Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Herbert C. Hoover (1923–1928): Secretary of Commerce

Herbert Hoover was born August 10, 1874, in West Branch, Iowa. He moved to Oregon upon the death of his parents and later attended Stanford University, graduating in 1895 with a degree in engineering. Hoover embarked on a career in engineering which took him all over the world, including to China during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900.

During World War I, Hoover directed the international relief agencies for civilians. President Warren G. Harding appointed him secretary of commerce, and Hoover served in that capacity from 1921 to 1928 under both Harding and President Calvin Coolidge. During his tenure as commerce secretary, Hoover organized the department, developing navigation, irrigation, and flood control projects. As chairman of the Colorado River Commission, he oversaw the interstate cooperation that led to the construction of the Hoover Dam.

Hoover reorganized the Census Bureau and added airways and runways for the rapidly developing commercial airline industry. He supervised the standardization of manufacturing products, saving builders and manufacturers time and money. Hoover also championed conservation efforts and health issues for children. In 1927, when the Mississippi River flooded, leaving 350,000 homeless, Hoover supervised relief efforts.

His work propelled him to the Republican nomination for President, and he won in the 1928 general election, defeating Democrat Al Smith. Hoover was President during the early years of the Great Depression and was defeated by New York governor Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1932 presidential election. Hoover remained highly involved in public service right up until his death on October 24, 1964.