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.

 

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Happy Birthday Mr. President

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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

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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.

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Hoover on Immigration

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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.”

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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.

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Hoover “Meets the Fokker”

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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.

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Lou Henry Hoover and the “Mad Sculptor”

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Sculptor Robert Irwin.

One of the most sensational New York City murders of 1937 involved artist, Robert Irwin, who brutally murdered three people on Easter Sunday. Nicknamed the “mad sculptor” by the newspapers, Irwin briefly boarded with Mary Gedeon and her two daughters, Veronica and Ethel at their Beekman Place apartment. Veronica was a model who posed for artists and crime magazines. Irwin became obsessed with Ethel, a twenty-year-old who expressed no romantic interest in Irwin. In a bizarre thought process, Irwin turned from thoughts of suicide to decapitating Ethel and sculpting her death mask. Not finding Ethel at home, Irwin strangled Mary and Veronica Gedeon and stabbed boarder Frank Byrnes to death in his sleep. Initially, the key suspects were Joseph Gedeon, Veronica’s father and her ex-husband Bobby. Veronica wrote in her diary that she often feared Bobby’s aggressive behavior. Police found an elaborate sculpture of soap at the crime scene and later realized that the name Bobby could also refer to the sculptor Robert Irwin.

Harold Schechter in his book The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, the Model, and the Murder

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Bust of Herbert Hoover sculpted by Robert Irwin.

that Shook the Nation talks about an endorsement given by Lou Hoover to an early bust Irwin crafted of Herbert Hoover. A look at Lou’s correspondence reveals that the endorsement came after a solicitation by Samuel Wardlaw, special investigator for the Los Angeles public library. Wardlaw presented his request in a letter dated July 31, 1929:

“I am enclosing a photograph of a bust of the President made by Robert Irwin a nineteen year old youth.

Robert, through unfortunate circumstances, spent some years in a state institution for boys and his talent was not discovered until after his release. Without any instruction whatever, he made the bust and the attention of Laredo Taft, the sculptor, was called to it. Mr. Taft now has the boy and is teaching him. A short note from you would greatly encourage this boy whom authorities feel has a great deal of talent.”

Wardlaw also included Robert Irwin’s letter to himself. Undoubtedly, Wardlaw counted on Lou being moved by the young man’s plight and by Irwin’s petition that “If she was to write me a letter it would sure boost my stock with Mr. Taft.”

Responding six days later, Lou wrote separate letters to both Wardlaw and to Irwin. To Wardlaw she penned:

“How generous of you to take such a personal interest in Robert Irwin about whom you write in your letter of July 31st. Indeed I shall be pleased to write him a note and because there is no address other than Chicago, I am enclosing it in the hope that you will forward it to him.
Trusting that you will be justified in your faith in Robert, I am…”

Irwin’s letter was also upbeat:

“Mr. Wardlaw has been kind enough to send to me a picture of the bust which you did of my husband, and I want to commend you for the high order of your work.
You are indeed fortunate to have been recognized by such a man as Mr. Taft and I hope that you will work long and hard and some day be a great sculptor.”

Perhaps Lou sensed she had made a serious mistake when she received Irwin’s response to her encouragement. Dated August 19, 1929 on “The Midway Studios of Chicago” letterhead, Irwin wrote:

“I have just received thru Mr. Wardlaw your kind letter of Aug. 6, and I want to thank you and to assure you that it will always be kept among my most treasured possessions. When I showed it to Mr. Taft he seemed very well pleased and he congratulated me warmly.
I made this bust in Los Angeles more than a year ago and I believe it has been destroyed. But I would like very much to make another bust of President Hoover and give it to you as a present if you would care to pay the cost of the bronze casting. Mr. Taft’s secretary told me this would amount to two hundred dollars. I would not ask you to pay for the casting but I haven’t the money myself. I can make it entirely from picture as I made the other one.
It would certainly be a wonderful thing for me if you should let me do this. I hope you give the matter some consideration.
I am sending you a few pictures of my work.
Hoping to hear from you.”

The selection of enclosed photographs included busts of Attila the Hun, Napoleon, Benito Mussolini, and Thomas A. Edison. This cast of characters would give anyone pause.

Irwin escaped the electric chair for a life sentence because of the skillful arguments made by his attorney, Samuel Leibowitz. Ironically, the actor Kirk Douglas befriended the “mad sculptor” while they attended St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, and used Irwin as the model for his portrayal of Vincent van Gogh in the film Lust for Life.

