Herbert Hoover Biography

Herbert Hoover was the 31st president of the United States. Born: Iowa village in 1874. Attended Stanford University. Married Lou Henry. Served as Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Harding and Coolidge. Republican Presidential nominee in 1928. Served as President from 1929 to 1933. Hoover became the scapegoat for the depression and was defeated in 1932. Died at age of 90 in New York City, October 20, 1964.

Herbert Hoover Biography:
Herbert Clark Hoover (August 10, 1874 - October 20, 1964) was the thirty-first President of the United States (1929-1933). Besides his political career, Hoover was a professional mining engineer and author. As the United States Secretary of Commerce in the 1920s under Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, he promoted government intervention under the rubric "economic modernization". In the presidential election of 1928 Hoover easily won the Republican nomination. The nation was prosperous and optimistic, leading to a landslide for Hoover over Democrat Al Smith, whom many voters distrusted because of his Roman Catholicism. Hoover deeply believed in the Efficiency Movement (a major component of the Progressive Era), arguing that a technical solution existed for every social and economic problem. That position was challenged by the Great Depression, which began in 1929, the first year of his presidency. Hoover tried to combat the Depression with volunteer efforts and government action, none of which produced economic recovery during his term. The consensus among historians is that Hoover's defeat in the 1932 election was caused primarily by failure to end the downward spiral into deep Depression, compounded by popular opposition to prohibition. Other electoral liabilities were Hoover's lack of charisma in relating to voters, and his poor skills in working with politicians.

Hoover was born in West Branch, Iowa. He was the first President to be born west of the Mississippi River. His father, Jesse, was a blacksmith and farm implement store owner, of German (Pfautz, Wehmeyer) and German-Swiss (Huber, Burkhart) descent. His mother, Hulda (Minthorn) Hoover, was of English and Irish (probably Scots-Irish) descent. Both were Quakers. His father died in 1880, and his mother in 1884, leaving Hoover an orphan at the age of 9. After a brief stay with one of his grandmothers in Kingsley, Iowa, Herbert lived for the next 18 months with his uncle Allen Hoover in West Branch. In November 1885, he went to live in Newberg, Oregon with his uncle John Minthorn, whose own son had died the year before. For two and a half years, Herbert attended Friends Pacific Academy (now George Fox University), then subsequently worked as office boy in his uncle's real estate office in Salem. Though he did not attend high school, the young Hoover attended night school and learned bookkeeping, typing, and math. Hoover entered Leland Stanford Junior University in 1891, the first year of the new California college. None of the first students were required to pay tuition. Hoover claimed to be the first student ever at Stanford, by virtue of having been the first person in the first class to sleep in the dormitory. While at the university, he was the student manager of both the baseball and football teams, and was a part of the inaugural Big Game versus rival California (Stanford won). Hoover graduated in 1895 with a degree in geology.

Hoover was to serve as an active mining engineer and consultant for nearly twenty years. He began his career working for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) during his sophomore and junior summers at Stanford (1893 and 1894). His duties took him to California and Nevada. He was able to save his entire salary. Upon graduation he had $40 (about $1200 in 2008 dollars) to his name and no debts. He then worked as a common miner for a few years to learn the practical aspects of mining. In spite of his college degree, he soon became highly respected by the other miners. Hoover went to Australia as an employee of a London-based mine operator named Bewick, Moreing and Company in 1897. He served as a geologist/mining engineer, leading a major program of expansion for the Sons of Gwalia gold mine at Gwalia, Western Australia. Hoover worked at gold mines in Big Bell, Cue, Leonora, Menzies and Coolgardie. Hoover married his Stanford sweetheart, Lou Henry, in 1899. Next they went to China, where Hoover worked for a private corporation as China's leading engineer. Hoover and his wife picked up Mandarin Chinese while he worked in China and used it during his tenure at the White House when they didn't want to be overheard. The Boxer Rebellion trapped the Hoovers in Tianjin in June 1900. For almost a month the settlement was under heavy fire. The Hoovers had two sons, Herbert Clark (1903-1969) and Allan Henry (1907-1993). Hoover was made a partner in Bewick, Moreing & Co. in 1901, and assumed responsibility for various Australian operations. In August-September 1905, Hoover achieved a technological innovation. When visiting the mines at Broken Hill, New South Wales, he noticed considerable zinc in the Broken Hill lead-silver ore, which could not be recovered and was lost as tailings. Hoover devised a practical and profitable method to use the then-new froth flotation process to treat these tailings and recover the zinc. With William Baillieu and others, he founded the Zinc Corporation (later, following various mergers, a part of Rio Tinto). Hoover was determined to cut costs and undermine the growing strength of the Australian labor movement. He became an independent mining consultant in 1908, traveling worldwide until the outbreak of World War I in 1914. His lectures at Columbia and Stanford universities were published as Principles of Mining in 1909, which became a standard textbook. Hoover and his wife also published their English translation of the 1556 mining classic De re metallica in 1912. This translation from the Latin of Renaissance author Georgius Agricola is still the most important scholarly version and provides its historical context.

