Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

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Quick Overview

This is the audio-only described version of Herbert Hoover National Historic Site’s official print brochure. The story of Herbert Hoover and how to explore the park are presented through text, historic and contemporary photographs, photographs of artifacts, and a map.

Side one presents a short biography of Hoover’s life, including his early years, public service, and enduring marriage to Lou Henry Hoover. Side two focuses on the site today, including walking tour stops and visitor information.

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ILLUSTRATION: birthplace Cottage Watercolor

Illustration description: The front image on the brochure is a painting of the cottage in which Hoover was born, captioned, "Birthplace Cottage Watercolor." In the painting, a small white house with a green side lawn is set towards the back, with its front and right side showing. It has a tiny covered front porch, and green vines cover a trellis. There are two windows in the front and one window on the side. There is a glimpse of a back porch that also has a trellis. Behind the cottage is a small white outhouse with a brown blacksmith shop even further back and to the right. Trees with orange, yellow and brown leaves fill the background. A white fence surrounds the yard and cottage. In front of the fence is a boardwalk.

Illustration credit: Stan Haring, used by permission of Barbara Haring

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Quote by Herbert Hoover

Underneath the painting of Hoover’s birthplace cottage is the following quote: "But I prefer to think of Iowa as I saw it through the eyes of a ten-year old boy…filled with the wonders of Iowa’s streams and woods, of the mystery of growing crops … days should be filled with adventure and great undertakings, with participation in good and comforting things."

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TEXT: Herbert Hoover: A Short Biography

Text:  Herbert Hoover, mining engineer, humanitarian, statesman, and 31st president of the United States, was born August 10, 1874, in a simple, two-room cottage in West Branch, Iowa. His Quaker family had helped settle the town. Their principles of honesty, hard work, simplicity, and generosity guided Hoover throughout his life of service to the nation and the world. Herbert was the second of Jesse and Hulda Hoover’s three children. Jesse sold his blacksmith shop and opened a farm implement business in 1878. The Hoovers soon moved to a larger house on Downey Street, but they did not enjoy their new prosperity for long. Jesse died from ”rheumatism of the heart” in December 1880. By taking in sewing and economizing, Hulda was able to save the money from Jesse’s insurance policy for her children’s education. Hulda was often called to speak at nearby Quaker meetings. On a trip in 1884 she contracted typhoid fever and pneumonia, which caused her death. The children were sent to live with various relatives. Herbert went to his Aunt Millie and Uncle Allan Hoover on a farm near West Branch. At the age of 11 Herbert was sent to Newberg, Oregon, to live with Hulda’s brother, Dr. Henry John Minthorn, and his family. He attended the Friends Pacific Academy, where Dr. Minthorn was superintendent. In 1888 the family moved to Salem, and Herbert worked in the office of his uncle’s Oregon Land Company. In 1891 Herbert entered the first class of Stanford University. He graduated in 1895 with a degree in geology and went to work in the California gold mines. In 1897 he joined a British firm and worked as a mining engineer in Australia. On February 10, 1899, Hoover married Lou Henry, whom he had met at Stanford. They had much in common: roots in Iowa, love of the outdoors, a sense of adventure, and college degrees in geology. They left immediately for China, where Hoover continued his career. There, in 1900, the Hoovers survived the Boxer Rebellion, an uprising of Chinese nationalists. Hoover became a partner in Bewick, Moreing and Co., in 1901. Known as the “doctor of sick mines,” he circled the globe several times accompanied by his wife and two young sons. Hoover retired from the company in 1908 and established his own international firm of engineering consultants based in London. In 1912 the Hoovers’ English translation of the 1500s Latin treatise on mining, De Re Metallica, was published; it remains a standard reference work to this day.
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Photo Series: Hoover Family Portraits

On the right side of the brochure under the watercolor of Hoover’s birthplace cottage are four black and white historic portrait photographs of Hoover, his parents and his siblings. Detailed descriptions follow.

