On Viewing Shakespeare’s First Folio

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.

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