Christmas 1903

As the holiday season approaches, thoughts turn to family gatherings, festive celebrations, and delighted children. The Hoovers were not a typical family, and spent many Christmases in unusual circumstances. Take, for example, Christmas 1903.

The year 1903 was significant because Herbert and Lou welcomed their first child, Herbert Charles Hoover, into the world on August 4. At the time, they were living in London, in a cozy flat near Hyde Park. But by Christmas, all three, including the baby, were half a world away.

On September 7, Lou and the five-week-old baby boarded the North German Lloyd liner Gneisenau in Southhampton, bound for Australia. Of course, being a well-off family of the Edwardian era, Mrs. Hoover had a full-time nurse for young Herbert, named Miss Huber. The proud father joined them later, at Genoa, having been detained on business.

The Hoovers arrived in Australia in mid-October; Lou and the baby stayed in Kalgoorlie for a few weeks while Herbert traveled to outlying mining properties. The family left for Freemantle in early November, and sailed to Adelaide, Melbourne, Sidney, Brisbane, and back to Sidney. At each stop, Herbert tended to business matters, and he and Lou socialized with the upper crust of Australian society.

In mid-December, the family sailed again, this time for New Zealand. The week before Christmas Herbert visited a mine near Waihi, and the family toured some of the interesting sites around the North Island. On Christmas Day, they celebrated in their hotel room before boarding SS Sonoma at Auckland, bound for Samoa and San Francisco.

“Boy’s first Christmas tree spirited from hotel hall, decorated with last night’s purchases, and enjoyed just after breakfast.” – Lou Henry Hoover’s diary, Dec. 25, 1903.

The Hoover family, Christmas 1903.
The Hoover family, Christmas 1903.

The Hoovers reached the Bay Area on January 12, where Herbert Jr. was introduced to many of his relatives. By that time he was just over five months old, and he had already traveled more than 21,000 miles.

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