  1. Photo description: Herbert Hoover, from head to shoulders, looks straight ahead. He is in his forties and his hair is slicked back and parted to the right. His mouth is in a straight line. He wears a black suit coat, a white shirt, and tie.
  2. Photo caption: Hulda Hoover Photo description: This is an oval-shaped photo portrait of Hoover's mother Hulda from head to shoulders. She has a thin face and sharp nose. Her mouth is turned slightly downwards, but she does not look like she is frowning. Her eyes are bright and her dark hair is parted in the center and pulled tightly back into a bun. Her dress has a high, turtle-neck collar with lacy, white ruffles on the top. She also has a black scarf around her neck, which is pulled tight and into rosette shapes.
  3. Photo caption: Jesse Hoover. Photo description: This is an oval-shaped photo portrait of Hoover’s father Jesse from head to shoulders. He looks to be in his late twenties to early thirties. He has a thin face that is covered by a mustache and beard. His beard is narrow, dark, curly and long, covering the top portion of his shirt collar. He has a full head of dark, slicked back hair. His eyes look kind and gentle. He wears a black coat over a white shirt.
  4. Photo caption: Mary, Herbert, and Theodore Hoover, 1881. Photo description: Hoover and his two siblings look straight ahead. From left to right are his sister Mary, himself and Theodore. None of the children are smiling. They all have very short hair. Mary is five. She wears a plain dress and striped tights. She is seated with her left leg bent and tucked underneath her other leg. Herbert is seven. He wears a dark coat. On his left and in front of him is Theodore, who is ten. He is seated and wears a dark coat. His hands are placed in his lap.

Photo credits: Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum 

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TEXT: timeline: A Life of Public Service

In the lower half of side one of the brochure are a timeline and five images emphasizing the years that were important in Hoover's life and career. This section begins with the following quote from Hoover: "The great human advances have not been brought about by distinctly mediocre men and woman. They were brought about by distinctly uncommon people with vital sparks of leadership."

The text for the timeline and the images are presented under their own titles.

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Timeline Text

Introductory timeline text: A self-made man, Hoover embodied the ideal of individualism. His expertise as a mining engineer made him a millionaire by age 40. Raised in the Quaker tradition of kindness and generosity toward others, Hoover embarked on a course of public service for the rest of his life.

  1. 1914: Helps Americans stranded in Europe return home at the outbreak of World War one; Chairman of Commission for Relief in Belgium (photo and artifact collage on left of brochure).
  2. 1917: United States Food Administrator for President Wilson.
  3. 1918 through 1919: Director General of American Relief Administration; feeds 350 million people in 21 countries.
  4. 1919: Founds Hoover Institution of War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University. 
  5. 1921 through 1928: Secretary of Commerce for Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. 
  6. 1929 through 1933: Elected 31st president of the US; practices Good Neighbor Policy toward Latin America; signs London Naval Treaty; reforms federal courts; creates Federal Farm Board and Veterans Administration; regulates stocks and securities; convenes conference on child health; increases acreage of national forests; expands the National Park System. 
  7. 1936 through 1964: Chairman, Boys Clubs of America (pictured on right in brochure). 
  8. 1946 through 1947: Helps found children’s welfare organizations CARE and UNICEF (child health logo above text on brochure). 
  9. 1947 through 1949: Chairman of the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government, first Hoover Commission, for President Harry S. Truman. 
  10. 1953 through 1955: Chairman of the second Hoover Commission, for President Dwight Eisenhower. 
  11. 1955 through 1964: Enjoys his final years as a revered elder statesman; dies from hemorrhaging of the stomach, October 20, 1964. 
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Description: Flour Sacks

Artifact collage caption: After the US sent flour to Europe during World War I, hundreds of the sacks, beautifully embroidered, were returned to Hoover in thanks.

