The President’s Conference on Unemployment – 1921

cartoon1921

Cartoon from 1921 by William Morris

When President Harding was inaugurated in 1921, a sharp recession was underway that had begun the year before. By mid-1921, some five million people were out of work – perhaps 12% of the workforce. Concerns arose about the possibility of widespread hardship through the coming winter, and it was Harding’s Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover, who suggested that a national conference was necessary to address the problem.

On August 12, 1921, Hoover sent a letter to President Harding proposing a national conference on the unemployment crisis. After Harding endorsed the idea, Hoover assembled an Economic Advisory Committee that prepared a preliminary report and recommendations for the conference. The President’s Conference on Unemployment convened September 26, 1921. After opening speeches by Harding and Hoover urging voluntary, cooperative solutions and warning that Federal funds were off limits, the Conference divided into ten subcommittees and began their work.

Over the next two-and-a-half weeks, the subcommittees essentially rubber-stamped Hoover’s recommendations. The final report of the Conference called for local Emergency Committees that would encourage and coordinate hiring by private businesses, and asked private businesses, and state and local governments to move forward any planned construction projects in order to generate short term jobs. The long-term recommendation of the Conference was to use public works projects to dampen the extremes of unemployment: during good times, state and local governments (the Federal government spent very little on public works at that time) could stockpile projects for implementation during economic downturns to reduce unemployment.

At the end of the Conference, Hoover created a Bureau of Unemployment in the Department of Commerce, which sent forth a deluge of reports, publications and press releases promoting the recommendations of the Conference. Local committees sprang up around the country, and businesses and government authorities dutifully scraped together funds to start new construction projects. As the winter approached, unemployment began to decline, rather than increase as would have been expected due to seasonal layoffs. Local charities were able to assist those who remained in need. The next spring, the economy was on the rebound, and Hoover declared the Unemployment Conference a complete success. Eight years later, after the 1929 stock market crash, President Hoover’s economic policies were based on the lessons learned in 1921.

Posted in Commerce Years, Herbert Hoover, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

On Viewing Shakespeare’s First Folio

1932-e07e

President Hoover and Lou Henry Hoover attended the opening of the Folger Shakespeare Library in 1932.

On viewing Shakespeare’s First Folio [currently on exhibit at the University of Iowa Library], a wandering Hoover archivist recalled correspondence exchanged between Emily Folger and Herbert Hoover.

Emily Folger, widow of Henry Clay Folger, wrote Hoover on July 28th 1934, seeking advice on who to hire as Director of the recently opened Folger Shakespeare Library.  Mrs. Folger asks Hoover to ‘give serious thought to the possibility of accepting the position yourself for a few years.’  She realizes that this may not be in keeping with Hoover’s sense of propriety regarding suitable activities for an ex-President.  She points out that ex-President Taft had served on the law faculty at Yale, commenting that the Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library would be a similar post.

Hoover replied on August 1st 1934, politely declining the position.  While acknowledging that serving as Director of the Folger would be ‘an enjoyable way to spend the autumn months of one’s life,’ Hoover felt that his duty lay in other directions.  Emily Folger thanked Hoover for his consideration in an August 15th letter, adding: ‘You are still my first choice.’  At this time, Hoover was working on Challenge to Liberty, an attack on the New Deal.  Hoover sent Emily Folger a copy of this book upon publication in September 1934.

In her letter thanking Hoover for Challenge to Liberty, Folger took the opportunity to observe that the ideas expressed in Hoover’s book were ‘clearly embraced with the universality of Shakespeare’s genius.’  She once again offered him the chance to head the Folger Library, pointing out that: ‘Your work can be better done from a library in Washington than from the Pacific coast.’ Once again, Hoover demurs.

Shakespeare’s First Folio will be on exhibit at the Main Library Gallery in the University of Iowa Library from August 29, 2016 to September 25, 2016.   The Emily Folger-Herbert Hoover correspondence will be available in the reading room of the Hoover Library forever.

