A while back, I wrote on Hoover’s smoking as President. Given the times, this was not a surprise. No further surprise to learn that Hoover smoked all of his adult life. Thus there are six folders in box 286 of his Post-Presidential Subject Files related to smoking. These document various aspects of Hoover’s habit: cigars, matches, pipes, G. I. Pipe Club Foundation, Optimal Health Foundation, and University Club pipes. These folders held the answer to the reference question: ‘What kind of pipe tobacco did Hoover use?’ Answer: University Club Special Blend from New York.
The folders also contained answers to unasked questions. Correspondence with New York City’s University Club indicated that Hoover ordered his pipe tobacco in three to four pound increments every few months until 1940. Then the correspondence stops. The extant sources are silent on whether this was because Hoover found another source for tobacco or whether his staff stopped saving the letters.
In December 1942, Edwin La Fumee, Secretary of the Friends’ Pipe Club asked Hoover to send a used pipe for the club to display. First I must comment that La Fumee is the perfect name for a pipe advocate. Hoover graciously sent a ‘lightly used’ pipe to the club. Adding his stem to the ranks of pipes donated by such luminaries as: Jackie Cooper, Bing Crosby and Ronald Reagan [the actor, not yet a politician].
There is a June 8, 1956 letter from the Pipe and Tobacco Council, an organization dedicated to pipe-smoking, which listed Hoover as one of the ten most distinguished pipe smokers of the year. No reply from Hoover exists in the files here.
H. B. Moseman, Secretary of the International Association of Pipe Smokers Clubs, sent Hoover a letter in May 1964, inviting Hoover to accept their ‘Pipe Smoker of the Year’ award at their August 14th banquet in New York. Hoover’s secretary sent a gentle letter in response, stating that Hoover ‘deeply appreciates your gracious thought’ but declined to attend due to illness and a schedule restricted at age ninety per doctors’ orders. Moseman persisted, asking to visit Hoover so that he could present the award. Hoover’s secretary wrote a sharper letter, pointing out that doctors limited Hoover’s visits to family and close friends.
For me, the most telling aspect of this correspondence was that Hoover lived to be ninety despite smoking cigars and pipes since age twenty-one. Excuse me while I repair to the smokers’ rail of the Hoover Library loading dock to share this insight with the smokers on the staff.