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HERBERT HOOVER THE MAN AND HIS WORK
BY VERNON KELLOGG AUTHOR OF "HEADQUARTERS NIGHTS," ETC.
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY NEW YORK LONDON 1920
COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
DEDICATED TO MY COMPANIONS OF THE C. R. B.
No man can have reached the position in the public eye, can have had such influence in the councils of our own government and in the fate of other governments, can have been so conspicuously effective in public service as has Herbert Hoover, without exciting a wide public interest in his personality, his fundamental attitude toward his great problems and his methods of solving them. This American, who has had to live in the whole world and yet has remained more truly and representatively American than many of us who have never crossed an ocean or national boundary line, is an object of absorbing interest today among the people of his native land. He is hardly less interesting to millions in other lands. He has carried the American point of view, the American manner, the American qualities of heart and mind to the far corners of the earth. He has no less revealed again, as other great Americans have done before him, these American attributes to America itself.
Many questions are being asked about the life and experiences of this man before he entered upon his outstanding public service and about the details of his personal participation in the work of the great wartime private and governmental organizations under his direction.
This book is the attempt of an observer, associate and friend to tell, simply and straightforwardly, the personal story of the man and his work up to the present.
I. CHILDREN 1
II. THE CHILD AND BOY 10
III. THE UNIVERSITY 31
IV. THE YOUNG MINING ENGINEER 59
V. IN CHINA 80
VI. LONDON AND THE REST OF THE WORLD 102
VII. THE WAR: THE MAN AND HIS FIRST SERVICE 124
VIII. THE RELIEF OF BELGIUM; ORGANIZATION AND DIPLOMATIC DIFFICULTIES 140
IX. THE RELIEF OF BELGIUM; SCOPE AND METHODS 165
X. AMERICAN FOOD ADMINISTRATION; PRINCIPLES, CONSERVATION, CONTROL OF EXPORTS 199
XI. AMERICAN FOOD ADMINISTRATION; GENERAL REGULATION; CONTROL OF WHEAT AND PORK, ORGANIZATION IN THE STATES 225
XII. AMERICAN RELIEF ADMINISTRATION 256
APPENDIX I 283
APPENDIX II 291
APPENDIX III 311
APPENDIX IV 334
It was a great day for the children of Warsaw. It was a great day for their parents, too, and for all the people and for the Polish Government. But it was especially the great day of the children. The man whose name they all knew as well as their own, but whose face they had never seen, and whose voice they had never heard, had come to Warsaw. And they were all to see him and he was to see them.
He had not announced his coming, which was a strange and upsetting thing for the government and military and city officials whose business it is to arrange all the grand receptions and the brilliant parades for visiting guests to whom the Government and all the people wish to do honor. And there was no man in the world to whom the Poles could wish to do more honor than to this uncrowned simple American citizen whose name was for them the synonym of savior.
For what was their new freedom worth if they could not be alive to enjoy it? And their being alive was to them all so plainly due to the heart and brain and energy and achievement of this extraordinary American, who sat always somewhere far away in Paris, and pulled the strings that moved the diplomats and the money and the ships and the men who helped him manage the details, and converted all of the activities of these men and all of these things into food for Warsaw—and for all Poland. It was food that the people of Warsaw and all Poland simply had to have to keep alive, and it was food that they simply could not get for themselves. They all knew that. The name of another great American spelled freedom for them; the name Herbert Hoover spelled life to them.
So it was no wonder that the high officials of the Polish Government and capital city were in a state of great excitement when the news suddenly came that the man whom they had so often urged to come to Poland was really moving swiftly on from Prague to Warsaw.
Ever since soon after Armistice Day he had sat in Paris, directing with unremitting effort and absolute devotion the task of getting food to the mouths of the hungry people of all the newly liberated but helpless countries of Eastern Europe, and above all, to the children of these countries, so that the coming generation, on whom the future of these struggling peoples depended, should be kept alive and strong. And now he was preparing to return to his own country and his own children to take up again the course of his life as a simple American citizen at home.