Posted in Folger Shakespeare Library, Herbert Hoover, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Discovery of a Professional Tradition:  Herbert and Lou Hoover’s Translation of De Re Metallica

By Thomas F. Schwartz

Often projects that seem simple at first, become more complicated and involved once begun.  Unanticipated problems emerge as greater comprehension of what is required only emerges by working through the project.  And so it was when the Hoovers decided to undertake an English translation of Georgius Agricola’s De Re Metallica, a seminal text on mining engineering that only existed as a medieval Latin text.  Lou Henry Hoover studied Latin and was quite proficient.  The Hoovers originally thought that simply translating the Latin into English was all that was required.  They soon discovered that much more than a translation was needed.  Much of De Re Metallica dealt with mining processes that lacked Latin words.  Agricola had to invent Latin terms to describe various mining techniques and refining processes that were not part of traditional Latin vocabulary.  Moreover, only by experimentation and the process of elimination could the Hoovers determine which word stood from a specific mining technique or process.  Of greater significance was discovering that neither of them knew much about what had been written prior to the publication of De Re Metallica.  Not knowing what was available to Agricola for reference, the Hoovers had to build a library of mining texts that might have been used by Agricola to write De Re Metallica.

While all of these issues are interesting stories in and of themselves, perhaps the most unique revelation to Herbert Hoover was the discovery that mining engineering was truly an ancient profession with important ideals and lessons learned over the centuries.  “For many years I have been impressed,” wrote Hoover, “with the general assumption by the members of the engineering profession that theirs is the youngest of all the professions; that, as a profession, it was the creature of the last century; that it is without a long background of literature, history, tradition, and achievement.”  The real history and contributions of the engineering profession throughout history became clear to Hoover the more he became involved with translating Agricola’s work.

31-1914-53web

March 9, 1914 Mining and Metallurgical Society of America, at The Biltmore.

 

In his June 30, 1914 acceptance speech of the first gold medal awarded by the Mining and Metallurgical Society of America for their translation of Agricola, Herbert Hoover provided a brief account of both the history and lasting contributions of the mining profession.  Beginning with Vulcan on Mount Olympus, Hoover describes how Themistocles and Thucydides were miners. deremetallica-medal-box The miners of Laurium, Hoover noted, funded the creation of the Athenian fleet in the Battle of Salamis.  Claiming the Book of Jeremiah contained scores of technical references and metaphors that only a miner by profession would know, Hoover also asserted that it was the miners of Northern Europe who broke down “the universal tyranny of feudalism” by demanding and being granted “the free government of their own communities and industry: they had established their own officials and courts.  The free mining cities of Saxony and Bohemia, the self-governing communities of Cornwell, Devon, the Forests of Dean and Mendip, and the High Peak of Derbyshire had blazed the way to representative government long before the Mother of Parliaments sat at Westminster.  They even led the way for the free merchant cities of the Baltic and England, and soon after the arrival of the Normans, we find in English history references to the ‘miner’s right’ to their ‘ancient liberties’ and ‘customs,’ terms resonant of independence.”

 

In translating De Re Metallica, the Hoovers discovered they were part of an ancient and proud profession, rich in history and steeped with professional ideals that contribute to the betterment of individuals, communities, and nations.  It was through the preservation and wider access to ancient records and recognition of the rich history of the profession that provided the greatest satisfaction for both Herbert and Lou Hoover.

 

Posted in Herbert Hoover, Mining Engineer, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Herbert Hoover and the Tommyknockers: Mythic Gnomes of the Mine Shafts

By Thomas F. Schwartz

If there is any public recognition of the word “Tommyknocker” it is probably a reference to the 1987 Stephen King novel The Tommyknockers or spin off ABC miniseries with Jimmy Smits and Marg Helgenberger.  The Stephen King novel’s use of “Tommyknocker” has nothing to do with the ancient mythic gnome that was widely known by miners.  Depending on the cultural context, Tommyknockers could be beneficial spirits or evil spirits.  Traditionally, miners who heard sounds before a shaft would collapse often attributed it to a “Tommyknocker.”  Certain cultures interpreted these sounds as coming from the spirits of dead miners, warning their brethren of the impending danger so they might escape death.  Other cultures saw the sounds as actually causing the mine collapse, imputing an evil motive to these spirits.  Generally, the more favorable view won the day as stories of Tommyknockers continued to flourish among the oral traditions of miners.