When World War I started in August 1914, he helped organize 120,000 American tourists and businessmen to return to the US from Europe. Hoover led five hundred volunteers to pass out food, clothing, steamship tickets and cash.

Belgium faced a food crisis in fall 1914 after being invaded by Germany. Hoover undertook an unprecedented relief effort as head of the Committee for Relief in Belgium. He worked with Emile Francqui, who led the Belgian National Relief and Food Committee (CRB according to its French acronym). The CRB became, in effect, an independent republic of relief, with its own flag, navy, factories, mills and railroads. Voluntary donations and government grants supplied an $11-million-a-month budget. Hoover worked 14-hour days from London for the next two years administering the distribution of over two and half million tons of foodstuffs to nine million war victims. In an early form of shuttle diplomacy, he crossed the North Sea forty times to persuade the enemies in Berlin to allow food to reach the war's victims. He was an international hero. The Belgian city of Leuven named a prominent square after him. In honor of his two years of humanitarian work, the Finns added the word hoover, meaning "to help," to their language. After the United States entered the war in April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Hoover head of the American Food Administration. Hoover believed "food will win the war." He established set days to encourage people to avoid eating particular foods in order to save them for soldiers' rations: meatless Mondays, wheatless Wednesdays, and "when in doubt, eat potatoes." This system helped conserve food for the war. He helped reduce consumption of foodstuffs needed overseas and avoided rationing at home (dubbed "Hooverizing" by government propagandists. Hoover himself continually - and with little success - gave orders that publicity should not mention him by name, but rather should focus entirely on the Food Administration itself). After the war, as a member of the Supreme Economic Council and head of the American Relief Administration, Hoover organized shipments of food for millions of starving people in Central Europe. He used a newly formed Quaker organization, the American Friends Service Committee, to carry out much of the logistical work in Europe. Hoover provided food aid to the post-war German people as well as famine-stricken Bolshevist Russia in 1921 in spite of the opposition of Henry Cabot Lodge and other Senate Republicans. When a critic inquired if he was not thus helping Bolshevism, Hoover retorted, "Twenty million people are starving. Whatever their politics, they shall be fed!" At war's end, the New York Times named Hoover one of the "Ten Most Important Living Americans". Hoover realized that he was in a unique position to collect information about the Great War and its aftermath. Hoover confronted a world of political possibilities when he returned home in 1919. Democratic party bosses at one point looked on him as a potential candidate for the presidency. Hoover rejected the Democratic call, confessing he could not run for a party whose only member in his boyhood home had been the town drunk. In 1919 he pledged $50,000 to Stanford University to support his Hoover War Collection. He donated to the University the extensive files of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, the U.S. Food Administration, and the American Relief Administration. Scholars were sent to Europe to collect pamphlets, society publications, government documents, newspapers, posters, proclamations, and other ephemeral materials related to the war and the revolutions and political movements that had followed it. The collection was later renamed the Hoover War Library and is now known as the Hoover Institution.