Artifact collage description: There are three images of colorful flour sacks clustered together. The background of the sack on the left is white and there are white and red fringes on the top and bottom. At the top is an American flag to the left and a Belgium flag to the right. The primarily blue text reads: “49 LBS (pounds) wheat flour. Indianapolis Star Belgian Relief Fund. Hearty Thanks from Belgium.” In a yellow, red and blue circle are the words “Contributed by the people of Indiana U.S.A.” The letters in Indiana are blue at the top with white stars within the blue. The bottom portion of each letter is red and white striped.

The flour sack on the right is light pink. Blue letters with a bright red outline state: "Gift from Ontario, Canada to the Motherland."

Underneath this flour sack is another with a light blue background. It has a red circle in the middle, with text that states: “Buckeye Rolled Oats." At the bottom and in the middle, the text reads: 90 LBS (pounds) buckeye rolled oats. On the right is an American flag (red, white and blue) and on the left is a Belgium flag (red, yellow and black).

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Photo: Belgian Relief Ship

Photo description: This is a black and white historic photo of a large ship. The ship is all black. Rising from the center of the ship is a tower and a pole at the front. On the side of the ship are two long signs, one on top of the other. They are white with black lettering. Both state: "Belgian Relief.

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Logo: Child Health

Logo description: This circular logo looks a bit like an ink stamp. It is a circle outlined in blue. Inside the circle at the top are the words "Child Health.” Below these words are the solid blue figures of two kids energetically dancing. They face each other with their arms outstretched and each with a raised leg.

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Photo: Hoover at the Boys Club

Photo description: An older Hoover (late 70s or early 80s) is standing at the edge of a pool table. Five teenage boys surround him. Three are behind him, one is to his left and the other is to his right. The boy to his right is bent down preparing to take a shot with his pool stick. Most of them smile as they watch the boy taking his shot. Hoover wears a dark suit, white shirt, and tie. The boys wear coats or sweaters. At least one boy wears a tie.   

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TEXT: the Hoovers—A Lasting Partnership

This section highlights Hoover's time before, during and after his time in office. It also highlights his family and, in particular, his wife Lou Henry Hoover. The text and images are presented under their own sections. 

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Text: The Hoovers—A Lasting Partnership

Text: Highly respected for his humanitarian efforts during and after World War I and service as Secretary of Commerce, Hoover easily won the presidency in 1928. Economic disaster soon overshadowed his administration’s bright prospects. On October 29, 1929, the stock market collapsed, signaling the Great Depression.  

Hoover worked to relieve the nation’s widespread distress. He introduced banking reform legislation, created the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, developed an agricultural credit system, and convened an economic conference to promote trade and stabilize currencies. His actions paved the way for later New Deal measures.

It was not enough. His popularity evaporated, and he lost the 1932 election to Franklin D. Roosevelt. Hoover retired to his California home and devoted much time to the Hoover Institution. He maintained his interest in the welfare of young people and during and after World War II he again worked to relieve hunger in Europe. He headed two commissions to make the federal government more efficient—his final acts of public service.

Hoover did not travel alone along what he called the “slippery road of public life.” His wife, Lou, was at his side. On March 28, 1874, Lou Henry was born in Waterloo, Iowa, to banker Charles Henry and his wife, Florence. The family moved to California 10 years later. An athlete with an analytical mind and an independent spirit, Lou was the first woman to graduate from Stanford with a geology degree. Her marriage to Herbert Hoover in 1899 began an adventure that took them around the world and to the White House. Their sons, Herbert Jr., born in 1903, and Allan, born in 1907, traveled with them.

Lou shared with her husband the belief in the equality of all people and the desire to help those in need, especially children. She was active in humanitarian causes from hunger relief to the Girl Scouts. She designed the Hoovers’ home in California on the Stanford campus, as well as Camp Rapidan, the presidential retreat in what is now Shenandoah National Park. In the 1930s she directed the restoration of Herbert’s birthplace cottage. After 1940 the Hoovers lived at the Waldorf Towers in New York City. Their partnership of nearly 45 years ended when Lou died in January 1944 of a heart attack.