It was a little more than a year before his death that Herbert Hoover weighed in on the subject of Tommyknockers.  Joseph L. Milliken, who was leading the local organizing committee for the Grass Valley-Nevada City, California 4th of July celebration committee, asked Hoover if he had ever come across the term.  Wanting to use the term as the theme of the 1963 celebration, Milliken could not find any information about Tommyknockers at the public library.  He decided to go to one of the world’s leading mining engineers as a last resort.  Milliken also knew that Hoover got his start in the Grass Valley Reward gold mine working the ten hour evening shift, seven days a week at two dollars a day.  Hoover did not disappoint.  “The tommyknockers,” Hoover wrote, “were the gnomes who for centuries had given benevolent aid to the hard rock miners, mostly by warning of rock falls and water breaks.  They were associated with fairies, generally, and we all believe in fairies.  They have a long record with the happiness of miners.  About fifty years ago, Mrs. Hoover and I translated a book written in Latin about mining matters of four hundred years ago.  It describes the benevolent character of these gnomes, and their knocks to warn the miners.  I had occasion to meet the mining gnomes in person in a Russian Mine, somewhere about 1908.  The Russian miners so believed in them that they cast life-size figures of them in the machine shops and placed them in needed spots around and in the mines.  To prove my belief in their efficacy, I brought one of them home, although he weighs many pounds.  He still guards the entrance of my apartment in the Waldorf-Astoria.”

31-1971-b74

Statue that Hoover brought back from Russia, it guarded the entrance to his Waldorf Astoria apartment.

It took two attempts to get a photograph of Hoover’s Tommyknocker, or as Hoover put it “the photo of my door man,” to Milliken.  On the second effort Hoover wrote, “I do not know whether your search yielded a picture of a tommyknocker, but finally, here is a photograph of mine.  And I have recent reason to believe in his protective efficacy (at least he holds the door shut at times).”   Hoover’s “door man” remained a friendly mythic gnome protecting against evil spirits entering his residence at Suite 31-A, Waldorf Towers.

 

 

Posted in Herbert Hoover, Mining Engineer, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The Papers of Rose Wilder Lane

Presidential Libraries are not libraries in the usual sense. They are archives and museums, bringing together in one place the documents and artifacts of a President and his administration and presenting them to the public for study and discussion.  Like all Presidential Libraries, the Hoover Library has collected documents and artifacts from many different individuals associated with the President, with sometimes surprising connections.

RWL

Rose Wilder Lane

One of the hidden gems at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum is our collection of the papers of Rose Wilder Lane.  Her papers at the Hoover Library document her extraordinary life as a journalist and an author, and reveal the important role she played in her later years formulating and promoting Libertarian ideas.  Lane was also an early biographer of Herbert Hoover — she published The Making of Herbert Hoover in 1920.

Lane was commissioned to write The Making of Herbert Hoover by Charles K. Field, editor of Sunset (a West Coast literary magazine) and a personal friend of Herbert Hoover.  At the time, Hoover was contemplating a run for President in 1920, and Field wanted to help.  Lane’s biography likely had little effect on the campaign, but Lane and Hoover continued for many years to correspond about topics of shared interest.

Lane’s papers also reveal her important role as the editor of the “Little House on the Prairie” books written by her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Wilder had only limited writing experience when she embarked on the series of books that captivate young readers to the present day.  Quite logically, Wilder turned to her daughter, a more experienced writer, for assistance.

Their collaboration was not without conflict.  Correspondence preserved in the Lane Papers documents the dynamic tension of the creative process.  Wilder submitted drafts of her work to her daughter with a certain trepidation.  Lane edited and typed the manuscripts, and made suggestions for modifications she thought necessary.  She also served as her mother’s go-between with literary agents and publishers.  Over more than a dozen years, Wilder and Lane captured in eight volumes the essence of growing up on the American frontier.

The five boxes of “Little House” documents in the Lane Papers have become some of the 9780062419682_05590most heavily used materials in our holdings.  Scholars and fans of the “Little House” books from all over the world have come to West Branch to learn more about the real people and real stories behind the beloved children’s books.

On Monday, September 5, 2016 at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm, author William Anderson will be
at the Hoover Library to discuss his research and writing connected with the “Little House” pioneer classics, and his work in compiling the recent New York Times bestselling book, The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

 

Posted in Books, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Museum News, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Jonathan Eig, author of Get Capone, Speaking at the Hoover Museum

eig image2New York Times best-selling author Jonathan Eig will be discussing his book, Get Caponeat the Hoover Presidential Library-Museum on August 20, 2016 at 2:00 p.m.

Get Capone draws on thousands of pages of recently discovered government documents, wiretap transcripts, and Al Capone’s handwritten personal letters. Jonathan Eig, New York Times bestselling author, tells the dramatic story of the rise and fall of the nation’s most notorious criminal in rich new detail.

