The Case of the Missing Middle Name.
By Thomas F. Schwartz
Look in any encyclopedia entry or biography and it indicates that Herbert Clark Hoover was born on August 10 or August 11, 1874. A previous blog post cleared up the mystery of the birthday confirming it was August 10 but another more interesting story relates to Hoover dropping his middle name when he was the head of the United States Food Administration under President Woodrow Wilson. According to a transcript of an oral history interview by Raymond Henle with Herbert Hoover Jr., Hoover remembered being called into his father’s study at their home at 1701 Massachusetts Avenue. Herbert Jr. was vague of the exact year but thought it was around the time his father was named to the United State Food Administration that would place it at 1917 with Herbert Jr. being fourteen years old. Describing his father as “quite solemn and yet…there was a twinkle in his eye,” Herbert Jr. approximated his father’s words:
“I am thinking of dropping my middle initial. I have to sign my name many hundreds of times each day and I want to save myself time and trouble. But I cannot drop the middle initial and sign myself hereafter just as ‘Herbert Hoover’ unless you agree, as you are Herbert C. Hoover, Jr. What I’d like to know is if you have any objection to dropping the middle initial of your name at the same time?”
Herbert Jr. had no objections. The two shook hands and the agreement was sealed. Technically, Herbert C. Hoover Jr. was not “Clark” but “Charles” after Lou’s father, Charles Henry. Herbert Jr. was always referred to as “Herb” while his father was “Bert” to only a very few people including Lou. According to James A. Farley, campaign manager for Franklin Roosevelt, FDR “always referred to him [Hoover] as ‘Bert.’ He is the only person I ever heard referring to Mr. Hoover as ‘Bert,’” suggesting it was not meant in a friendly way. Regardless, since the name of Herbert Hoover passed on from Herbert Jr. to his son, Herbert III, it is worth noting that Herbert III was nicknamed “Pete” with no middle name. Pete and his two sisters spent time in the White House during his grandfather’s presidency while his father was recovering from tuberculosis in North Carolina.
Even more curious is that the youngest son Allan was named Allan Henry Hoover, again using Lou’s maiden name of Henry. He, too, dropped his middle name and did not give his son Allan Hoover II a middle name. Allan Hoover III also does not have a middle name. Therefore, the tradition of foregoing a middle name in the Hoover lineage began as an efficiency measure back in 1917.