Some party leaders (including Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, who privately preferred Hoover as his successor) touted Hoover as a possible Democratic Party presidential candidate in 1920. Hoover believed that 1920 would be a Republican year, and he had no desire to tie himself to a party that was destined for defeat, and thus could accomplish little. Hoover had been a registered Republican before the war, but was briefly willing to join the Democrats in 1920; he had already bolted the party once in 1912 to support Theodore Roosevelt's "Bull Moose" Progressive Party. Announcing himself as a Republican and available for the nomination, he placed his name on the ballot in the California state primary, where he came close to beating the popular Hiram Johnson. By failing to win in his home state, however, Hoover relegated himself to dark horse contender at the convention. Even when it deadlocked over several ballots between Illinois Governor Frank Lowden and Army General Leonard Wood, few delegates seriously considered turning to Hoover as their compromise choice. Although he had personal misgivings about the capability of the nominee, Warren G. Harding, Hoover publicly endorsed him, and made a pair of speeches on Harding's behalf. President Harding in 1921 offered a reward for Hoover's support: either Secretary of the Interior or Secretary of Commerce, ultimately choosing Commerce. Established just eight years earlier following the division of the earlier Department of Commerce and Labor, Commerce was considered a minor Cabinet post, a department with limited and somewhat vaguely defined responsibilities. But Hoover aimed to change that, envisioning the Commerce Department as the hub of the nation's growth and stability. He demanded from Harding, and received, authority to help coordinate economic affairs throughout the government. He created a great many sub-departments and committees, overseeing and regulating everything from manufacturing statistics, the census, and radio to air travel. In some instances, he "seized" control of responsibilities from other Cabinet departments when he deemed that they were not carrying out their responsibilities well enough. Hoover became one of the most visible men in the country, often overshadowing Presidents Harding and Calvin Coolidge. Washington wags were soon referring to Hoover as "the Secretary of Commerce...and Under-Secretary of Everything Else!" As secretary and later as President, Hoover revolutionized the relations between business and government. Rejecting the adversarial stance of Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson, he sought to make the Commerce Department a powerful service organization, empowered to forge cooperative voluntary partnerships between government and business. This philosophy is often called "associationalism." Many of Hoover's efforts as Commerce Secretary centered on the elimination of waste and the increase of efficiency in business and industry. This included reducing labor losses from trade disputes and seasonal fluctuations, reducing industrial losses from accident and injury, and reducing the amount of crude oil spilled during extraction and shipping. One major achievement was to promote progressive ideals in the areas of standardization products and designs. His "Own Your Own Home" campaign was a collaboration to promote ownership of single-family dwellings, with groups such as the Better Houses in America movement, the Architects' Small House Service Bureau, and the Home Modernizing Bureau. He worked with bankers and the savings and loan industry to promote the new long-term home mortgage, which dramatically stimulated home construction.

Hoover's radio conferences played a key role in the early organization, development and regulation of radio broadcasting. Hoover played a key role in major projects for navigation, irrigation of dry lands, electrical power, and flood control. As the new air transport industry developed, Hoover held a conference on aviation to promote codes and regulations. He became president of the American Child Health Organization, and he raised private funds to promote health education in schools and communities. Although he continued to consider Harding ill-suited to be President, the two men nevertheless became friends. Hoover accompanied Harding on his final trip out West in 1923. It was Hoover who called for a specialist to tend to the ailing Chief Executive, and it was also Hoover who contacted the White House to inform them of the President's death. The Commerce Secretary headed the group of dignitaries accompanying Harding's body back to the capital. By the end of Hoover's service as Secretary, he had raised the status of the Department of Commerce. This was reflected in its modern headquarters built during the Roosevelt Administration in the 1930s in the Federal Triangle in Washington D.C.

As Commerce secretary, Hoover also hosted two national conferences on street traffic, in 1924 and 1926 (a third convened in 1930, during Hoover's presidency). Collectively the meetings were called the National Conference on Street and Highway Safety. Hoover's chief objective was to address the growing casualty toll of traffic accidents, but the scope grew and soon embraced motor vehicle standards, rules of the road, and urban traffic control. He left the invited interest groups to negotiate agreements among themselves, which were then presented for adoption by states and localities. Because automotive trade associations were the best organized, many of the positions taken by the conferences reflected their interests.

