Much Ado About Medals Act III: The Secretary, The Flood, and The Chief

In March 1921, after having served for four years as United States Food Administrator and Commissioner for Belgian Relief, Mr. Hoover was appointed as Secretary of Commerce by President Warren G. Harding.

Beloved for his work in Europe, his emergency management abilities would be called upon once again, but this time at home. In April 1927, a disastrous flood crippled the lower Mississippi Valley. Hundreds of thousands of people became homeless or displaced and lost their possessions. Livestock and crops were destroyed in unimaginable numbers. The Secretary quickly went to work, appealing for help through radio and the written press, ultimately raising millions of dollars in aid. His relief work here at home thrust him even further into the hearts and minds of the masses and helped pave his way to a landslide victory in the 1928 presidential election.

This leads us to arguably his greatest accomplishment, and greatest medal: the Inaugural Medal. True, it may not look as fancy as some of his other medals and awards, but having your face pressed into one of these medals is no small feat, as the Inauguration has only happened 46 times since 1789; only 32 of those Inaugurations came equipped with official medals. The front of this 18-karat gold medal depicts the newly elected Herbert Hoover. The inscription around his image displays the date of the ceremony on March 4, 1929.

The back of the medal is quite interesting. Obviously, it depicts the Great Seal of the United States, but more personalized objects are also seen. In the top left is a star sending rays of light, which represent food relief to the people of Europe. The map highlights France, Germany, and Australia. At the bottom right are engineering tools, and a depiction of a De Re Metallica book at bottom center, with the names of President Hoover and Vice President Charles Curtis. You can see this medal on display next to the Inauguration film in the main gallery.

I would like to add one last interesting piece to the story behind this medal. The Herbert Hoover Inaugural Medal was the very first Official Inaugural Medal to be offered for sale as a collector’s item to the public. Prior to 1929, they were pressed only for cabinet members.

Hail to the Chief.

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