Lou Henry Hoover’s Narrow Escape?

by Spencer Howard

In 1928, the press reported a narrow escape from injury by Lou Hoover, then the wife of Secretary of Commerce and Presidential hopeful, Herbert Hoover:


Secretary’s wife and two friends leap from auto hanging at bridge edge

Washington Star, March 18, 1928

Winchester, March 17 – Mrs. Herbert Hoover, wife of the Secretary of Commerce, Mrs. Hugh Cumming, wife of the Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service, and Mrs. Vernon Kellogg of Washington were occupants of an automobile that ripped through iron pipe and timber guard rails on the Shenandoah River bridge at Berry’s Ferry, 12 miles east of here last night, and hung perilously over the river 30 feet below, it became known today.

…Their chauffeur said the machine began to skid on melting ice when half way across the bridge and before he could get the car under control, it had plunged into a concrete pillar and through the guard rails and was in danger of falling into the river.  The women, who were uninjured, leaped from the machine when they feared it was going down…

Mrs. Hoover’s personal account in a letter to a friend was much less dramatic, and revealed her exasperation with the sensationalist coverage:

20 March 1928

My dear Dr. Fairclough,

How kind of you to write me!  But you know there wasn’t any accident – at least such as has been described by the newspapers.  All that happened was that while going at a very slow speed the machine skidded and the car straddled a low stone fence – no bridge in the picture at all!  None of us were hurt or even slightly shaken, nor has there been any after effects.

This dramatic newspaper story has had one pleasant result – that I am again in touch with many friends who have been kind enough to write me sympathetically and express their concern over my welfare.

With friendly greetings and hoping that you will be coming this way soon, I am

Yours cordially,

Lou Henry Hoover

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