The Great Mississippi River flood broke the banks and levees of the lower Mississippi River in early 1927, resulting in flooding of millions of acres and leaving thousands of people homeless. Although such a disaster did not fall under the duties of the Commerce Department, the governors of six states along the Mississippi specifically asked for Herbert Hoover in the emergency. President Calvin Coolidge sent Hoover to mobilize state and local authorities, militia, army engineers, Coast Guard, and the American Red Cross. With a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, Hoover set up health units to work in the flooded regions for a year. These workers stamped out malaria, pellagra, and typhoid fever from many areas. His work during the flood brought Herbert Hoover to the front page of newspapers almost everywhere, and he gained new accolades as a humanitarian. The great victory of his relief work, he stressed, was not that the government rushed in and provided all assistance. Rather, it was that much of the assistance available was provided instead by private citizens and organizations in response to Hoover's appeals.

When President Coolidge declined to run for a second full term of office in 1927, Herbert Hoover became the leading Republican candidate for the 1928 election, despite the fact Coolidge was lukewarm on Hoover (the President often derided his ambitious and popular Commerce Secretary as "Wonder Boy"). His only real challenger was Frank Lowden. Hoover received much favorable press coverage in the months leading up to the convention. Lowden's campaign manager complained the newspapers were full of "nothing but advertisements for Herbert Hoover and Fletcher's Castoria." Hoover’s reputation, experience, and public popularity coalesced to give him the nomination on the first ballot, with Senator Charles Curtis named as his running mate.

He campaigned on the basis of efficiency and prosperity against Democratic candidate Alfred E. Smith. Smith was the target of anti-Catholicism from some Protestant communities, much to Hoover's advantage. Both Hoover and Smith positioned themselves as pro-business, and each promised to improve conditions for farmers, reform immigration laws, and maintain America's isolationist foreign policy. Where they differed was on the Volstead Act. Smith was a "wet" who called for its repeal, whereas Hoover gave public support for Prohibition, calling it an experiment "noble in purpose." What few voters knew, however, was Hoover was lukewarm in his support for Volstead in private, and for years after work at the Commerce Department would stop by the Belgian Embassy for a visit with friends. While there, as it was technically foreign soil, he was able to enjoy an alcoholic drink before heading for home. Hoover used to grumble that all Prohibition successfully did was to force him to dispose of his celebrated wine cellar. Prohibition provided a means for Hoover's supporters to attack the democratic candidate Al Smith. Because the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion these attacks were frowned upon politically. Being labeled as an "anti-prohibitionist drunkard" was allowed politically. Hoover also created the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and the Anti-Saloon League to support prohibition. Historians agree Hoover's national reputation and the booming economy, combined with the deep splits in the Democratic party over religion and prohibition, guaranteed his landslide victory of 58% of the vote. Hoover managed to crack the so-called "Solid South," winning such traditionally Democratic states as Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas and Tennessee from Smith. Herbert Hoover's wife, Lou Henry Hoover, came to the White House, unlike her predecessors as First Ladies. She had already carved out a reputation of her own, having graduated from Stanford as the only woman in her class with a degree in geology. Although she had never practiced her profession formally, she remained very much a new woman of the post-World War I era: intelligent, robust, and possessed of a sense of female possibilities. On poverty, Hoover promised: "We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land." Within months, the Stock Market Crash of 1929 occurred, and the nation's economy spiraled downward into what became known as the Great Depression.

After his successful election in November 1928, Hoover entered office with a plan for reform of the nation's regulatory system. A dedicated Progressive and Reformer, Hoover saw the presidency as a vehicle for improving the conditions of all Americans by regulation and by encouraging volunteerism. As Commerce Secretary he had taken an active pro-regulation stance. As President, he helped push tariff and farm support bills through Congress. Hoover held a press conference for reporters his first day in office, promising a "new phase of press relations." He told the group to elect a committee comprised of journalists, who could recommend improvements to the White House press conference. Hoover declined to use a spokesman, instead asking reporters to directly quote him and giving them handouts with his statements ahead of time. In his first 120 days in office, he held more regular and frequent press conferences than any other President, before or since. He changed his press policies after the 1929 stock market crash, screening reporters and greatly reducing his availability. Hoover expanded civil service coverage of Federal positions, canceled private oil leases on government lands, and by instructing the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service to go after gangsters for tax evasion, he enabled the prosecution of gangster Al Capone. He appointed a commission which set aside 3 million acres (12,000 km²) of national parks and 2.3 million acres (9,000 km²) of national forests; advocated tax reduction for low-income Americans (not enacted); closed certain tax loopholes for the wealthy; doubled the number of veteran's hospital facilities; negotiated a treaty on St. Lawrence Seaway (which failed in the U.S. Senate); wrote a Children's Charter that advocated protection of every child regardless of race or gender; built the San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge; created an antitrust division in the Justice Department; required air mail carriers to adopt stricter safety measures and improve service; proposed federal loans for urban slum clearances (not enacted); organized the Federal Bureau of Prisons; reorganized the Bureau of Indian Affairs; instituted prison reform; proposed a federal Department of Education (not enacted); advocated fifty-dollar-per-month pensions for Americans over 65 (not enacted); chaired White House conferences on child health, protection, homebuilding and homeownership; began construction of the Boulder Dam (later renamed Hoover Dam); and signed the Norris-La Guardia Act that limited judicial intervention in labor disputes.

