Here in the Curatorial Department of the Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, we help promote and protect the former President’s legacy by safekeeping his physical artifacts. This includes approximately four hundred coins and medals that Herbert Hoover accumulated throughout his life. In this series, I will highlight a few of his most substantial accomplishments by connecting them to five medals from his collection.
Before his political career, Hoover was a wildly successful mining engineer. We all know the story. Boy meets girl, boy marries girl, boy and girl become massively successful and live happily ever after. What most people do not know, however, is Herbert Hoover’s first American award from a national organization was given jointly to both he, and Lou. After running mining operations in Australia and China, the Hoovers relocated to London, England to escape the Boxer Rebellion. In 1912, while living in London, Herbert and Lou Henry combined their skills and translated from Latin, the first English edition of Georgius Agricola’s 1556 book on metallurgy, De Re Metallica. For their combined work, the Mining and Metallurgical Society of America congratulated and awarded the couple with a gold medal. The medal was designed by Tiffany & Co. and minted in 18kt gold. This was the first Mining and Metallurgical Society of America Gold Medal ever awarded, and the Hoovers accepted the medal together at a dinner and ceremony at the Biltmore Hotel in New York City on March 9, 1914.
In Lou’s acceptance speech, she explained the gratitude and appreciation she and Herbert had for the recognition. Lou, however, mixed in anecdotes and humor, saying it would “rehabilitate me in the eyes of my family”:
“I have a small boy who a few years ago began to measure the world in terms of cups and medals. And when at the age of six he won his gymnasium class’s silver medal for the running high jump – at 2’7” – he came home with pleasant curiosity respecting the medals possessed by other members of the family. And father’s and Mother’s position has not been as assured as it should have been since. This will help most materially in adjusting the desired balance in the family.”
To add a sentimental note, it would be very remiss of me to not mention that this medal was still in the former President’s possession in his Waldorf-Astoria residence when he died in 1964. The medal can currently be seen on exhibit, in the Man of the World area of our permanent gallery.