Hoovers and Milbanks: An Enduring Friendship

Mrs. Jeremiah Millbank and Lou Henry Hoover. Miami, Florida, ca. January 1929
Katherine Milbanks and Lou Henry Hoover. Miami, Florida, ca. January 1929

Seeing the February 4th friendship postings on our Facebook page last week, I was reminded of a durable friendship forged between the Hoovers and the Milbanks.  The connections between Jeremiah/Katherine [Kitty] Milbank and Herbert/Lou Hoover are extensive–both broad and deep.  The families often socialized together. They dined, shared holidays [especially Christmas after Lou passed away], traveled and fished.

Jerry Milbank was the Finance Chairman of the Republican Party for Hoover’s campaign in 1928.  This appears to have been the first extended contact between the two men.  The friendship deepened during the White House years as Jerry and Kitty corresponded with the Bert and Lou during the Hoover presidency, but the richest contacts came after the Hoovers left the White House.

Jeremiah Millbank, Herbert Hoover, and Albert Cole, ca. 1958
Jeremiah Milbanks, Herbert Hoover, and Albert Cole, ca. 1958

The Milbanks correspondence with Herbert Hoover fills nine folders in his Post-Presidential Individual series.  There are also two folders of letters between Kitty and Lou in the Lou Hoover papers. The letters are long and cover issues ranging from current politics [both found FDR to be a danger to the American way of life] to personal.  In 1937 Herbert invited Jerry to join him at Bohemian Grove—an indication of how close the two men had grown.  Jerry Milbank’s letter of thanks said: ‘The actual experience was far beyond anything I had imagined. I will never forget this.’  In 1945, Hoover sponsored Milbank as a member of Bo Grove.

Herbert Hoover wrote a brief note to Kitty Milbank on Sep 15, 1937: ‘My dear Mrs. Milbank, You are an angel as usual.’  In later years he addressed his letters to ‘Kitty.’ She in return addressed him as ‘Chief.’  On June 10, 1944 Hoover wrote: ‘My dear Kitty, I don’t know what to do with the Milbanks. They are overflowing in their goodness to me.’

The Hoovers often joined the Milbanks on The Saunterer for fishing off the Florida coast.  In 1939, Herbert Hoover gave Kitty Milbank four detective novels for Christmas–beginning a long tradition of exchanging Christmas gifts. In 1939, she gave him a copy of the Grapes of Wrath.

June 28, 1940 Hoover wrote to the Milbanks: ‘There are things in the world that cannot be brought about…  Your loyalty and friendship are my most precious possession.’  Jerry wrote back July 2, 1940: ‘Your letter is one that Kitty and I will always treasure.’

The Hoover Library also houses the papers of Kitty Milbank.  These papers are intriguing for they consist primarily of speeches/material given to Kitty by Hoover.  The collection contains one of my favorite things–Hoover’s speaking copy of his Cairo address in 1946.  He inscribed it: ‘Dear Kitty this is one of the most important addresses I have ever made.’

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