On November 19, 1928, Hoover embarked on a seven-week goodwill tour of several Latin American nations to explain his economic and trade policies to other nations in the Western hemisphere. While in Argentina, he escaped an assassination attempt by Argentine anarchists led by Severino Di Giovanni, who attempted to blow up the railroad car in which he was traveling. The plotters had an itinerary of Hoover's rail journey, complete with dates and times of arrival, but the bomber was arrested before he could place the explosives on the rails. Hoover himself never mentioned the incident, and his complimentary remarks on Argentina were well-received in both the host country and in the press. In foreign relations, Hoover began formulating what would later become Roosevelt's Good Neighbor policy following the 1930 release of the Clark Memorandum, by withdrawing American troops from Nicaragua and Haiti; he also proposed an arms embargo on Latin America and a one-third reduction of the world's naval power, which was called the Hoover Plan. The Roosevelt Corollary ceased being part of U.S. foreign policy. In response to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, he and Secretary of State Henry Stimson outlined the Hoover-Stimson Doctrine that said the United States would not recognize territories gained by force. During his presidency, Hoover mediated between Chile and Peru to solve a conflict on the sovereignty of Arica and Tacna that in 1883 by the Treaty of Ancón had been awarded to Chile for ten years, to be followed by a plebiscite that had never happened. By the Tacna-Arica compromise at the Treaty of Lima in 1929, Chile kept Arica, and Peru regained Tacna.