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Practical War-Pig Plan

 

When people think of the home front during a world war, the rationing of food and gasoline immediately come to mind.  But rationing was a feature of World War II, not World War I.  Herbert Hoover as head of the United States Food Administration was able to get Americans to voluntarily reduce their consumption by 15% of certain food stuffs deemed vital to the success of the war effort.  He issued a reminder card indicating the suggested meal planner for each day: “Sunday—One meal Wheatless; one meal Meatless; Monday—All meals Wheatless, one meal Meatless; Tuesday—All meals Meatless; one meal Wheatless; Wednesday—All meals Wheatless; one meal Meatless; Thursday—One meal Wheatless; one meal Meatless; Friday—One meal Wheatless; one meal Meatless; Saturday—All meals Porkless; one meal Wheatless; one meal Meatless.”  The main focus of the U.S. Food Administration was to encourage reduced consumption of essential grains, fats, and protein at home so that they could be used abroad in the war effort.  Of lesser significance was encouraging individuals to assist farmers in production with the creation of home garden plots for growing vegetables and the raising of chickens and hogs in areas that could allow it without violating existing health and sanitary ordinances.

The U.S. Food Administration issued several informational bulletins instructing interested individuals and communities on how to raise pigs “without offense to their neighbors and without violating existing sanitary ordinances.”  The “Practical War-Pig Plan” was based upon a successful model created in Ohio.   The bulletin urged the created of a pig club of interested persons “then secure a suitable piece of property near the city and stock it with feeder pigs.”  The pigs would be fed garbage collected from the members or supplied by the town or city.  Once the pigs reached market size, the hogs would be slaughtered and the owners would either keep the meat from their hog or give/sell it to someone else.  In this way, an additional supply of pork was created and much of the local garbage was fed to the hogs.  At one point, 225 cities across the country were participating.  A whole generation of children grew up accustomed to hogs as family members or neighbors long before Arnold Ziffel entered the American mainstream.

 

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Stanford’s “Animal House”

Lou Hoover encounters Stanford’s “Animal House”

 

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Lou Henry Hoover

College is a time for both refining one’s education as well as gaining important life lessons.  Often these lessons consist of doing things that seem like harmless fun until one realizes how incredibly stupid they were in retrospect.  Such is the case with former First Lady Lou Henry Hoover’s encounter with the “dummy man.”  In late October, 1935, Lou was driving her large car through the Stanford campus.  Being close to Halloween, many fraternities were already gearing up with an arsenal of tricks and pranks.  One fraternity, in particular, placed a mannequin in the road, just after a sharp curve so unsuspecting drivers would not have time to react.  Little did the fraternity boys know that their first victim would be Lou Henry Hoover.  They watched as a large car came around the curve.  Seeing the body on the road the car’s breaks screeched but the car had already run over the body, cutting it in half.  Only when the driver got out to see if the person was injured, did the fraternity brothers realize the driver was the former First Lady.  Quickly, they dashed off in a dozen different directions, and what can only be surmised as an amused Lou Hoover just as quickly realized she had not run over a real person but as the media described it a “dummy man.”

Time Magazine identified the Theta Xi Fraternity as the culprits behind the prank.  In 2012, a post on the late actor Richard Boone’s Facebook account claimed: “Richard Boone’s time at Stanford came to an abrupt end in 1937, when he and his Theta Xi fraternity brothers devised an ingenious prank.  Together the gang of boys fashioned a dummy out of rags and bottles and laid it in the middle of the road.  When the next passing car ran over it. Boone cried out, ‘You killed my brother!’  Unfortunately, the car’s driver was Mrs. Herbert Hoover, the wife of the former U.S. President.  Mrs. Hoover actually sprained her right ankle during all of the confusion of the prank.  For this, Mr. Boone was expelled from Stanford.”  The obvious problem with this account is that it claims to have occurred two years after the actual account.  Richard Boone attended Stanford and the January 25, 1935 issue of  The Stanford Daily shows him on the pledge list for Theta Xi.  But he never graduated, although biographical accounts don’t provide a reason.  And the details about expulsion and Lou spraining her ankle are nowhere to be found in any contemporary accounts.

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CSI: Past and Present

Charles and Anne Lindbergh with President Hoover, August 15, 1930.

Charles and Anne Lindbergh with President Hoover, August 15, 1930.

