Herbert Hoover: Presidency Summary & Accomplishments

Instructor: Nate Sullivan

Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

In this lesson we will learn about the presidency of Herbert Hoover. We will highlight key themes and developments surrounding his administration, and we will explore his accomplishments.

Herbert Hoover: Not A Popular President

Take a minute to think about some of America's most popular presidents: say, the top ten. Chances are, your list will include George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, maybe Theodore or Franklin Roosevelt, maybe even John F. Kennedy or Ronald Reagan. Chances are, President Herbert Hoover is not on your list. In fact, among historians and the public alike, he is typically ranked as one of America's most unpopular presidents.

President Herbert Hoover is not among the popular presidents in American history.

Why is this? Well, Hoover was president when the Great Depression broke out in 1929, and (rightly or not) he has born much of the blame for America's worst economic downturn. His legacy is forever linked with the start of the Great Depression. This is interesting because before the beginning of the Depression, Hoover was a pretty popular guy. In this lesson we will explore his presidency, and focus specifically on his accomplishments. Let's dig in and learn more!

Early Accomplishments

Maybe some of you have heard of the Hoover Institution. This conservative research organization and ''think tank'' was originally founded by Herbert Hoover as a library in 1919. Today, the Hoover Institution is a popular organization dedicated to promoting conservative ideology.

Before becoming involved in politics, Herbert Hoover had actually been involved in the gold mining industry. In this field he had become extraordinarily wealthy and internationally known. He proved an efficient administrator and moved into politics where he served as head of the U.S. Food Administration and then Secretary of Commerce. When the devastating Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 broke out, he was tasked by President Calvin Coolidge with providing relief to the crisis. He was so successful in this endeavor that he became a sort of national hero.

When President Coolidge announced in 1927 he would not seek a second term, Hoover emerged the clear Republican favorite in the Election of 1928. After winning his party's nomination, he ran against Democratic candidate Al Smith in the general election. Hoover campaigned on the promise to continue Coolidge's pro-business, small-government policies. The popular Hoover won in a landslide, gaining 58% of the popular vote.

''Volunteerism'' and Hooverball

Hoover had high hopes when he assumed the presidential office in March 1929. The American economy was booming and he had no reason to believe it would stop anytime soon. Hoover encouraged cooperation between public and private sectors of the economy. He termed this cooperative effort ''volunteerism.'' He believed that voluntary collaboration between private business and public organizations was the best recipe for economic success. Like Coolidge before him, Hoover generally supported a free market economic approach. He believed government regulation and involvement in business was generally harmful.

Did you know there is a sport named after Herbert Hoover? There is, and it's called Hooverball. Hoover's personal physician invented the sport as a way for Hoover to remain healthy while in office. They game is played by throwing a heavy medicine ball over a net. In some respects, it is similar to volleyball.

Response to the Great Depression

On October 29, 1929, a day that has become known as ''Black Tuesday,'' the stock market completely collapsed. This collapse had been fueled by years of speculative, risky investments. Overnight the nation was plunged into an economic depression. Hoover believed that it was unnecessary at this point for the federal government to become involved. As an economic conservative, he believed the situation would be relieved through the free market. Immediately after the stock market crash, Hoover gathered business leaders together and encouraged them to basically carry on as normal. He believed that a show of confidence in the economy was essential.

However, once the seriousness of the Great Depression sunk in, even the conservative Hoover became open to involving the federal government (at least to a degree). Hoover authorized Mexican Repatriation, in which hundreds of thousands of illegal Mexican immigrants were forcibly deported back to Mexico between 1929-1936. This action was (and is) highly controversial. It was intended to free up job opportunities for American citizens.

President Hoover authorized Mexican Repatriation and signed into law the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act.

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