Ideas from the National Archives for National History Day
Resources at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library
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, however, 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.
Herbert Hoover and Maurice Pate Papers: Many of Hoover's relief administrators later went on to outstanding achievements in business, diplomacy, and government service. Maurice Pate, who later became the first director of UNICEF, began a distinguished career with the Commission for Relief in Belgium. Pate's CRB diaries and papers at the Hoover Library reveal how he became an effective international relief administrator in two world wars.
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.
Colorado River Commission Papers of Herbert Hoover and Delph Carpenter: For many years the Colorado River had gone on a rampage every spring, destroying railroads, farms, and even the dams that had been built to control it. Businessmen and farmers all dreamed of building a large enough dam that would finally control the flooding while providing a reliable water source for irrigation and the generation of hydroelectric power. Although the solution was obvious, securing the approval of a wide range of special interest groups would not be easy.
A major complication centered on the fact that the Colorado flowed through no less than seven western states. Only the federal government had the resources to finance the construction of such a large dam and Congress would not pick up the tab until the states were satisfied and agreed to sign an interstate compact. The states in the upper basin of the river had small populations and were not economically developed in 1920. The lower basin states --especially California -- had large numbers of people and a rapidly expanding agricultural economy. The upper basin states feared that the lower basin would establish a legal claim to use the majority of the water and power, leaving very little for the slower developing upper basin.
Congress established the Colorado River Commission in 1921-- with Herbert Hoover as its Chairman -- to resolve these difficulties and forge a compact that the states would accept. The Commission's work was completed in 1922 and construction of Hoover Dam began in 1931. Records of the Commission are at the Hoover Library.
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 readily available to families. 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. Related Records are available at the Hoover Library.
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 to 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. Records of the ACHA are at the Hoover Library.
James P. Goodrich Papers: Goodrich was a director of the American Relief Administration who went to Russia in 1921-23 to inspect the ARA's famine relief operations. Goodrich's diaries, available at the Hoover Library, contain detailed observations concerning life under the Bolshevik government. Due to his VIP status, Goodrich had free access to government leaders, party functionaries, and the common people. The period from 1921-23 was a major turning point in the Russian Revolution and Goodrich was on the scene to record what was happening. This would be a good subject for a group performance.
Herbert Hoover's Commerce and Presidential Papers: Most people realize that Hoover did not start the Depression, but few are aware of his efforts to stop the dangerous speculation in stocks and bonds which led to the Crash in 1929. Hoover's efforts began in 1925 when he was still Secretary of Commerce. This is another good candidate for a group performance. Related Records are available at the Hoover Library.
William P. Mac Cracken Papers: One of the most important figures in the early development of commercial aviation was not an inventor or the head of a 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 1920's. After leaving the Commerce Department in 1929, he served as corporate counsel to many of the new airlines. His papers are available at the Hoover Library.
Laura Ingalls Wilder/Rose Wilder Lane Papers: One can only guess how Laura Ingalls Wilder would have reacted to the success of the television series based on her books. Her first effort, Pioneer Girl, a factual, autobiographical account of her life on the frontier, was rejected by the publishers in 1930. Encouraged and assisted by her daughter Rose Wilder Lane, a successful writer, the book was revised to target a younger audience and was published in 1932 as The Little House in the Big Woods. We suggest that you focus on their collaboration and their efforts to convey an accurate impression of what life was like in an earlier time. The Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane papers are available at the Hoover Library.
James Westbrook Pegler Papers: The first journalism superstars were not TV news anchors, but newspaper columnists. The top three columnists, 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. In the days before TV network news, the newspaper columnist was a media superstar. The papers of James Westbrook Pegler are available at the Hoover Library.
Truman Smith Papers: When Truman Smith returned to Berlin as chief American military attache in 1935, he was accompanied by Mrs. Smith who fully appreciated the importance of her husband's work. She was an excellent hostess and made sure that their home became a favorite gathering place for German officers and diplomats and military attaches from other countries. Although she was fluent in German, few of her guests realized it and she was often able to collect interesting information that she had picked up while circulating among her guests. Her husband had developed friendships with many high ranking German officers when they had studied in the United States. Wishing to return past favors, they often invited Smith to visit German military bases and military exercises. During one of these visits, Smith decided to try to secure an invitation for Charles Lindbergh to visit bases of the German air force. The Germans were thrilled to have Lindbergh as their guest and showed him several of their aircraft factories and airbases during his visits over the next two years. During these visits Lindbergh and Smith discussed tactical doctrine with German instructors and Lindbergh was eventually allowed to fly several of the latest Luftwaffe bombers and fighters. Although the war was still a year away, the Lindbergh visits were one of the great intelligence coups of World War II. The papers of Truman Smith are at the Hoover Library.
Gerald P. Nye and Verne Marshall Papers : Anti-war feelings were very strong in the United States during the 1920s and early '30s. Many Americans remembered the horrors of World War I and were determined that America should not take part in another war. Their concerns increased dramatically when senator Gerald P. Nye's Senate Munitions Committee revealed that munitions makers had made enormous profits during the war. But Americans were also horrified when Fascist dictators in Japan, Germany, Italy, and Spain began to prey upon their weaker neighbors in the early 1930s. As American opinion began to shift, senator Nye made speaking tours [after 1934] to criticize foreign policies which, he warned, would lead America into war. Verne Marshall, who edited the Cedar Rapids Gazette, shared Nye's views and established the "No Foreign War Committee" to oppose FDR's policies. Their protests ceased after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The papers of Nye and Marshall are available at the Hoover Library.
Harold Price and Philip Sporn Papers: Growing concern over the safety of atomic power and its effects on the environment led to efforts in the 1960s and '70s to impose safety regulations on the nuclear power industry. Harold Price was the first head of the AEC's Division of Regulation. Philip Sporn was an executive with a major power company and an enthusiastic promoter of the development of nuclear power. Their papers are at the Hoover Library.