In 1920 Al Capone arrived in Chicago and found himself in a world of limitless opportunity. Within a few years, Capone controlled an illegal bootlegging business with annual revenue rivaling that of some of the nation’s largest corporations. Along the way he corrupted the Chicago police force and local courts while becoming one of the world’s first international celebrities. Hoover knew that bringing down Capone would not end the violence but that it would send a message to the rest of the criminal world.

Hoover on Prohibition

On January 17, 1920, it became illegal to produce, transport, or sell “intoxicating beverages” anywhere in the United States – this was Prohibition. The ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in January 1919 and the passing of the Volstead Law – made it illegal to produce, transport, or sell alcohol anywhere in the United States. The Volstead Law effectively closed every single bar, tavern, and saloon in the country. It also turned millions of Americans into criminals.

As President, Herbert Hoover supported Prohibition, but also recognized that evasion of the law was widespread and that it had fueled the growth of organized crime. Hoover vowed to put an end to this lawlessness.

In May 1929, Hoover established the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement. This commission was charged with identifying the causes of criminal activity and making policy recommendations. The final report, released early in 1931, documented the widespread evasion of Prohibition and its negative effects on American society. Recommendations included much more aggressive and extensive law enforcement to enforce compliance with anti-alcohol laws.  The report also castigated the police for their “general failure… to detect and arrest criminals guilty of the many murders, spectacular ban, payroll and other holdups and sensational robberies with guns.”

Hoover was resolutely committed to law and order.  Capone was intent on flaunting the system to enrich himself and his cronies.  Something had to give.  In the end, Hoover’s administration was able to garner sufficient evidence to convict Capone, not on any criminal charges directly, but on tax evasion.  Jonathan Eig brings this story to light with his lively Get Capone.

 

Posted in 18th Amendment, Herbert Hoover, Museum News, Prohibition, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Happy Birthday Mr. President

31-heick-b01-f04-i01

Former President Hoover celebrating his 80th birthday in West Branch, Iowa.

Herbert Hoover celebrated his 80th birthday in his hometown, West Branch, Iowa.  It was a celebration of small-town America, a time capsule of the ‘good old days’ when friends and neighbors got together to share life’s big events.  Hoover’s birthday party drew on the volunteer efforts of local citizens to cook, organize the parade, and attend to the logistical details of hosting a picnic lunch for 10,000 guests.  This was no small task for the 750 citizens of West Branch, but a corps of volunteers were up to the job.

Among the volunteers was Rosemyrta Heick, a Tipton housewife and mother of three

31-heick-b01-f04-i02

Rosemyrta Heick pictured with the ingredients used to bake Hoover’s 80th birthday cake.

children under age six.  Rosemyrta was renowned locally for her cake baking prowess; naturally she was tapped to bake the cake for Hoover’s 80th birthday.  She embraced this task with gusto—laying in supplies, planning the baking, and building of the six-tiered cake to serve the 250 special guests.

Heick first gathered the necessary ingredients: seven dozen eggs, forty-six cups of flour, 30 cups of sugar, 12 cups of shortening, 20 cups of milk, salt, baking powder and vanilla.  With her sister watching her young children, Rosemyrta began the two-day [and two-oven] task of baking the many cakes to be held together by icing for the presentation.  She donated all the ingredients and her time, a fact which must have resonated with Hoover’s deep commitment to voluntarism.

Things went well in terms of cake preparation with one small exception.  The New York City bakery commissioned to create the ‘80’ gold ornament to top the cake failed to meet Heick’s standards.  After a series of increasingly heated letters, the New York confectioner created an ornament that met with Heick’s approval.  President Hoover would have his cake and eat it too.

Rosemyrta Heick had her moment in the sun in August 1954, but her story faded into the mists of history until 2008 when her children returned to Iowa to sell the family home.  In cleaning the house, they came upon an envelope which contained newspaper clippings, photos, and letters telling this story about their mother that was unknown to them.  They donated these materials to the Hoover Library, where they now comprise the Rosemyrta Heick Papers, a small collection providing a window into hometown pride and accomplishment.

Posted in Herbert Hoover, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Hoover on Immigration

31-1930-A17

There is a widespread but unfounded myth that President Hoover ordered the deportation or “repatriation” of large numbers of Hispanics, primarily Mexicans, during his administration (1929-1933).   “Deportation” is the legal process for formally expelling a non-citizen from the United States; “repatriation” is a term that refers to various methods for persuading or forcing individuals to leave the country outside of the legal process.

