Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States, was born in the town of West Branch in 1874. He is the only President who hails from the Hawkeye state. The Herbert Hoover National Historical Site sits in the heart of West Branch and is a fascinating look at the life of Hoover. The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum on the site house amazing artifacts from his Presidential tenure and contain a breadth of historical knowledge that cannot be absorbed in a single visit.
On the Herbert Hoover National Historical Site, several original buildings from Hoover’s childhood allow one to step back in time and take a very personal look at the structures that were an integral part of his formative years. When you peer into his birthplace cottage, you realize how cramped this humble abode must have been with his parents, Hulda Minthorn and Jesse Hoover, and his siblings, Theodore and Mary, all living within its walls. Still, the size of the house where one is born does not predict the courage and heart one’s life will contain. It’s a wonderful reminder that hard work and education, rather than a silver spoon mentality, can lead one to great achievements, including the Presidency of the United States.
Hoover was raised within the Religious Society of Friends. The spiritual practices that shaped his childhood took place at least partially in the Friends Meetinghouse, built in 1857, on display at the site. One can imagine him gathering with his siblings and parents and perhaps being imbued with a strength and faith that would help see him through years in the Presidency that included trying to help the nation cope with the challenges of the Great Depression. He would surely need strength aplenty to lead in such a dire period in American history.
Looking at the blacksmith shop, owned by Jesse Hoover, one can imagine how he toiled to keep his young family afloat. Surely, though young, Herbert Hoover must have absorbed the lessons of hard work, determination, and responsibility that his father undoubtedly displayed day after day. These three tenets of honorable leadership would be sorely needed when was elected to the highest office in the land.
When you are done exploring Herbert Hoover’s early life, and there is much more to explore than the three aforementioned structures, you should make your way over to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum to see how his Presidency helped to shape the history of the U.S. It’s a good history lesson for old and young alike, and with their changing exhibits, you will likely wish to return to see what new learning opportunities the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum have to offer. They do offer a small gift shop that might even have that perfect item for that history buff you know.
To conclude your visit to the Herbert Hoover National Historical Site, you might wish to take a moment of silent reflection and visit the gravesite of Hoover and his wife, Lou Henry Hoover. In the quiet surroundings of a patch of restored Iowa prairie, it will complete your journey through the life of this accomplished native Iowan. Exploring his life and Presidency might even inspire a future second-ever President from Iowa. In any case, the trip to West Branch and the journey through Hoover's life are both voyages worth taking.
Photo of Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum taken by author.