Left to the Vagaries of History

August 13th is International Lefthanders Day, a day to celebrate the uniqueness of lefthanders.  First observed in 1976 by a small cadre of left-thinking individuals, International Lefthanders Day has grown over the years to become something of a social media phenomena.  This year’s version highlighted American Presidents who were left-handed.  Somehow Herbert Hoover is listed as a lefty.  He was not.

President Herbert Hoover, 1930.

The archival staff has often addressed this question over the years.  Our evidence for Hoover’s right-handedness consists of photographs showing him signing legislation, newsreel film showing him throwing out the ceremonial first pitch with his right hand, and his handwriting and signature—which are clearly penned with the right hand.

Our evidence-based approach has been piecemeal, addressing individual questions with individual answers.  This carries little weight in a world which consumes digital information delivered via social media with gusto.  Hoover is still listed as one of eight left-handed Presidents.

To counter this weight, I stand ready to use this platform to present our case that Hoover was all right.

The home page of our website shows Hoover at a desk, pen in his right hand, ready to sign legislation.  https://hoover.archives.gov/   We have dozens of other photographs showing Hoover with a writing instrument in his right hand.  This youtube video shows Hoover throwing out the first pitch at a baseball game in 1931.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMrffGz73e0  While his delivery is inelegant—largely due to his inability to stride and follow through, it is a right-handed pitch.  We have literally tens of thousands of pages with Hoover’s handwriting in the archives. While it is sometimes difficult to discern his words through his hasty scrawl, it is not at all difficult to see that the handwriting was done by the right hand.  Finally, Hoover’s signature is clearly done by the right hand, as is shown on our homepage.  To achieve such an upslant with his left hand, Hoover would have needed such a supple wrist that he’d cast shade on a pinball wizard.

We shall see if evidence-based history carries sufficient heft to counterbalance the robust myth that Hoover was left-handed.  I am not hopeful.  Jonathan Swift nailed it 300 years ago: ‘Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late.  The jest is over, and the tale has had its effect.’

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