Herbert Hoover and Philadelphia

Philadelphia, as we know, has many statues honoring famous people in both the city and the entire country. Most of them are in Independence Mall, on Centre Square, and in Fairmount Park. Unfortunately, the Quaker City has nothing honoring our Quaker President Herbert Hoover.

I learned a lot about President Hoover following Mark Hatfield of Oregon. This began with his speech, when Governor, at the Republican National Convention in 1964; it ended with his retirement after five terms in the United States Senate. Hatfield began his political activities precociously at age 10 in 1932 handing out handbills calling for the re-election of President Hoover.

That election came three years into the depression for which people and the press unfairly blamed Hoover. Ironically, for twelve years working for three very reactionary Presidents-Wilson, Harding, and Coolidge-Herbert Hoover fought for policies and programs which might have alleviated the depression. The public learned years later that he was a gadfly to all three Presidents. While Hoover was always on good terms with President Harding, both Wilson and Coolidge almost despised him. They could not understand his social concern, compassion, and commitment to world peace.

In 1932 Philadelphia was the only major city and Pennsylvania the largest of the six states that Hoover carried. The other five were Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Connecticut. President Hoover winning Philadelphia stemmed from the City’s Republican base. Hoover being a Quaker is significant but coincidental.

President Roosevelt never consulted the Former President during his 12 years in the White House. People often joked that Roosevelt did not defeat Alfred Landon in 1936, Wendell Willkie in 1940, or Tom Dewey in 1944; instead he beat Hoover four times. Hoover moved from Palo Alto, Ca to the Waldorf Astoria in NYC following the death of his wife in 1944. During the FDR years, the Former President testified before Congress, wrote prolifically, and worked for the Republican Party.

All of that changed when Harry Truman took office. Within in the first month, Truman called upon Hoover for advice. Truman appointed him to head relief efforts in Europe and Africa after WWII; to investigate the peaceful uses of atomic energy; and to head a Commission both to reduce spending and coordinate operations of the federal government. These two men, Harry Truman and Herbert Hoover, were from very diverse backgrounds but become good friends. Their correspondence is the most treasured between American Presidents, ranking with that of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. These letters and notes began in 1945 and were continual until President Hoover’s death.

During the Eisenhower Years, Hoover was very active but had less influence within the Executive Branch than under President Truman. President Eisenhower asked Hoover to head another commission to reduce governmental expenditures. It was less effective than the first. After giving Senator Goldwater a reluctant endorsement in 1964, Herbert Hoover died in New York in October of that year.

Philadelphia owes something to President Hoover. I will talk about this more later.


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