The main celebrity story of early 1932 was the kidnapping of the twenty-month old son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh.  On March 1 sometime after 9 pm when the baby’s nanny put Charles Jr. to bed and 10 pm when the nanny did her usual check, someone abducted the baby.  The state police were called in to investigate the crime scene at the Lindbergh mansion just outside of Hopewell, New Jersey.  A ladder and footprints were found on the ground below the window of the baby’s room.  No blood or fingerprints were on the ledge or ladder and the footprints were too smudged to provide a clear identifying pattern.  Soon the Lindbergh’s began receiving ransom notes demanding payments of various amounts.  After twelve such demands, the kidnapper settled on the amount of $50,000 detailing how it should be paid in smaller denominations of tens and twenties.  The police recorded all of the serial numbers of the bills before allowing the ransom to be delivered on April 2.  But the location of baby Lindbergh proved to be a ruse.  A search of the larger area did not produce results.  On May 12, 1932, the badly decomposed body of the kidnapped baby was found 4 ½ miles from the Lindbergh home just yards away from the highway as a truck driver pulled alongside the road to relieve himself.  The autopsy concluded that the baby had been dead for about two months or roughly the time of the kidnapping and trauma to the head was the cause of death.

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March 1932, scene of the Lindbergh kidnapping: A. Window where baby was taken, B. Where the ladder was found C. Where footprints were found

Charles Lindbergh Jr., a few weeks after his birth.

Charles Lindbergh Jr., a few weeks after his birth.

Law enforcement struggled throughout the next two years with the FBI serving as a clearing house for information.  Copies of the serial numbers of the ransom money were circulated to businesses and banks to be on alert.  Soon the FBI pamphlet was given to insurance companies, gas stations, airports, post offices and any establishment that might be used by the kidnapper.  Eventually some of the ransom money began turning up along with physical descriptions of the individual passing the money.  One alert gas station attendant wrote down the plate number of a driver passing the suspicious money.  This led officials to the home of an unemployed carpenter, Bruno Richard Hauptmann.  Although Hauptmann declared his innocence, it was difficult to explain the trail of evidence that led to his home.  Wood used in the ladder matched wood removed from the floor of his attic and the tool marks on the ladder matched the tools in his garage.  He matched the physical descriptions given by merchants as the man passing the ransom money.  Five different handwriting experts conclusively identified the ransom notes as matching Hauptmann’s handwriting.  Approximately $14,600 of the ransom money was hidden in Hauptmann’s garage.  His car matched the description given by several people as being around the home the day before the kidnapping.  A bottle of ether was also found hidden in the garage but never introduced as evidence at the trial.

Hauptmann continued to declare his innocence throughout his trial.  He was found guilty and executed on April 3, 1936.

On February 6, 2014,  a six-day old baby kidnapped from his Wisconsin parents a day earlier, was discovered outside of a West Branch, Iowa gas station, having survived being in a grey plastic storage container for 29 hours in minus 12 degree temperatures.  The kidnapper was an aunt who was driving on Interstate 80 and happened to stop at the West Branch exit at 4:45 am.  Why she called the home of her half-sister whose child she had kidnapped is unclear.  Her grandmother answered and immediately turned the phone over to a Beloit Police officer who instructed the aunt to contact local law officials to confirm the infant was not in her custody.  This caused the aunt to bundle the baby up and lay him in the plastic storage container, placing it behind a BP gas station with other such containers.  She then got in her car, and drove across the interstate to another gas station where she flagged down a West Branch police officer at 5:21 am.  After discussions between Beloit and West Branch law enforcement, enough baby clothes, car seat and stroller suggested further investigation.  A routine check discovered that the aunt was wanted on an unrelated warrant in Texas.  Although denying any involvement in the kidnapping, only her finger prints were on the baby car seat suggesting no accomplice.  Immediately, police began searching ditches along the interstate as well as exit ramps and buildings around West Branch.  During this search, Chief Mike Horihan asked for the surveillance tapes from the BP gas station owner/manager.  He then checked outside for signs the baby may have been left.  He noticed that there was only one storage container in the back the color grey and its design was different from the others.  The gas station owner could not identify it as one of his and the police removed the top expecting the worse.  What they heard was the crying of baby Kayden.  In spite of being left in the cold for 29 hours, he survived and was happily rejoined with his parents.  With the discovery of the baby, the aunt admitted to the crime.

 

 

 

 

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Nominating a Candidate

 – the 1928 Republican National Convention

Herbert and Lou Hoover in the doorway of their home the morning after he was nominated for president in 1928.

