Wednesday, August 2, 2017


Birth home of Herbert Hoover in West Branch, Iowa

I've probably driven by the birthplace of our 31rst president of the United States dozens of times but only recently stopped for the first time. Herbert Hoover is the only president born in Iowa though he spent most of his childhood outside of the state. Like other more recent presidents, he inherited a presidency followed almost immediately by a economic collapse, in his case the Great Depression. While it wasn't his fault, he inherited the blame and thus has been maligned as president until recent decades. So with that in mind, we made a special trip up to visit the historical site.

My first thought when we stepped out of the car was that there was a puddle in the parking lot. It's been over two months since I have seen an actual puddle of water so it was kind of a neat sight. We also discovered that the grounds in this part of Iowa were soft and squishy compared to the concrete ones full of cracks 18" deep that we have back home.

It was a quite day at the historical site and there were only a handful of other groups floating around so it felt like we mostly had it to ourselves. We stopped in at the museum which was interesting but not really informative as far as Hoover goes. There were lots of trinkets from around the world due to his pre-presidential life of travels as a mining engineer and humanitarian problem solver. By far the most informative thing was a 20 something minute long movie that we watched first. Still I wouldn't go so far as to say it wasn't worth the stop because it most certainly was. I picked up a book in the gift shop to fill in the rest of Hoovers story later at my leisure.

Mask made of Hoover's face when he was still very much alive
After we toured the museum, we went up the nearby hill to visit his grave site which was immaculate and very beautiful. I think perhaps it was his Quaker beliefs that led to him having a simple tombstone that simply had his name on it and no mention of his stature in life. It was also neat that through a clearing in the trees and over a quarter mile away, one could see his boyhood home so although he spent lots of time out west and east (along with other sides of the globe) he still ended up close to his beginning. Although I probably won't be president and thus can't dictate a specific spot to be buried in, I do hope someday to have a part of me in a local countryside cemetery a mile from where my parents currently live and a half mile from where I grew up.

A couple death facts about Hoover. At the time of his death, he had the longest retirement of any president only having been surpassed in more "recent" times by Jimmy Carter in 2012. Hoover was also the second longest living president at the time (second to John Adams) but has since been surpassed by four other more recent presidents. (Ford, Carter, Regan, and H. W Bush

After visiting his burial spot, the third presidential burial spot I have visited in a little over a year's time, we walked towards the historic part of town to visit his birth home seen above and other building preserved that were around during Bert's boyhood. We found a nice winery next to the historic site so we stopped in for a taste test and a platter of crackers, meat and cheeses to sample. There were lots of other nearby interesting shops but it was an extremely hot day with high humidity and we didn't feel we had the strength to swim through the unconditioned shops to investigate so we instead went back through the historic site to our vehicle and headed home.

Bert and Lou Hoover's Burial Site


Bill said...

Very interesting. When I was growing up my Grandpa referred to the Great Depression as "the Hoover Days." My Grandma detested all things Republican and Mr. Hoover was Exhibit A. Just last night I was reading The Grapes of Wrath and came to the part where all the refugee camps on the outskirts of California towns were called "Hooverville."

But reading a little about Hoover I was impressed at his character and intellect. Your post causes me to want to learn more. A Hoover biography is now in my future.

Didn't know he was a Quaker either. Interesting.

Vince said...

You know something.
To achieve that level of simplicity requires perhaps three fulltime gardeners. Those box balls are the most labour intensive bit of horticultural arts going.
On his record. I'd argue he was simply following Harding and Coolidge economic policy of Laissez-faire which would've been fine in a benign economy but one coming out of a war, and a world war at that, required different minds. Much like now.

Ed said...

Bill - Hoover sounded like a huge humanitarian of his time. He not only helped the midwest when the huge flood of the Mississippi River occurred but he also helped feed starving Russians. He even had a yeast roll named after him for a time called a Hoover Roll. The testimonials from those he helped were quite moving.

Vince - I know very little about Hoover and even less about Harding or Coolidge. My presidential biography reading project stalled out after I got through Andrew Jackson and I need to start it up again, especially since I bought a recent biography on Hoover in the gift shop.

Susan said...

My knowledge of presidents - past and present - is woefully lacking. I have read a few things about Hoover and thought he got a raw deal. I did not know he was a Quaker - you have me heading toward the library, as well!

Kelly said...

I'm not sure I ever knew he was a Quaker, either. I'm fascinated by the "life mask" (as opposed to the usual death mask).

Any time I hear the name Herbert Hoover, the music from the musical Annie starts running through my brain!

Pumpkin Delight (Kimberly) said...

I was not terribly knowledgable about Hoover beyond the basics. Sounds like an interesting place.

Bob said...

Always interesting and educational to explore the roots of one of our presidents. As you point out, he inherited a bit of a mess and history was not kind to him. Kind of like Jimmy Carter, he was a much better former president than president.

You mention the heat -- if you look at the national weather map, it's a strange sight, and here in the South we are having some relief, with the evenings and mornings being downright pleasant! It won't last but I'll take it.

Ed said...

Susan - This is why I'm never short of reading material. I'm always questioning things!

Kelly - I think it is the first life mask I have seen outside of the one I did in gradeschool for art class.

Pumpkin Delight - It was interesting though very short on details of his presidency. It mostly covered his pre-presidential years.

Bob - We are finally getting a bit of respite from the heat and as I typed this, we got a short rain shower after two and a half months of waiting! It was only a couple tenths of an inch but I'll take it at this point.