Hoover's stance on the economy was based largely on volunteerism. From before his entry to the presidency, he was a proponent of the concept that public-private cooperation was the way to achieve high long-term growth. Hoover feared that too much intervention or coercion by the government would destroy individuality and self-reliance, which he considered to be important American values. Those ideals, as well as the economy were put to the test with the onset of The Great Depression. At the outset of the Depression, Hoover claims in his memoirs that he rejected Treasury Secretary Mellon's suggested "leave-it-alone" approach. His policies, however, had little or no effect. As the economy quickly deteriorated in the early years of the Great Depression, Hoover declined to pursue legislative relief, believing that it would make people dependent on the federal government. Instead, he organized a number of voluntary measures with businesses, encouraged state and local government responses, and accelerated federal building projects. Only toward the end of his term did he support a series of legislative solutions. In 1929, President Hoover authorized the Mexican Repatriation program. To combat rampant unemployment, the burden on municipal aid services, and remove people seen as usurpers of American jobs, the program was largely a forced migration of an estimated 500,000 Mexicans and Mexican Americans to Mexico. The program continued through 1937. Congress approved the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in 1930. The legislation, which raised tariffs on thousands of imported items, was signed into law by President Hoover in June 1930. The intent of the Act was to encourage the purchase of American-made products by increasing the cost of imported goods, while raising revenue for the federal government and protecting farmers. However, economic depression now spread through much of the world, and other nations increased tariffs on American-made goods in retaliation, reducing international trade, and worsening the Depression. In 1931, Hoover issued the Hoover Moratorium, calling for a one-year halt in reparation payments by Germany to France and in the payment of Allied war debts to the United States. The plan was met with much opposition, especially from France, who saw significant losses to Germany during World War I. The Moratorium did little to ease economic declines. As the moratorium neared its expiration the following year, an attempt to find a permanent solution was made at the Lausanne Conference of 1932. A working compromise was never established, and by the start of World War II, reparations had stopped completely. President Hoover, in 1931, urged the major banks in the country to form a consortium known as the National Credit Corporation (NCC). The NCC was an excellent example of Hoover's belief in volunteerism as a mechanism in aiding the economy. Hoover encouraged the member banks of the NCC to provide loans to smaller banks in order to prevent them from collapsing. Unfortunately, the banks within the NCC were often reluctant to provide loans, usually requiring banks to provide their largest assets as collateral. It quickly became apparent that the NCC would be incapable of fixing the problems it was designed to solve, and it was abandoned in favor of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. By 1932, the Great Depression had spread across the globe. In the U.S., unemployment had reached 24.9%, a drought persisted in the agricultural heartland, businesses and families defaulted on record numbers of loans, and more than 5,000 banks had failed. Tens-of-thousands of Americans found themselves homeless and they began congregating in the numerous Hoovervilles (also known as shanty towns or tent cities) that had begun to appear across the country. The name 'Hooverville' was coined by their residents as a sign of their disappointment and frustration with the perceived lack of assistance from the federal government. In response, President Hoover and Congress approved the Federal Home Loan Bank Act, to spur new home construction, and reduce foreclosures. The plan seemed to work, as foreclosures dropped, but it was seen as too little, too late. Prior to the start of the Depression, Hoover's first Treasury Secretary, Andrew Mellon, had proposed, and saw enacted, numerous tax cuts, which cut the top income tax rate from 73% to 24%. When combined with the sharp decline in incomes during the early depression, the result was a serious deficit in the federal budget. Congress, desperate to increase federal revenue, enacted the Revenue Act of 1932. The Act increased taxes across the board, and the percentage increased with income, to near pre-1928 levels for top income earners. It also implemented a 13.75% tax on corporations. The final attempt of the Hoover Administration to rescue the economy was the passage of the Emergency Relief and Construction Act which included funds for public works programs and the creation of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) in 1932. The RFC's initial goal was to provide government-secured loans to financial institutions, railroads and farmers. The RFC had minimal impact at the time, but was adopted by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and greatly expanded as part of his New Deal.

In order to pay for these and other government programs, Hoover agreed to one of the largest tax increases in American history. The Revenue Act of 1932 raised income tax on the highest incomes from 25% to 63%. The estate tax was doubled and corporate taxes were raised by almost 15%. Also, a "check tax" was included that placed a 2-cent tax (over 30 cents in today's dollars) on all bank checks. Hoover also encouraged Congress to investigate the New York Stock Exchange, and this pressure resulted in various reforms.

National debt expressed as a fraction of gross national product climbs from 20% to 40% under Hoover; levels off under FDR; soars during World War II. Franklin D. Roosevelt blasted the Republican incumbent for spending and taxing too much, increasing national debt, raising tariffs and blocking trade, as well as placing millions on the dole of the government. Roosevelt attacked Hoover for "reckless and extravagant" spending, of thinking "that we ought to center control of everything in Washington as rapidly as possible," and of leading "the greatest spending administration in peacetime in all of history." These policies pale beside the more drastic steps taken later as part of the New Deal. Hoover's opponents charge that his policies came too little, and too late, and did not work. Even as he asked Congress for legislation, he reiterated his view that while people must not suffer from hunger and cold, caring for them must be primarily a local and voluntary responsibility. Unemployment rose to 24.9% by the end of Hoover's presidency in 1933, at the depth of the Great Depression. However, as a result of his latter actions, such as the Revenue Act of 1932, unemployment steadily decreased over the next four years. Hoover also vetoed the Muscle Shoals Bill in 1931, which would have provided cheap energy to the Tennessee river valley, which could have silenced some critics.

Although Hoover had come to detest the presidency, he agreed to run again in 1932, both as a matter of pride, but also because he feared that no other likely Republican candidate would deal with the depression without resorting to dangerously radical measures. Hoover was nominated by the Republicans for a second term. He had originally planned to make only one or two major speeches, and to leave the rest of the campaigning to proxies, but when polls showed the entire Republican ticket facing a resounding defeat at the polls, Hoover agreed to an expanded schedule of public addresses. In his nine major radio addresses Hoover primarily defended his administration and his philosophy. In his campaigns around the country, Hoover was faced with perhaps the most hostile crowds any sitting president had ever faced. He lost the election by a huge margin, winning only six out of 48 states. After the defeat, Hoover's attempts to reach out to Roosevelt to help calm investors and begin to resolve the economic problems facing the country were rebuffed.

