Frontiers in History
Ideas from the National Archives for NHD 2001
Resources at the
Herbert Hoover Presidential Library
Herbert Hoover Invents the International Relief Organization
Herbert Hoover's Pre-Commerce Papers and the Papers of Maurice Pate: Americans justly take pride in the vast international humanitarian relief programs that the U.S. has sponsored, but it was Herbert Hoover who invented the concept of humanitarian relief on a massive scale during and after both World Wars. Hoover's very first project -- the feeding of 15 million people behind the lines in Belgium and northern France during World War I -- was the greatest humanitarian project the world had ever seen. The relief agencies that Hoover assembled were models of caring and efficiency. Relying heavily on unpaid public relations experts, administrators, and an army of volunteers, the Commission for Relief in Belgium and the American Relief Administration were able to translate over 99.5% of the donations they received into direct relief. Equally impressive, was Hoover's insistence that food embargoes not be used as a weapon against civilian populations. He also insisted that food should be provided to everyone in need regardless of their race, religion, or political views. Related materials are available from the Hoover Library.
Robert E. Wood Papers: Almost single-handedly, Robert E. Wood transformed the way Americans did their shopping and built Sears Roebuck into a merchandising giant. In the early 1930s, Wood's innovations made Sears the leading catalog mail order supplier for American homes. In the late 1920s Wood foresaw that the growing popularity of the auto would make it possible for Americans to settle in suburban areas far away from traditional merchandising centers in the city's core. He correctly predicted that consumers would prefer to shop in areas close to home rather than "downtown." Wood's response was to purchase land and build Sears stores that were strategically placed to serve rapidly expanding suburban areas. This concept was only one of several imaginative strategies that allowed Sears to sell quality goods at reasonable prices to an ever-expanding customer base. Related materials are available from the Hoover Library.
Lou Henry Hoover Papers and Oral Histories of Girl Scout Leaders: Mrs. Hoover is still remembered as one of the greatest presidents the Girl Scouts ever had. During her terms as a board member and president the Girl Scouts grew tremendously from approximately 10,000 members in 1917 to over 1,000,0000 members at the time of her death in 1944. This tremendous growth is due to excellent leadership at the national level and an outstanding program of activities that girls obviously found very appealing. The success of the Girl Scout movement was an important turning point in American history from the 1920s through the 1940s. Through documents held at the Hoover Library, discover how Lou Hoover and her friends helped nurture one of the greatest organizations in American history -- one girl at a time.
Lewis L. Strauss Papers and the Bourke B. Hickenlooper Papers: It started as a way to slow down the nuclear arms race but produced all sorts of medical and technological advances that were beneficial rather than harmful. President Eisenhower's speech to the United Nations in December 1953 contained a radical suggestion that people all over the world hailed as a wonderful way to slow the arms race. The origins of this radical proposal can be found in the personal papers of Lewis L. Strauss and Bourke B. Hickenlooper. Strauss was chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and Hickenlooper was a U.S. Senator serving on the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. Related materials are available from the Hoover Library.
Records of the White House Conference on Home Building and Ownership: Herbert Hoover had many ideas to raise America's standard of living and improve the quality of American life. One of his most successful projects was to promote the building of better housing and to make it more affordable through creative financing plans. Hoover's Commerce Department promoted an annual contest to build better homes which was sponsored by an organization known as Better Homes in America. As President, Hoover called a White House Conference to promote the goals of better and more affordable homes. The story is told in the records of the White House Conference on Home Building and Home Ownership and in the personal papers of Herbert Hoover and James Spear Taylor. Related materials are available from the Hoover Library.
American Child Health Association Papers: Infant mortality was still a big problem in the early 1920s. Herbert Hoover's WWI relief work had made him aware of the need to improve public health care in America and led him to combine two smaller child health organizations into the American Child Health Association in 1923. A national survey of 86 cities, conducted by the ACHA in 1924-25, revealed that only 8 cities required milk to be pasteurized and that 41 cities did not have a single full-time public health worker. ACHA programs included campaigns to improve the safety of the milk supply, abolish child labor, educate parents and teachers on basic health care, and provide health care in rural areas, on Indian reservations and in Puerto Rico. The success of the ACHA can be measured in many ways, but the decline in the infant death rate, from 91 deaths per thousand in 1920 to 30.8 deaths in 1933 was probably the most dramatic result. Plenty of material is available in the records of the American Child Health Association and the personal papers of Herbert Hoover. Related materials are available from the Hoover Library.
William P. MacCracken Papers: One of the most important figures in the early development of commercial aviation was not an inventor or the head of an airline. He did not manufacture or even own a single plane, but he helped to promote and assemble the first coast-to-coast system of airlines. William P. MacCracken was the first government official to regulate commercial aviation in the 1920s. After leaving the Commerce Department in 1929, he served as an advisor and attorney to many of the new airlines. Related materials are available from the Hoover Library.
James Westbrook Pegler Papers: The first journalism superstars were not TV news anchors, but newspaper columnists. These reporters were successful because they invented a new role for newspapermen - the all-knowing investigative reporter who sought to educate the public with observations and comments on current affairs. In the days before TV network news, the newspaper columnist was the media superstar. The top three columnists of the 1940s--Westbrook Pegler, Drew Pearson and Walter Winchell--each had a wide audience in over 100 daily newspapers and salaries to match. Pegler's column appeared in 140 papers and his base annual salary in 1940 was $90,000 -- well over $1,000,000 in today's purchasing power. He was very outspoken, often controversial and had a tremendous number of readers. Related materials are available from the Hoover Library.