In the late 1920s, about 60,000 people would enter the U.S. annually from “non-quota” countries, primarily Mexico, and many of them stayed for years.   (The 1924 Immigration Act had established strict quotas for immigration from Europe, Asia and Africa, but did not limit immigration from North or South America.)  As long as migrants had a visa and a job, they could stay as long as they wished.  Any migrant without a valid visa could be deported at any time, and any migrant, temporary or permanent, could be deported if they became a public charge.  Local law enforcement agencies were the primary means for apprehending illegal immigrants, and the burden of proof was on the migrant to show a valid visa and employment.  The Labor Department’s Bureau of Immigration was responsible for issuing official deportation warrants, and in most cases would pay for the deportees’ transportation out of the country.

There was an important loophole — if migrants left the country voluntarily, there were no repercussions and they could return in the future, but if they were officially deported and subsequently returned to the U.S., they would be denied a visa and could be charged with a felony for attempting illegal entry.  As a result, law enforcement at all levels encouraged or even forced noncitizens (and sometimes even citizens of foreign heritage) to “repatriate” to their country of origin rather than take a chance with a deportation hearing.

As unemployment climbed during the Great Depression, most American citizens believed that jobs and charity should be reserved for Americans, and that non-citizens should return to their home countries.  State and local law enforcement, with the encouragement of the Bureau of Immigration, stepped up efforts to apprehend petty criminals and public charges for deportation, which resulted in only modest (though often well-publicized) increases in official deportations.  Official deportations to all countries were 16,631 in 1930, 18,142 in 1931 and 19,426 in 1932.

President Hoover’s only official action was to eliminate inward migration by reducing the number of visas to almost zero, on the grounds that most applicants would likely find no work and become public charges.  As the Depression worsened, private businesses and industry often took matters into their own hands.  In Detroit, for example, the automakers fired many of their Hispanic workers, including legal migrants and even American citizens of Hispanic descent.  Without jobs, many chose to leave the country rather than risk a deportation hearing.  In other parts of the country, state and local officials began considering large-scale “voluntary repatriation” projects to reduce the burden on local welfare and charity.

The specifics varied but the results were the same: illegal immigrants and even legal migrants left the country “voluntarily” in large numbers.  In some cases they left after being threatened or detained by local law enforcement or Bureau of Immigration officials.  Others were alarmed by the anti-immigrant rhetoric or hostile attitude of their neighbors.  Sometimes, local or state governments, or even private charities, would pay the transportation costs for the repatriates to leave the country.  The largest such repatriation project took place in Los Angeles, organized by the City of Los Angeles with cooperation from the Department of Labor and Los Angeles County officials.  In 1930 and 1931, tens of thousands of Mexicans were rounded up and put on trains, often with their American-born children, and summarily shipped across the border.  Los Angeles County estimated that the cost to send one trainload of 6,000 Mexicans back to Mexico was about $77,000, but if they had stayed, unemployment relief would have cost the County about $425,000 per year.

Some of the repatriates, out of work or out of luck, actually welcomed the opportunity to return to their home country.  Others were unaware of their rights, or lacked the means to defend themselves at a deportation hearing.  The Mexican government was eager to bring workers back to Mexico, paid for their transportation from the border to the interior, and supported charitable organizations that helped repatriates find jobs and homes in Mexico.

Hoover’s Secretary of Labor, William Doak, was much more enthusiastic than the President about repatriation and used every means at his disposal to encourage repatriation projects like the one in Los Angeles.  Some historians have suggested that the Immigration Bureau’s activities were unscrupulous, unfair or even illegal, but at the time they were very popular with most Americans, and no serious legal challenges were raised.  Hoover could, perhaps, have told Doak to back off, but it would have raised a political firestorm – Hoover’s detractors would have accused him of taking jobs and unemployment relief away from American citizens.

In total, perhaps ten times as many people may have left the country “voluntarily” during the Hoover administration than were officially deported, but because the departures were “voluntary,” an accurate estimate is impossible to determine.  President Hoover believed that the Federal government’s role should be limited to prosecuting official deportations and enforcing the laws limiting legal immigration.  In his address accepting the Republican Presidential renomination in 1932, he stated, “I favor rigidly restricted immigration.  I have by executive direction in order to relieve us of added unemployment, already reduced the inward movement to less than the outward movement.  I shall adhere to that policy.”