Thousands of World War I veterans and their families demonstrated and camped out in Washington, D.C., during June 1932, calling for immediate payment of a bonus that had been promised by the Adjusted Service Certificate Law for payment in 1924. Although offered money by Congress to return home, some members of the "Bonus army" remained. Washington police attempted to remove the demonstrators from their camp, but they were outnumbered and thereby unsuccessful. Shots were fired by the police in a futile attempt to attain order, and two protesters were killed while many officers were injured. Hoover sent U.S. Army forces led by General Douglas MacArthur and helped by junior officers Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton to stop a march. MacArthur, believing he was fighting a communist revolution, chose to clear out the camp with military force. In the ensuing clash, hundreds of civilians were injured. Hoover had actually sent orders that the Army was to not move on the encampment, but MacArthur chose to ignore the command. Hoover was incensed, but refused to reprimand MacArthur. The entire incident was another devastating negative for Hoover in the 1932 election. That led New York governor and Democratic presidential candidate Franklin Roosevelt to declare of Hoover: "There is nothing inside the man but jelly!" Hoover suffered a large defeat at the election, obtaining 39.7% of the popular vote to Roosevelt's 57.4%. Hoover's popular vote was reduced by 26% from his result in the 1928 election. In the electoral college he carried only Pennsylvania, Delaware, and a handful of Northeast states and lost 59 - 472. The Democrats also extended their control over the U.S. House and gained control of the U.S. Senate.

Herbert Hoover liked to get behind the wheel of his car, accompanied only by his wife, or a friend (former Presidents did not get Secret Service protection until the 1960s), and drive for hundreds or thousands of miles on wandering journeys, visiting Western mining camps or small towns where he often went unrecognized, or heading up to the mountains, or deep into the woods, to go fishing in relative solitude. A year before his death, his own fishing days behind him, he published Fishing For Fun And To Wash Your Soul, the last of his more than sixteen books. Although many of his friends and supporters called upon Hoover to speak out against Franklin Delano Roosevelt's (FDR) "New Deal" and to assume his place as the voice of the "loyal opposition", he refused to do so for many years after leaving the White House, and he largely kept himself out of the public spotlight until late in 1934. The relationship between Hoover and Roosevelt was one of the most strained between Presidents ever. While Hoover had little good to say about his successor, there was little he could do. FDR, however, supposedly could and did engage in various petty official acts aimed at his predecessor, ranging from dropping him from the White House birthday greetings message list to having Hoover's name struck from the Hoover Dam along the Colorado River border, which would officially be known only as Boulder Dam for many years to come. In 1936, Hoover entertained hopes of receiving the Republican presidential nomination once again, and thus facing Roosevelt in a rematch. However, although he retained strong support among some delegates, there was never much hope of his being selected. He publicly endorsed the nominee, Kansas Governor Alf Landon, although privately he worried that Landon was too willing to accept the New Deal policies. But Hoover might as well have been the nominee, since the Democrats virtually ignored Landon, and they ran against the former President himself, constantly attacking him in speeches and warning that a Landon victory would put Hoover back in the White House as the secret power "behind the throne". Roosevelt won 46 of the 48 states, burying Landon in the Electoral College, and the Republican Party in Congress in another landslide. Although Hoover's reputation was at its low point, circumstances would now begin to develop that would help rehabilitate his name and restore him to a position of prominence in the life of the nation. Roosevelt overreached on his Supreme Court packing plan, and a further financial recession in 1937 and 1938 tarnished his image of invincibility. By 1940, Hoover was again being spoken of as the possible nominee of the party. Although he trailed in the polls behind Thomas Dewey, Arthur Vandenberg, and his own former protege, Robert A. Taft, he still had considerable first-ballot delegate strength, and it was believed that if the convention deadlocked between the leading candidates, the party might turn to him as its compromise. However, the convention nominated the utility company president Wendell Willkie, who had supported Roosevelt in 1932 but turned against him after the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority forced him to sell his company. Hoover dutifully supported Willkie, although he despaired that the nominee endorsed a platform that, to Hoover, was little more than the New Deal in all but name. Following 1940, Hoover never again considered holding public office, even when the opportunity to return seemingly presented itself.

