Miller Center

Herbert Hoover: Family Life

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President Herbert Hoover worked extremely hard, sometimes putting in eighteen-hour days at the office. Hoover usually awoke at 6 a.m. and exercised with a medicine ball, along with select members of his cabinet and staff, Supreme Court justices, and invited congressmen. After his workout, Hoover would eat breakfast at around 8:30. He spent much of the morning in his office writing speeches and letters, making telephone calls, meeting with staff, and reading newspapers. For an hour at around noon, he met with the public. In the afternoon, Hoover met with his cabinet, commissions, congressmen, and other visitors. Between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., Hoover retired from the office. He and his wife Lou had dinner around 8 p.m., often entertaining guests who were well-versed in policy matters of interest to the President. The Hoovers also hosted a number of state dinners during their time in the White House. After dinner, Hoover often spent the remainder of the evening engrossed in government reports.

Hoover was not renowned for his friendliness or loquaciousness. He could be curt or quiet with his staff and cabinet members. More problematic, he had a brusque manner with the press. As secretary of commerce, Hoover actually had good relations with the media because of his availability and his track-record as a reliable source. This relationship soured during his presidency; while Hoover held semi-weekly press conferences, he required advanced submission of questions, too often gave non-answers, and sometimes declared that there was no news, abruptly ending the conference itself. Even the replacement of Hoover's incompetent press aide George Akerson with Theodore Joslin did little to help the President. Just as problematic, Hoover was uncomfortable in his relations with the public. He delivered his speeches in a wooden manner and seemed aloof to those who met him at White House receptions and other social events. Each of these weaknesses damaged Hoover's public image.

Hoover did find time to relax. He occasionally went on vacation, including trips with some of his staff and cabinet to the coast of Florida (1930) and the Caribbean (1931). These getaways seemed to rejuvenate him, with Secretary of State Stimson noting in his diary that Hoover had never looked better than after visiting the Caribbean. To find some privacy and relaxation closer to home, the Hoovers built a secluded retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, close to the Rapidan River, inaccessible by car yet less than 100 miles from the capital. Whether in Florida, the Caribbean, or the mountains of Virginia, Hoover's favorite past-time was fishing. One biographer notes, however, that Hoover the fisherman was sometimes replaced by Hoover the engineer: rather than tend to his line, Hoover often enjoyed carrying rocks and building dams in the rivers where he fished!Hoover's two sons, Herbert Hoover Jr., aged twenty-seven in 1928, and Allan Hoover, aged twenty-one, did not spend much time around the White House during their father's presidency. Herbert Jr. graduated from Stanford in 1925 and from Harvard Business School in 1928. For much of his career, he worked as a mining engineer, although he did make a foray into government service as undersecretary of state from October 1954 to December 1956. Allan Hoover graduated in economics from Stanford in 1929 and then worked on his master's degree at Harvard Business School before going into banking. He helped run the Hoover Institute at Stanford University for a number of years.

Citation Information

Consulting Editor

David E. Hamilton

Professor Hamilton is an associate professor of history at the University of Kentucky. His writings include:

From New Day to New Deal: American Farm Policy from Hoover to Roosevelt, 1928–1933 (University of North Carolina Press, 1991)