But before going he wanted to see for himself, if only by the most fleeting of glimpses, that the people of Poland and Bohemia and Servia and all the rest were really being fed. And especially did he want to see that the children were alive and strong.
When he came to Paris in November, 1918, at the request of the President of the United States, to organize the relief of the newly liberated peoples of Eastern Europe, terrible tales were brought to him of the suffering and wholesale deaths of the children of these ravaged lands. And when those of us who went to Poland for him in January, 1919, to find out the exact condition and the actual food needs of the twenty-five million freed people there, made our report to him, a single unpremeditated sentence in this report seemed most to catch his eyes and hold his attention. It did more: it wetted his eyes and led to a special concentration of his efforts on behalf of the suffering children. This sentence was: "We see very few children playing in the streets of Warsaw." Why were they not playing? The answer was simple and sufficient: The children of Warsaw were not strong enough to play in the streets. They could not run; many could not walk; some could not even stand up. Their weak little bodies were bones clothed with skin, but not muscles. They simply could not play.
So in all the excitement of the few hours possible to the citizens of Warsaw and the Government officials of Poland to make hurried preparation to honor their guest and show him their gratitude, one thing they decided to do, which was the best thing for the happiness of their guest they could possibly have done. They decided to show him that the children of Warsaw could now walk!
So seventy thousand boys and girls were summoned hastily from the schools. They came with the very tin cups and pannikins from which they had just had their special meal of the day, served at noon in all the schools and special children's canteens, thanks to the charity of America, as organized and directed by Hoover, and they carried their little paper napkins, stamped with the flag of the United States, which they could wave over their heads. And on an old race-track of Warsaw, these thousands of restored children marched from mid-afternoon till dark in happy, never-ending files past the grand stand where sat the man who had saved them, surrounded by the heads of Government and the notables of Warsaw.
They marched and marched and cheered and cheered, and waved their little pans and cups and napkins. And all went by as decorously and in as orderly a fashion as many thousands of happy cheering children could be expected to, until suddenly from the grass an astonished rabbit leaped out and started down the track. And then five thousand of these children broke from the ranks and dashed madly after him, shouting and laughing. And they caught him and brought him in triumph as a gift to their guest. But they were astonished to see as they gave him their gift, that this great strong man did just what you or I or any other human sort of human being could not have helped doing under like circumstances. They saw him cry. And they would not have understood, if he had tried to explain to them that he cried because they had proved to him that they could run and play. So he did not try. But the children of Warsaw had no need to be sorry for him. For he cried because he was glad.
But the children of Warsaw were not the only children of Poland that Hoover was interested in and wanted to see. His Polish family was a large and scattered one; there were nearly a million children in it altogether, and some of them were in Lodz and some in Cracow and others in Brest-Litovsk and Bielostok and even in towns far out on the Eastern frontier near the Polish-Bolshevist fighting lines. But of course he could not visit all of them, and much less could he hope to visit all the rest of his whole family in Eastern Europe. For while an especially large part of it was in Poland, other parts were in Finland, Esthonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and some of it was in Czecho-Slovakia and Austria, and other parts were in Hungary, Roumania, and Jugo-Slavia. Altogether this large and diverse family of Mr. Hoover's in Eastern Europe numbered at least two and a half million hungry children. And it only asked for his permission to be still larger. For at least a million more babies and boys and girls thought they were unfairly excluded from it, because they were sure that they were poor and weak and hungry enough to be admitted, and being very hungry, and not being able to get enough food any other way, was the test of admission to Mr. Hoover's family.
When the American Relief Administration, which was the organization called into being under Hoover's direction in response to President Wilson's appeal to Congress soon after the armistice, saw that its general assistance to the new nations could probably be dispensed with by the end of the summer of 1919, the director realized that some special help for the children would still be needed. The task of seeing that the underfed and weak children in all these countries of Eastern Europe, extending from the Baltic to the Black Sea, received their supplementary daily meals of specially fit and specially prepared food, could not be suddenly dropped by the American workers. There could be no confidence that the still unstable and struggling governments would be able to carry it on successfully. But with the abolition of the blockade and the incoming of the year's harvest, and with the growing possibility of adequate financial help through government and bank loans, the various new nations of Eastern Europe could be expected to arrange for an adequate general supply of food for themselves without further assistance from the American Relief Administration.
Just what the nature and methods of this assistance were, and how the one hundred million dollars put into the hands of the Relief Administration by Congress were made to serve as the basis for the purchase and distribution to the hungry countries of over seven hundred million dollars' worth of food, with the final return of almost all of the original hundred million to the United States Government (if not in actual cash, at least in the form of government obligations), will be told in a later chapter. Also how it was arranged, without calling on the United States Government for further advances, that the feeding of the millions of hungry children of Eastern Europe could go on as it is now actually going on every day under Hoover's direction, until the time arrives, some time this summer, when it can be wholly taken over by the new governments.
But just now I want to tell another story.
THE CHILD AND BOY
The account of Mr. Hoover's sympathetic interest in the child sufferers from the Great War, and of his active and effective work on their behalf, makes one wonder about his own childhood. He is not so old that his childhood days could have been darkened by the one war which did mean suffering to many American children, especially those of the South. He was not born in the South, nor of parents actually afflicted by poverty, and did not spend his early days in any of the comparatively few places in America, such as the congested great city quarters and industrial agglomerations of poor and ignorant foreign working-people, where real child distress is common; so he certainly did not, as a growing child, have his ears filled with tales of child suffering, or with the actual crying of hungry children.
There was one outstanding fact, however, in his relations as a child to the world and to the people most closely about him, which may have had its influence in making him especially susceptible to the sight of child misfortune. This is the fact that he, like many of his later wards in Europe, was orphaned at an early age. But he was by no means a neglected orphan. So I hardly think that his own personal experience as an orphan is a sufficient explanation of the passionate interest in the special fate of the children, which he displayed from the beginning of the war to its end.
Nor can the explanation lie in the coldly reasoned conclusion that the most valuable relief to a people so stricken by catastrophe that its very existence as a human group is threatened, is to let whatever mortality is unavoidable fall chiefly to the old and the adult infirm for the sake of saving the next generation on which alone the future existence of the group depends. This actual fact Hoover always clearly saw; but the thing that those close to him saw quite as clearly was that this alone accounted for but a small part of his intensive attention to the children.
It is, then, neither any sad experience in his own life, nor any sociologic or biologic understanding of the hard facts of human existence and racial persistence, that does much to explain his particular devotion to the health and comfort of the millions of suffering children in Europe. The explanation lies simply, although mysteriously, in his own personality. I say mysteriously, for, despite all the wonderful new knowledge of heredity that we have gained since the beginning of the twentieth century, the way by which any of us comes to be just the sort of man he is is still mostly mystery. Herbert Hoover is simply a kind of man who, when brought by circumstances face to face with the distress of a people, is especially deeply touched by the distress of the children, and is impelled by this to use all of his intelligence and energy to relieve this distress. What we can know of his inheritance and early environment may indeed reveal a little something of why he is this kind of man. But it certainly will not reveal the whole explanation.
Herbert Hoover, or, to give him for once his full name, Herbert Clark Hoover, was born on August 10, 1874, in a small Quaker community of Iowa which composed, at the time of his birth, most of the village of West Branch in that state. That is, he usually says that he was born on August 10, but sometimes he says that this important day was August 11. He seems to slide his birthday back and forth to suit the convenience of his family when they wish to celebrate it. He does this on the basis of the fact that when, in the midst of the general family excitement in the middle of the night of August 10-11, one of the busy Quaker aunts present bethought herself, for the sake of getting things straight in the family Bible, to say: "Oh, doctor, just how long ago was it that baby was born?" she got the following answer, "Just as near an hour ago as I can guess it." Thereupon she looked at the clock on the wall, and the doctor looked at his watch, and both found it exactly one o'clock of an important new morning!
Herbert's Quaker father, Jesse Clark Hoover, died in 1880, and his Quaker mother, Hulda Minthorn, in 1884. The father had had the simple education of a small Quaker college and was, at the time of Herbert's birth, the "village blacksmith," to give him the convenient title used by the town and country people about. But really he was of that ambitious type of blacksmith, not uncommon in the Middle West, whose shop not only does the repairing of the farm machines and household appliances, but manufactures various homely metal things, and does a little selling of agricultural implements on the side. Jesse Hoover's mind was rather full of ideas about possible "improvements" on the machines he repaired and sold. And his two sons, Herbert and Theodore, and Herbert's two sons, Herbert, Jr., and Allan, are all rather given to the same "inventiveness" about the home.
Hulda Randall Minthorn Hoover, Herbert's mother, was a woman of unusual mental gifts. After her husband's death she gave much attention to church work, and became a recognized "preacher" at Quaker meetings. In this capacity she revealed so much power of expression and exhortation that she was in much demand. Her death, in 1884, came from typhoid fever. Those who knew her speak of her "personality." They say that she had color and attractiveness, although she was unusually shy and reserved. One can say exactly the same things of her son Herbert.
The immediate Hoover ancestry is Quaker. The more remote is Quaker mixed with Dutch and French Huguenot. The Dutch name was spelled with an e instead of the second o. All of Herbert's grandparents were Quakers, and the Quaker records run back a long time. One of the family branches runs into Canada, with the story of a migration there of a group of refugees from the American colonies during the Revolution. These emigrants came from prosperous farms in Pennsylvania, but while they wanted to be free from England's control, they could not, as Quakers, agree to fight for this freedom. So as the neighbors were inclined to be a little "unpleasant" about this, and as Canada was just then offering free farms to colonists, they packed up their movables and trekked north.
Another Canadian branch, French Huguenot in origin, has traditions of hurried removals from France into Holland before St. Bartholomew's Night, and of later escapes into the same country. But all finally decided that Europe anywhere was impossible, and hence they determined on a wholesale emigration to Canada. Here by chance they settled down side by side with the little Quaker group which had come from Pennsylvania. Close association and intermarrying resulted in the Quakerizing of the European Huguenots—their beliefs were essentially similar, anyway—so in time all the descendants of this double Canadian line were Quakers.
There were two other children in Jesse and Hulda Hoover's family: one a boy, Theodore, three and a half years older than Herbert, and the other a girl, Mary, who was very much younger. Theodore, like his younger brother, became a mining engineer, and after a dozen years of professional and business experience with mines all over the world—part of the time in connection with mining interests directed by his brother—is now the head of the graduate department of mining engineering in Stanford University.
After the father's and mother's death, the three Hoover orphans came under the kindly care of various Quaker aunts and uncles, and especially at first of Grandmother Minthorn. This good grandmother took special charge of little Mary, and pretty soon carried her with her out to Oregon, where she had a son and daughter living. There had been a little property left when the father died, enough to provide a very slender income for each child. But if the dollars were few the kind relatives were not, and the little Hoovers never suffered from hunger.
These relatives were not limited to Iowa, and the boy Herbert soon found himself in a new and strange environment, surrounded by a different race of human beings, whose red-brown skin and fantastic trappings greatly excited his boyish wonder and imagination. For he was sent to live with his Uncle Laban Miles, U. S. Government Indian Agent for the Osage tribe in the Indian Territory, who was one of the many Quakers who had dedicated their lives to the cause of the Indians at that time. Here Herbert spent a happy six or eight months, playing with some little cousins and learning to know the original Americans. For when other pastimes palled there were always the strange and wonderful red people to watch and wonder about.
But his life among the original Americans was interrupted by the solicitous aunts and uncles, who, realizing that an abundance of barbarians and a paucity of schools might not be the best of surroundings for a child coming to its first years of understanding, decided on bringing him back into a more civilized and Quakerish environment; at least one less marked by tomahawks, bows and arrows, and other tangible suggestions of a most un-Quakerish manner of life.