With the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939, Hoover joined with the majority of Americans to declare for neutrality from the conflict. Like many, he initially believed that the Allies would be able to contain Hitler's Germany. When the Nazis overran France and then had Britain held in a stalemate, many Americans saw Britain as on the verge of collapse. Nonetheless, Hoover declared that it would be folly for the United States to declare war on Germany and to rush to save the United Kingdom. Rather, he held, it was far wiser for this nation to devote itself to building up its own defenses, and to wash its hands of the mess in Europe. He called for a "Fortress America" concept, in which the United States, protected on the East and on the West by vast oceans patrolled by its Navy and its Air Corps (the USAAF), could adequately repel any attack on the Americas. Hoover publicly opposed Roosevelt's peacetime draft of men, the Lend-Lease Program, and the "shoot on sight" command that FDR gave the U.S. Navy should it cross paths with any German U-boats in the shipping lanes between the United States and the U.K., viewing them all as threats to America's official neutrality. With the entry of the United States into the war on December 7, 1941, with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Hoover swept aside all feelings of neutrality, and he called for total victory. He offered himself to the government in any capacity necessary, but the Roosevelt Administration did not call upon him to serve.

Based on Hoover's previous experience with Germany at the end of World War I, in 1946 President Harry S. Truman selected Hoover to tour Germany in order to ascertain the food status of the occupied nation. Hoover toured what was to become West Germany in Field Marshal Hermann Göring's old train coach and produced a number of reports sharply critical of U.S. occupation policy. The economy of Germany had "sunk to the lowest level in a hundred years." On Hoover’s initiative, a school meals program in the American and British occupation zones of Germany was begun on April 14, 1947. The program served 3.5 million children aged six through 18. A total of 40,000 tons of American food was provided during the Hooverspeisung (Hoover meals). In 1947, President Harry S. Truman appointed Hoover to a commission, which elected him chairman, to reorganize the executive departments. This became known as the Hoover Commission. He was appointed chairman of a similar commission by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953. Both found numerous inefficiencies and ways to reduce waste, but Hoover was disappointed that the government did not enact most of the recommendations that the commissions had made. In 1949, the New York State Governor Thomas E. Dewey offered Hoover a seat in the U.S. Senate, to fulfill an unexpired term, but Hoover declined it. Following WW II, Hoover became friends with President Harry S. Truman. Hoover joked that they were for many years the sole members of the "trade union" of former Presidents (since Calvin Coolidge and Roosevelt were dead already). Throughout the Cold War, Hoover, always an opponent of Marxism, became even more outspokenly anti-Communist. Despite his advancing years, he continued to work nearly full-time both on his writing (among his literary works is The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson, a bestseller, and the first time one former President had ever written a biography about another), as well as overseeing the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, which housed not only his own professional papers, but also those of a number of other former high ranking governmental and military servants. He also threw himself into fund-raising for the Boys Clubs (now the Boys & Girls Clubs of America), which became his pet charity. In 1960, he appeared at his final Republican National Convention. Since the 1948 convention, he had been feted as the guest of "farewell" ceremonies (the unspoken assumption being that the aging former President might not survive until the next convention). Joking to the delegates, he said, "Apparently, my last three good-byes didn't take." Although he lived to see the 1964 convention, ill health prevented him from attending. The Presidential nominee Barry Goldwater acknowledged Hoover's absence in his acceptance speech. Hoover died at the age of 90 in New York City at 11:35 a.m. on October 20, 1964, 31 years and seven months after leaving office. He had outlived by 20 years his wife, Lou Henry Hoover, who had died in 1944, and he was the last living member of both the Harding and Coolidge administrations. By the time of his death, he had rehabilitated his image. His birthplace in Iowa, as well as a home he lived in as a child in Oregon, became National Landmarks during his lifetime. His Rapidan fishing camp in Virginia, which he had donated to the government in 1933, is now a National Historic Landmark within the Shenandoah National Park.

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