Herbert and Lou Hoover in the doorway of their home the morning after he was nominated for president in 1928.

In June 1928, Republican Party held its quadrennial convention to nominate candidates for President and Vice President of the United States.  Before the primaries and caucuses had begun, there was one candidate who enjoyed immense popularity among Republicans and the electorate as a whole – President Calvin Coolidge.  To many voters, Coolidge represented the apparent prosperity of the time, and embodied the longed-for sobriety and respectability in a Chief Executive after the disgraceful events of the Harding Administration.

But Coolidge famously announced in August, 1927 “I do not choose to run for President in 1928.”  The nation was perplexed – what did he mean by “choose?”  Would he run if “drafted” by the Party?  Was he seeking some concession, perhaps to name his successor?  The President refused further comment and for months the Republican Party was roiled with confusion.  Finally in February 1928, the Senate sought to force Coolidge’s hand; Republican leaders passed a resolution commending Coolidge for not seeking a third term, and when he voiced no opposition, it was interpreted as a green light to open consideration of other candidates.

Several Senators and Governors emerged as possible candidates, though none were popular or even well-known nationwide.  The one Republican with a national profile and broad popularity was Herbert Hoover.  Hoover was a self-made man, an orphan who through hard work and determination had made a fortune in the mining industry before age 40.  During World War I he became internationally famous for providing food for 8 million civilians trapped behind the Western Front and for supplying tens of millions in the months after the war ended.  He had never held elected office, but had served as Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Harding and Coolidge, where he cultivated a reputation as an energetic administrator and an economic expert.

Despite his popularity, Hoover faced opposition from party leaders, especially on the East Coast – Hoover was seen as too progressive, and too willing to interfere with politics-as-usual in Washington.  It didn’t help that Coolidge disliked Hoover personally, and disapproved of some of Hoover’s activist policies at the Commerce Department.  Hoover was also unpopular with the Midwest farm bloc because of his opposition to government price guarantees for farm commodities.

As was expected in those days, Hoover did not campaign personally for the nomination; to do so would have been seen as self-serving.  Instead, Hoover remained in Washington attending to the Commerce Department.  Hoover’s political friends quietly assembled a well-oiled, decentralized machine to advance his candidacy.  In states with no “favorite son” candidate, Hoover won almost every contest and amassed a large number of convention delegates.  In states where he faced opposition, Hoover’s backers lobbied for “uninstructed” delegates that might be persuaded to jump on the Hoover bandwagon.  He lost several states in the Midwest, but no single candidate emerged to offer a significant challenge.  When his nomination began to appear inevitable, party insiders grudgingly lined up behind him.

The Republican convention was held in Kansas City June 12th through 15th.  By the time the convention opened, Hoover expected to receive votes from 673 out of 1089 delegates.  His friends stacked the Credentials Committee with supporters who made sure that the certification of disputed delegates (mostly from Southern states) was decided entirely in Hoover’s favor.  Last minute endorsements from key party leaders swung more delegates to Hoover, and he easily won the nomination on the first ballot with 837 votes.

The convention needed a nominee for Vice-President, and Kansas Senator Charles Curtis, a “favorite son” candidate and farm bloc stalwart quickly emerged as the best choice to patch up Hoover’s weakness in the Midwest.  Days before the convention opened, he had expressed his opposition to Hoover, stating, “the convention cannot afford to nominate as head of the ticket, anyone for whom the party will be on the defensive… Our party can win the coming election if the candidate is chosen for whom no apologies will be required.”  He also said he would never accept the Vice-Presidential nomination on a ticket with Hoover.  On the first ballot for Vice President, Curtis received 1052 votes.  He accepted the nomination, and dutifully campaigned for Hoover throughout the fall.

Hoover was not actually present at the convention.  He was not a delegate or party official, and to show up as the apparent nominee would have been seen as presumptuous.  After the nomination vote, the chairman of the convention, Sen. George Moses of New Hampshire, telegraphed Hoover with the news, and Hoover replied with a brief acknowledgment.  The nomination did not become official, however, until it was delivered to Hoover in person.  The notification ceremony and Hoover’s address of acceptance were carefully staged two months later, on August 11, at the football stadium at Stanford University.  Only then, less than three months before Election Day, did Hoover begin to campaign in person.  He traveled through just 20 states and gave only 6 major speeches, and won the election in a landslide.

 

 

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