Posted in Herbert Hoover, Immigration, Presidency, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Up in the Sky – it’s Hooveria

Hooveria

With the recent advances in astronomy, there are now over 300,000 known asteroids in our solar system, though only about 16,000 have been given names. Four of them have been named to honor the humanitarian work of Herbert Hoover.

In 1920, Johann Palisa, an astronomer at the University of Vienna in Austria, discovered a new asteroid that was designated number 932. Two years later, the Academic Senate of the University announced that “As a permanent memorial of the great help rendered to the people of Austria, and in particular to the officers of the higher institutions of learning in Vienna, which was organized by Mr. Herbert Hoover the Academic Senate of the University of Vienna has named the minor planet 932 (1920 GV), ‘Hooveria.'” This dedication refers to the work of the American Relief Administration, directed by Hoover, which distributed over $42 million of food and clothing in Austria between 1919 and 1923.

In the summer of 1938, Hoover toured Europe to mark the twentieth anniversary of the end of World War I. He was awarded numerous honorary degrees and received many other expressions of gratitude in the countries he had aided during and after the war. The people of Belgium were especially grateful because Hoover’s first great humanitarian enterprise, the Commission for Relief in Belgium, had fed the entire civilian population for the duration of the war. To mark the occasion of Hoover’s visit the Royal Observatory of Belgium decided to name another asteroid in Hoover’s honor, choosing asteroid number 1363 which had been discovered by Eugene Delporte in 1935. Since the name “Hooveria” was already taken, the new asteroid was named “Herberta.”

Although “Herberta” and “Hooveria” refer to Hoover personally, two other asteroids were named to honor the humanitarian work of the American Relief Administration. An asteroid discovered in 1912 by the Russian astronomer Sergei Beljawsky, was later numbered and named 849 ARA in recognition of the aid provided during the great famine in Russia in 1922 and 1923. Another asteroid, discovered in 1915 by the Russian astronomer Grigory Neujmin, was numbered and named 916 America. It is believed that it too was named in appreciation for the help received from the American Relief Administration.

Posted in Hoover Namesakes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Hoover “Meets the Fokker”

1926-A82A

From the left: Anton Fokker, Herbert Hoover, F. Trubee Davison and Edward Warner

Those of a certain age have fond memories of Charles Schultz’s Peanuts comic strip. Among the memorable characters that lived out his fantasies was Charlie Brown’s dog Snoopy. A reoccurring fantasy was being a World War I fighter pilot in a Sopwith Camel, trying to shoot down the infamous German ace Manfred von Richthofen – the Red Barron – in his Fokker tri-plane. Anton Gerard “Anthony” Fokker, a Dutch citizen living in Germany, designed the Fokker aircraft used by the Germans during World War I. Following the war, Fokker returned to the Netherlands to resume his aviation company because the Versailles Treaty prohibited the manufacture of aircraft engines in Germany. Fokker moved to the United States in 1922 and eventually became a US citizen.

Hoover had an opportunity to meet Fokker on July 16, 1926 when the first air passenger service was launched between Washington, DC and Philadelphia. As Secretary of Commerce, Hoover perceived that commercial air service would become an important part of everyday travel even though at this time it was beyond the means of most Americans. A photograph of the event (above) shows Fokker with Hoover, F. Trubee Davison, and Edward Pearson Warner, standing next to one of Fokker’s F.VIIa/3m trimotors, a state-of-the art airliner.

Frederick Trubee Davison was the Assistant United States Secretary of War. He is best remembered as one of the First Yale Unit, also known as the Millionaire’s Unit. This group of young men from privileged families, created their own air squadron in 1916 anticipating the need for trained air pilots should the United States be dragged into war. Edward Warner had just been appointed the first Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Air) at the time of the photograph. He was a mechanical engineer and distinguished himself in aerodynamic research. Following World War II, Warner would champion international co-operation in air transportation and international civil aviation. The Edward Warner Award was created by the International Civil Aviation Organization, an organization he headed from 1945 to 1957, to recognize individuals who advanced civil aviation.

Hoover’s interest in the promise of commercial aviation can be seen in his endorsement of the Air Commerce Act, signed into law by President Coolidge on May 20, 1926. This legislation allowed Hoover, as Secretary of Commerce, to set standards for the infrastructure necessary for successful commercial air service. The launching of passenger service between Washington, DC and Philadelphia was but another step toward making air travel more accessible and eventually, a regular feature of everyday life.

Posted in Commerce Years, Herbert Hoover, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment