Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch, Iowa, near Iowa City contains the childhood home of Herbert Hoover, along with the one-room school house, a blacksmith shop, and the Quaker meeting-house. The visitor center has a short film about President Hoover, and there are about a mile and a half of walking trails through the prairie, including to the President and the First Lady's grave sites and the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum (not part of the National Park Service site). A visit here is really a time to reflect on Herbert Hoover's extraordinary life.
Herbert Hoover is probably best known now for being the President during the start of the Great Depression - justly or unjustly, he is often blamed for prolonging the depression with a hands-off economic policy. This is usually all we hear about Hoover from social studies textbooks, but President Hoover was one of the most interesting Americans of the 20th century.
Hoover was born in West Branch, Iowa, and graduated from Stanford University, where he majored in geology. After college became a mining engineer in Australia and China. Herbert Hoover at one point was the most highly paid man in the world, as his skills as a mining engineer were in much demand in Australia. This only lasted until 1914, when he entered the public sector as a humanitarian.
His engineering skills helped him organize the logistics of providing aid and relief to Europe both during and after World War I. Hoover's leadership skills led him into politics, and he became President Harding's Secretary of Commerce in 1920.
Hoover reprised his humanitarian role with the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927, where he directed relief efforts.
In 1928, Hoover won the Republican nomination to succeed Calvin Coolidge for President. In 1929, the stock market crashed, and rather than becoming another recession, the country's economic output dragged. Hoover was seen as not doing enough, and was voted out in favor of Franklin Roosevelt. Hoover then entered a long period out of American politics - FDR had blamed him for the Great Depression, and he was very unpopular.
Hoover re-entered public life after World War 2, reprising his role organizing relief to a war-torn Europe. Both Truman and Eisenhower called on Hoover to serve.