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Photos: The Hoovers—A Lasting Partnership

  1. Photo caption: Herbert Hoover, 1921. Photo description: In the right side of this photo, Hoover stands. To his right, a woman opens a box stacked on several others. Hoover points at the boxes. In front of Hoover are three, large sacks of flour stacked on top of each other. On the left side of the picture, a man stands next to a large dolly used for lifting and moving things. All three people wear hats and are dressed in black winter coats. There is a wall of boxes behind them all and a large white sign that says "European Relief Council." 
  2. Photo caption: At Camp Rapidan, 1932. Photo description: Hoover and his wife Lou are outside seated in chairs in a grassy area. Behind them is a pine tree, and more trees in the background. Hoover is on the left and wears a white hat and a dark suit. Lou is on the right and wears a white dress. She has crocheting needles and material in her hands. In between them is a large, German shepherd dog. The dog is sitting on its back feet, its nose reaching for something in Hoover's outstretched hand. Hoover and his wife are both looking at the dog. Lou has a big smile on her face.  
  3. Photo caption: Herbert Jr., Lou, and Allan, 1912. Photo description: Lou is seated and holding a book. Her older son is behind her looking over her shoulder. Her younger son sits in front of her. All three look down at the book. Lou is in her upper thirties. She is thin and her dark hair is loosely pulled and pinned up around the sides of her head. She wears a long-sleeve white dress. Her younger son, Allan, is five. He has dark hair and wears a white suit. He peers intently at the book. Herbert Jr, the elder son, is nine. He also has dark hair and wears a white dress shirt, tie, and black pants. He has a slight smile on his face.   
  4. Photo caption: Lou Hoover, 1925 Photo description: Lou is seated at a desk writing. Her pencil is positioned above a piece of paper, but she looks directly at us. Her mouth is in a straight line, and her eyes are somewhat shadowed by the hat she is wearing. She is in her early 50s, with curly gray hair pinned back behind her head. She wears a dark jacket with tassels hanging on the left shoulder.  
  5. Artifact description: In the right corner of the photo of Lou Hoover seated at a desk, is a small cut-out photo of a Girl Scout membership pin. The pin is shaped similarly to a three-leaf clover, but the bottom, where the stem would be, is thicker, coming to a point at the end. Inside the pin, the engraving is of an eagle with outstretched wings. Above the eagle’s head are the letters “GS.”
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TEXT: visiting West Branch

Side two of the brochure includes a map of the site, which takes up the top third of the page. The middle to lower section includes information about points of interest within the park, to include significant buildings and the Hoover gravesite. The bottom of the brochure includes logistical details about planning your visit and a small map that situates the park within the larger area. This content is presented under separate titles. Following is another Hoover quote, more text about the community, and image descriptions for the blacksmith shop and two artifacts.

Quotation: "My grandparents and my parents came here in a covered wagon. In this community they toiled and worshipped God….The most formative years of my boyhood were spent here. My roots are in this soil.” Herbert Hoover

Text: At the time of Hoover’s birth, West Branch was a growing community of about 350 people. By 1880 over 500 people lived here. It was a town dependent on farming, and even those who did not farm, like Jesse Hoover, supported farming. The town had schools, churches, hotels, general stores, livery stables, dressmaking and shoe shops, and other businesses reflective of the town’s prosperity. Today the town’s buildings and site help recall that historic setting. The birthplace cottage, blacksmith shop, Friends Meetinghouse, and one-room frame school, all open to the public, are typical of a Midwestern farm community of that time.

Photo caption: Blacksmith shop. Photo description: This color, contemporary photo shows the front of a brown, wooden blacksmith shop. At the top of the shop above the doors is a white sign that says "Jesse Hoover, Blacksmith" and below the sign is a large horseshoe. The large doors to the shop are swung open, and inside is a wooden fence, and beyond the fence, there are a few items, such as a wagon wheel and blacksmith tools.

Artifact caption: Hoover family Bible. Photo description: The Bible is reddish-brown. In the center in highly decorative type are the words "Holy Bible" written in a faded gold. There is a faded, thick, dark gold border around the perimeter of the book’s cover. A stamped, flower-like design is in the middle of the border on all four sides.

