In August 1914, war broke out in Western Europe, and Germany’s invasion of Belgium created an unprecedented food crisis. By this time, Herbert Hoover had become extraordinarily wealthy by reshaping his occupation as a mining engineer into an independent mining consultant based in London. After assisting over a hundred thousand Americans fleeing the conflict to return home to the United States, Mr. Hoover set out to organize food shipments into Belgium. After protracted appeals and negotiations, both Germany and Great Britain agreed to allow food shipments for noncombatants to pass through their lines intact. Thus, was created, the Commission for Relief in Belgium. Hoover served as the Chairman from 1914 until 1919. At first, he focused on organizing fundraising efforts, then with those funds, the purchase and distribution of billions of pounds of provisions. His leadership fed roughly 9 million people each day in Belgium and Northern France from 1914 until 1921.
As a testament to his humanitarian character and abilities as a leader and administrator, this silver medal of thanks was made only two years into Mr. Hoover’s Belgian Relief activities. It depicts the face of Herbert Hoover on the front, with a personalized inscription on the reverse of: Herbert C. Hoover from his friends of the C.R.B. It was designed by Godefroid DeVreese, one of Belgium’s most prestigious medalists, and minted in January 1916 at famed Brussels medal shop Médailles d’Art Fonson & Cie. Copies of this medal were not made strictly for Herbert Hoover, though, as multiple relief organizations were able to raise funds for efforts by minting and selling hundreds of thousands of medals, of which over three thousand different designs were used. This copy is but one of those designs that was sold as a Belgian Relief Medal, but to me, it is one of the most important in telling Herbert Hoover’s humanitarian story.