Herbert Hoover

William E. Leuchtenburg

My Copies



By far the shortest Hoover biography I've read; it only took me two sittings.

Also one of the most negatively-biased Hoover biographies I've read. (This makes sense, as the author is a self-described "insider" to the FDR administration and New Deal.) The negative tone is mostly maintained through editorialized portrayals of many of the apparent contrasts in Hoover's life and words, as well as the glaring omission (to a knowledgeable eye) of at least the following positive aspects of Hoover's life and career:

While far from a hit piece per se, I think this work in isolation would leave its readers with a quite mistaken impression of the man Hoover. It serves as a very useful contrast to the more normal hagiographies, though— especially in illuminating the positive points on which there is no dissent even from Hoover's enemies.

Descendent of a Swiss family that a century before still went by the name of Huber, Jesse...

  • about Jesse Hoover
    • p. 1 (Times Books, 2009)

    [Hoover] did not find it easy, however, to be the son of a woman who was an ordained minister.

  • about Herbert Hoover
    • p. 3 (Times Books, 2009)

    Bert found out just how coldhearted strangers can be when at an Oregon depot he first looked up into the flinty eyes of Uncle John Minthorn.

  • about Herbert Hoover, Dr. Henry John Minthorn
    • p. 4 (Times Books, 2009)

    Tact is not one of his many qualities.

  • by David Lloyd George
  • about Herbert Hoover
    • p. 27 (Times Books, 2009)

    He was chronically bad tempered—quick to take offense, primed to scent conspirators leagued against him, unwilling to control outbursts of rage.

  • about Herbert Hoover
    • p. 27 (Times Books, 2009)

    Even someone who thought well of Hoover remarked, "He can express himself so accurately and so indignantly that his victim will go off nursing a grudge for the rest of his natural life."

  • about Herbert Hoover
    • p. 27 (Times Books, 2009)

    However icy Hoover was, no one questioned that he was prodigiously effective. Lord Eustace Percy in the British Foreign Office regarded the American as "the bluntest man in Europe," but acknowledged that he was "able, without apparent effort, to handle a situation involving more irreconcilable elements than any other situation in this war [WWI]." On one occasion, a high-placed British official told him, "Men have gone to the Tower for less than you have done," but then acceded to demands that shortly before he had said were "out of the question."

  • by William E. Leuchtenburg, Lord Eustace Percy
  • about Herbert Hoover
    • p. 29 (Times Books, 2009)

    Life is worth more, to, for knowing Hoover. But for him Belgium would now be starved... he's a simple, modest energetic little man who began his career in California and will end it in Heaven, and he doesn't want anybody's thanks

  • by William E. Leuchtenburg, Walter Hines Page
  • about Herbert Hoover
    • p. 30 (Times Books, 2009)

    The U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, Brand Whitlock, who had won renown as a reform mayor of Toledo, Ohio, started out with great goodwill toward Hoover but wound up loathing him. In the early days of the CRB, Whitlock wrote that Hoover "has a genius for organization and for getting things done, and beneath all, with his great intelligence, ... has a wonderful human heart." It did not take long, though, for the envoy to conclude that Hoover was a "fruste" (uncultivated) and "boorish," or to deplore his acting "in a brutal manner." After reading a domineering cable to the king of Belgium drafted by the CRB chairman, Whitlock commented that Hoover was "always trying to force, to blackmail, to frighten people into doing things his way ... What a bully! He would even bully a poor exiled King!"

  • by William E. Leuchtenburg, Brand Whitlock
  • about Herbert Hoover
    • (Times Books, 2009)