Artifact caption: Quaker woman's bonnet. Photo description: The bonnet is in profile and is a shiny, gray-blue color, with hints of purple. The rounded section in the back is where the bonnet would fit around the back of a woman’s head. Attached to this cap-like section is a larger piece of material. When worn, this section of the bonnet would not only shield but protrude past the sides and top of a woman’s head and face. Below the cap in the back is additional material that would cover the back and sides of woman’s neck. Though not seen, these bonnets would typically be secured at the front of the neck below the chin with ties.

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Park Map

Map description: Located on the top half of side two of the brochure, this map shows the whole of the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site. North is pointing up. A map legend indicates that approximately five-eighths of an inch equals 100 feet and approximately one and one-quarter inch equal 100 meters. A yellow line indicates walkways. A dashed yellow line indicates a tallgrass prairie trail.

Main Street borders the top of the map and the park and runs east-west. This area is identified on the map as the West Branch Historic District.

Parkside Drive runs north-south and borders the park on the east. It is the main road leading to the park’s Visitor Center. Two parking areas, one for RVs and the other for cars, are within the Visitor Center area. Restrooms are located the visitor center.

Downey Street runs north-south and cuts through the park. The Visitor Center is on the east side of Downey Street. Many of the walking tour stops and historic buildings are clustered around Downey Street on either side.

Close by the visitor center and to its left (west) on the map is the cluster of historic buildings open to the public. After going to the visitor center, people walk to these buildings. These buildings are: Hoover's Birthplace Cottage, the blacksmith shop, and the schoolhouse. Hoover Creek runs east-west through the park and cuts across Downey Street. There is a small walking bridge that people can walk over to get to the Friends Meeting House in that same area.

After seeing this cluster of buildings, visitors can cross back over the bridge and continue west to the picnic shelters. If visitors don’t cross back over the bridge they can also continue west to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum.

The Hoover gravesite is in the southwest and far left corner of the map, beyond the Library and Museum. Intersecting with Parkside Drive and traveling westward into the park is a loop road that is on the south side of the Library and Museum. This road will take visitors to the gravesites of President and Mrs. Hoover. The road makes a northward loop and connects back to itself just west of the Library and Museum. Additional parking is located at the Library and Museum, and on either side of the gravesite. Additional restrooms are also located on the northern side of the loop road and gravesite.

Visitors can access the gravesite from the loop road via the picnic shelters or by continuing to walk past the Library and Museum to the loop road.

The tallgrass prairie observation deck is not far from the gravesite. A 2.2 mile prairie trail is in the vicinity.

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TEXT: enjoying Your Walking Tour

Herbert Hoover’s long public career was preceded by an upbringing in this small town. Both periods of his life are represented on the walking tour through Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, which was authorized in 1965 to preserve historical properties associated with his life.

Under individual titles are the stops a visitor can make along the walking tour.

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TEXT: safety Advisories

Please be alert for posted safety messages. Boardwalks may be slippery when wet. Stay on established walks and trails. Do not climb trees and fences. Avoid creek banks, which are steep and unstable. Be watchful for poison ivy and ticks. Do not disturb animals or plants. Keep pets leashed at all times. Use designated crosswalks.  

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TEXT: birthplace Cottage

Jesse Hoover and his father, Eli, built the 14-by-20-foot cottage in 1871. The Hoovers sold the cottage in 1878; it had several owners until it was purchased in 1935 by President and Mrs. Hoover and restored. To President Hoover the cottage was “physical proof of the unbounded opportunity of American life.” A private organization operated the site as a memorial and public park until it became part of the national historic site.

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TEXT: blacksmith Shop

This shop, northwest of the birthplace cottage, is similar to the one Jesse Hoover operated from 1871 to 1878. Here young Herbert Hoover learned the work ethic that prevailed in this community. 

