By Edward Steichen, 1929. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution;
reprinted with permission of Joanna T. Steichen
Thirty-first President, 1929-1933
History might have a very different opinion of Herbert Hoover if he
hadn't happened to preside over one of America's worst financial disasters.
Hoover began his term at the tail end of a decade of unprecedented
prosperity. However, rampant speculation led to the stock market crash
of 1929, ushering in an era of severe economic depression. Though
Hoover, a self-made millionaire and engineering magnate, attempted
to bring some relief to the country's ailing financial institutions,
he felt it was not the government's place to directly assist the individuals
and families who were adversely affected by the hard times. Fairly
or unfairly, he was blamed for the worsening depression and voted
out of office after one term. Ironically, Hoover is also remembered
for his brilliant administration of food and other types of aid during
World War I, and again after World War II.