Herbert Hoover’s Youth

When Herbert Hoover. who served as the 31st president of the United States from 1929 to 1933, was 6 years old, his father, a Quaker blacksmith and farm equipment salesman, died of a heart attack. A little more than three years later, his mother also died from pneumonia and typhoid fever, leaving young “Bertie” and his siblings parentless. The three children were separated and sent to live with various relatives.

Bertie crossed the country alone on a train over-crowded with immigrants to live in Oregon with his maternal uncle, John Minthorn whose own son had died the year before. He was a businessman and physician who, when the child was only two and had contracted a serious bout of croup, (a disease that causes swelling in the airways and problems breathing) had “resuscitated” him after he was thought to have suffocated and died. His aunt Agnes wrote: “We all thought he was dead. … The eyes of the infant were pressed closed with pennies; and a sheet was drawn over his body.”

But the toddler wasn’t dead: someone noticed a slight tremble running through the “corpse”, so his uncle wrapped him with warm blankets, removed a large amount of phlegm from his throat and performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Gradually, Herbert recovered. The relatives couldn’t believe their eyes and thought that God had great plans for that child: that is why he had been brought back to life.

After attending Quaker schools, Hoover became a member of the inaugural “Pioneer Class” of Stanford University, opened in 1891, despite failing all the entrance exams except mathematics. Hoover had so little money that he sometimes lived in the barracks housing the construction workers who were building the university.
He graduated four years later with a degree in geology and began a career as a mining engineer- At first he worked in various low-level mining jobs until, in 1897, his employer recommended him for an engineering position with an important Company.
The position description indicated that the applicant should be a least thirty-five years of age but at the time he was not yet twenty-three
Therefore he decided to create a more mature image by growing a beard and moustache. He went to London for the interview and although his facial hair did not fool anyone, he was hired because the company seemed more interested in skills and abilities than an arbitrary age.
Thus began his legendary career as a mining engineer which led him, at the age of 27, to become one of the firm’s four partners starting a work that would make him very rich.

Quando Herbert Hoover ( che fu il 31° presidente degli Stati Uniti dal 1929 al 1933) aveva 6 anni, suo padre, un fabbro e venditore di attrezzature agricole quacchero, morì di infarto. Poco più di tre anni dopo, anche sua madre morì di polmonite e febbre tifoide, lasciando orfani il giovane “Bertie” , il fratello e la sorella. I tre bambini furono separati e mandati a vivere con vari parenti.
Bertie attraversò da solo il paese su di un treno sovraffollato di immigrati per andare a vivere in Oregon con suo zio materno, John Minthorn. il cui figlio era morto l’anno prima. Questi era un uomo d’affari e medico che quando il Herbert all’età di due anni aveva contratto un grave attacco di croup (una delle cause più comuni di difficoltà respiratoria causata dall’ostruzione acuta della laringe e della trachea) lo aveva riportato in vita dopo che si era pensato che fosse morto soffocato. Sua zia Agnes scrisse: “Pensavamo tutti che fosse morto … Gli occhi del bambino furono chiusi con dei penny e un lenzuolo gli fu tirato sul corpo”.

Ma il piccolo non era morto: qualcuno notò un leggero tremito che attraversava il “cadavere” e allora lo zio lo avvolse con coperte calde, gli tolse una gran quantità di catarro dalla gola ed eseguì una rianimazione bocca a bocca. A poco a poco, Herbert si riprese. I familiari non riuscivano a credere ai loro occhi e pensarono che Dio avesse grandi progetti per quel bambino: ecco il motivo per cui era stato riportato in vita.

Dopo aver frequentato le scuole quacchere, Hoover divenne un membro della prima “classe pionieristica” della Stanford University, nel 1891, nonostante non avesse superato tutti gli esami di ammissione tranne quello di matematica. Hoover aveva così pochi soldi che a volte viveva nelle baracche che ospitavano i lavoratori edili che stavano ancora costruendo l’università.
Quattro anni dopo si laureò in geologia e iniziò una carriera come ingegnere minerario. All’inizio lavorò in vari lavori di basso livello fino a quando, nel 1897, il suo datore di lavoro lo raccomandò per una posto di ingegnere presso un’importante azienda.
L’offerta di lavoro indicava che il richiedente dovesse avere almeno trentacinque anni, ma all’epoca Hoover non ne aveva ancora ventitré.
Pertanto decise di costruirsi un’aria matura facendosi crescere barba e baffi. Andò a Londra per il colloquio e, sebbene la peluria sul suo viso non riuscì a ingannare nessuno, fu assunto perché la società sembrava più interessata alle abilità e alle capacità che non a un’età arbitraria.
Iniziò così la sua leggendaria carriera come ingegnere minerario che lo portò, all’età di 27 anni, a diventare uno dei quattro soci dell’azienda, iniziando un lavoro che l’avrebbe reso molto ricco.

IMAGE: Mining engineer and future President Herbert Hoover, ca. 1900. (Hoover Library)

50 thoughts on “Herbert Hoover’s Youth

  1. Luisa ! The story of Herbert Hoover appears to be quite pathetic . In a very challenging environment he spent his life . He lost his father when he was only six years old and his mother when he was only of nine years . And he, was brought up by his maternal uncle in Oregon and his survival was assured by mere chance . Graduated in Geology from Stanford University and worked in England in Company as a mining engineer and earned a lot of money . He became 31st President of the US from 1929 to 2934 during the time of the Great Depression . But he was completely failed in putting the Great Depression under control . The credit for controlling the Depression goes to Franklin D. Roosevelt who remained the US President continuously for four terms. He brought about his ‘New Deal’ policies to curb down the Great Depression fighting with the American Supreme Court/Judiciary . Thanks !

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks a lot for your appreciation and for adding so much valuable historical information about President Hoover-
      You are always so kind and willing to cooperate and I really appreciate your comments 🙏🙏🙏

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  2. Wow. Very interesting and highly inspiring article on Herbert Hoover. Luisa, as usual, a brilliant presentation did the job for you. Excellent. ♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️👏👏👏👏👏

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  3. Wow, what a fascinating story! Thank you so much for sharing this Luisa. I get the impression that somehow those deeply wounding childhood experiences helped build his character of greatness! Truly remarkle! Love and light, Deborah.

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  4. Luisa, a very nice introduction to HH. I thought I would share with you another part of his story, which is shortly after where you leave off in your synopsis above. I have stayed in the manager’s house he built in Gwalia, Western Australia (my home state) on many occasions. It is one of my favourite places to stay. The mine still operates to this day and the house overlooks it.

    Here is a link: https://www.gwalia.org.au/bookings/hoover-house.aspx
    Also, another link: https://www.leonora.wa.gov.au/visitors/stay/hoover-house-bed-and-breakfast.aspx
    Then I reference the house in a post I did here: https://strategicteams.wordpress.com/2020/07/31/on-the-road-part-2-the-life-of-a-travelling-ceo/

    It is marvellous piece of history for us and he has a reputation as a very fine engineer here to this day. There are also some fabulous stories about his association with Kalgoorlie as well. They are all part of the folklore – just fabulous.

    Liked by 1 person

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