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TEXT: schoolhouse

Quakers believed strongly in educating both boys and girls. This one-room frame school, built in 1853, was also used as a meetinghouse. The building originally stood two blocks from here at the corner of Downey and Main streets and was moved several times. It served as the primary school for the West Branch community when Hoover was a boy. The building was moved here in 1971. 

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TEXT: Hoover creek

This small creek flows past the birthplace cottage and into the larger west branch of Wapsinonoc Creek. The Wapsinonoc was central to young Herbert Hoover’s environment. There he swam, fished, and learned the pleasures of the outdoors, which stayed with him throughout his life.

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TEXT: friends Meetinghouse

Wooden benches and an iron stove provided simple furnishings for the meetinghouse, completed in 1857. The Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, held services of silent meditation here. Anyone who had an insight or a spiritual message could stand and speak before the congregation. Young Herbert worshipped here with his family. His mother, a recorded minister, spoke often at meetings, working for temperance and other causes. The building has been moved two blocks from its original site.

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TEXT: statue of Isis

The children and citizens of Belgium gave Herbert Hoover this bronze statue of Isis, the Egyptian goddess of life, in gratitude for his work on their behalf during and after World War I. Sculpted by Auguste Puttemans, the statue was on the Stanford University campus from 1921 until 1939 when the Hoovers moved it here to overlook the birthplace cottage.

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TEXT: house of Maples

Nothing remains of the house where the Hoover family lived from 1879 to 1884. Today a sign and maple tree mark the site. The P.T. Smith House, next door, is the only house that Hoover remembered when he visited West Branch years later. The Hoover children and their neighbors enjoyed sledding on nearby Cook’s Hill in winter.

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TEXT: Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum

Here you can find papers and collections relating to both President and Mrs. Hoover. It was built by the Herbert Hoover Birthplace Foundation and dedicated by former Presidents Hoover and Truman in 1962.

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TEXT: gravesite

Herbert Hoover died October 20, 1964, and was laid to rest five days later in this hillside grave overlooking the cottage where he was born. Lou, his wife, is buried beside him. The simple stones of Vermont marble are in keeping with the Quaker ideal of simplicity.

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TEXT: tallgrass Prairie

The National Park Service restored the 81-acre tallgrass prairie in 1971 to represent the landscape that covered most of Iowa until the land was settled in the second half of the 1800s. This fertile land was plowed and farmed by the time Herbert Hoover was born. The Isaac Miles Farm at the top of Cook’s Hill is a typical farm of the 1870s and 1880s when Hoover was a child. Isaac Miles was a relative of the Hoovers.

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TEXT: planning Your Visit

Information about planning your visit is in the bottom section of side two of the brochure, including a small map of the park within the larger area. Explore the information under each title for more information about planning your visit. 

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TEXT: visitor Center

Start here for information, exhibits, publications, a video, and bookstore. Park staff can answer questions and help you plan your visit. The park is open daily except Thanksgiving, December 25, and January 1.

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Getting Here—Text and Map

Text: The visitor center is at Parkside Drive and Main Street, one-half mile north of exit 254 on I-80 in West Branch, Iowa.

Map description: At the lower right corner of the brochure is a small map with north pointing up. Main Street runs east-west in the upper section of the map. Route 80, which also runs east-west, is south of the park at the bottom of the map.

The Herbert Hoover National Historic Site Visitor Center is in the middle of the map. Parkside Drive, running north-south, runs behind the visitor center to the east. On the east side of Parkside Drive and the visitor center is RV parking. About midway on the eastern border of the park is a road that intersects with Parkside Drive. This road travels west into the park and makes a loop at the far west section.

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TEXT: safety

Please be careful and don’t allow your visit to be spoiled by an accident. The park takes great care to provide for your safety, but hazards that require your attention may still exist. For firearms and other regulations, check the park website.

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TEXT: emergencies

Emergencies call 911

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OVERVIEW: accessibility

We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For information go to a visitor center, ask a ranger, call, or check our website. Service animals are welcome.

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TEXT: park Contact and More Information

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TEXT: Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum

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