What is often seen as a failed presidency was only 5 percent of a truly remarkable life; and as you walk past the displays detailing his life, it feels like you are walking through a Horatio Alger novel. This is the remarkable story an orphan’s rise to great heights through a combination of talent, hard work, historical context and a bit of blarney at the right time.
Hoover’s father died when he was 7; his mother when he was 10. The three Hoover children were split up, and he was sent to a stern uncle in Oregon. He later got into Stanford University and studied engineering. When he saw a job listing for a job calling for a much older man, he grew a mustache, bought a fancy suit and passed himself as older. He was sent to Australia, where he discovered he had a talent for finding gold and working with miners. The company sent him to China, where his skills continued to bring him attention and the opportunity to travel widely around the world. His wife, Lou Henry, and he lived in China long enough to speak the language, and they continued to speak it when they didn’t want others to understand what they were saying.
Franklin Roosevelt beat him in 1932 and he went into forced retirement in disgrace. After World War II, Harry Truman asked him to again help with the recovery in Europe. He was called the Great Humanitarian. In the museum, old people who were survivors of famines after both wars give testimonials on one monitor to what hunger does to people and how important Hoover’s work was.
Life-sized figures throughout show him as various ages, as a 10 year old, a young engineer, a man of wealth and as president.