Knowing the Presidents: Herbert C. Hoover  

Herbert C. Hoover  

Thirty-First President, 1929-1933


Running on a progressive platform, Herbert C. Hoover was enormously popular. His economic acuity was especially respected as he had established his capable good judgment during his tenure as secretary of commerce for both Harding and Coolidge.


Herbert C. Hoover had to manage the nation during the Great Depression. Not until late 1931 did he embrace several initiatives employing emergency federal aid. Hoover could have done little to solve the Depression; not until WWII was the nation able to recover.

Hoover mishandled the “Bonus Expeditionary Force” (veterans of WWI asking for benefits). In 1932, in an effort to remove veterans living near the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Douglas MacArthur burned 2,000 men’s camps, for which Hoover took responsibility. Hoover left office in disgrace, falsely blamed for both the Depression and the Bonus March fiasco.

Major Acts:

Three things laid the foundations for what became the Good Neighbor policy toward Latin America under Roosevelt: the 1929 Pan-American Treaty of Arbitration; the League of Nations investigation of a dispute between Peru and Colombia in 1933; and Herbert C. Hoover’s plans for removing the marines from Haiti and Nicaragua. 

In 1932, Roosevelt signed the Emergency Relief Construction Act, which provided $2 billion for public works projects and $300 million for direct relief programs run by state governments.

The Norris-La Guardia Anti-Injunction Act and the 1935 Wagner Act both supported organized labor and were important forerunners of pro-labor legislation.


Herbert C. Hoover dealt with U.S. foreign relations by relying on the power of negotiation rather than the use of force.

Hoover was an organizational genius who as chief executive practiced features of the modern presidency later associated with his successor Franklin D. Roosevelt. Some of Hoover’s ideas for combating the Depression—such as the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, aid to agriculture, and long-term public works and relief appropriations—were popularized by Roosevelt.