the Marshall. Plan. The first Hoover Commission the reorganization of the government. And then Eisenhower asked him of course to be. Had the second Hoover Commission and Mr. Hoover son was undersecretary of state during the Eisenhower administration.
What did Mr. Hoover himself feel about all of this. Do we know from his proclamation from his letter writing from what he had said to friends and family. About the misrepresentations you know about his becoming. Really such a public figure after the terrible things that he went through as president.
Well I think he was grateful and he was grateful to Truman for bringing him back into public service and they became warm friends saying agreed to disagree.
I think you said strangely fortunate to live long enough to see the American people really appraise his contributions and recognize that he gave 50 years of public service without any compensation and that he was a dedicated servant of the people. Did you meet Mr. HOOVER.
No I never had that privilege Mr. Thaw Can he was the director of the library worked for him for a number of years as his archivist out at Stanford University.
How do you personally feel about this man because you work here. All of the time and amongst the memories of the memorabilia.
Well I've been here for seven years and each year that.
That I'm here I'm become more. Fascinated with the man.
His energy his dedication to public service his humanity his long range perspective.
I. M to menace Lee.
In what way was he unique.
Well if he was. A political figure who is a non politician. And he took the long range view of America he tried to rationalize our problems in a very systematic way and he put political considerations second in his priorities and I think this made him unique. This may be one of his weaknesses though at the same time. I guess where the Part A President must be political. In order to be totally sure just have to survive in politic That's right.
All right thank you very much Mr. Wynn. Thank you Herbert Hoover died in 1964 at the age of 90 and was brought back to West Branch before he died he warned about what he called the cult of the common man which he felt with the cult of mediocrity. Having. No money.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
- Assignment Iowa Classics
- Hoover Library
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Interviewer: Mary Jane Odell [Chin]
Producing Organization: Iowa Public Television
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Iowa Public Television
Identifier: 24F10 (Old Tape Number)
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- Chicago: “Assignment Iowa Classics; Hoover Library; 201,” 1976-00-00, Iowa Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 22, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_37-322bvt3f.
- MLA: “Assignment Iowa Classics; Hoover Library; 201.” 1976-00-00. Iowa Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 22, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_37-322bvt3f>.
- APA: Assignment Iowa Classics; Hoover Library; 201. Boston, MA: Iowa Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_37-322bvt3f