So he was sent back to Iowa, where he lived for two very happy years in the home of Uncle Allan Hoover. To this uncle, and to his wife, Aunt Millie, the impressionable boy became strongly attached. And there were some energetic young cousins always on hand to play with. The older brother Theodore, or Tad, was living at this time with another uncle, a prosperous Iowa farmer, also much loved by both of the boys. He lived near enough to permit frequent playings together of the two, and on another farm, with Grandmother Minthorn, was still the baby sister Mary, who was, however, too young to be much of a playmate for the brothers. Indeed, the country all around bristled with the kindly uncles and aunts and other relatives and playmates, all interested in making life comfortable and happy for the little orphans.
There was also an especially attractive little black-eyed girl, Mildred Brook, who lived on a near-by farm, who later went to the same Quaker academy at Oskaloosa as Theodore, and is now Mrs. Theodore Hoover. In those days she was known as "Mildred of the berry-patches," as all the children for miles around associated her in their minds with the luxuriant vines on the farm of her Uncle Bransome with whom she lived. Her home was the children's Mecca in the berry season.
Herbert Hoover's memories of those days are filled with lively incidents and boyish farm adventure. There was the young calf, mutual property of himself and a cousin of like age, which was fitted out with a boy-made harness and trained to work, eventually getting out of hand in a corn field and dragging the single-shovel cultivator wildly across and along rows of tender growing grain. Later the calf was restored to favor when it was triumphantly attached to a boy-made sorghum mill, which actually worked, and pressed out the sweet juice from the sorghum cane.
Winter had its special joys of skates and sled; spring came with maple-sugaring, and summer with its long days filled with a thousand enterprises. There were fish in the creek which you might catch if you could sit still long enough, without too violent wiggling of the hook when the float gave its first faint indications of a bite. It was two miles to school, and most of the time the children had to walk. But that was only good for them, and there was, of course, a good deal of churchgoing and daily family prayers, but there were always convenient laps for tired little heads—being in church was the necessary thing, not being awake in church.
It was a joyous and wholesome two years, the kind that thousands of Mississippi Valley farms have given to hundreds of thousands of American little boys; the kind that gives them a good start in health and happiness towards a sturdy and simple adolescent life. But the time had come for young Herbert to learn new surroundings. For some reason, apparently not clearly remembered now, it was decided by the consulting uncles and aunts that young Herbert should go to Oregon, and join the Hoover and Minthorn relatives there. Perhaps, even probably, it was because of the presumably superior educational advantages of Oregon in the existence of the Newberg Pacific Academy that led to the decision. We may imagine that Herbert uttered no affirmative vote in the conclave that decided on his departure from the Iowa farm, and when he once got out to the superior place, he was less than ever in favor of the proceeding. But the conscientious uncles and aunts were inexorable as the Fates.
They meant to be the kindest of Fates, of course. They knew that they knew so much better than the little boy what was best for him. And probably they did. But this little pawn on the chessboard of life, moved about with ever so excellent intention by firm and confident hands, must have thought sometimes that he would have liked to have some little part in deciding these moves. But if one starts as pawn, one must find the way as pawn clear across the board to the king row before one can come to the higher estate of the nobler pieces.
The actual going from Iowa to far-away Oregon was not so unbearable, because of the excitement of the tremendous journey and the actual fun of it. It was not made, to be sure, as Herbert would have preferred it, in a long train of picturesque prairie schooners, drawn up in a circle each night to repel attacking Indians, as his storybooks described all transcontinental journeys; but in an overfull tourist-car on the railroad. Herbert's most vivid memories of the week's journey are of the wonderful lunch baskets and boxes filled with fried chicken, boiled hams, roast meats, countless pies and layer-cakes, caraway-seed cookies, and great red apples. Herbert Hoover had no food troubles in those days!
Arrived in Oregon he found himself in the family of Uncle John Minthorn, his mother's brother, a country doctor of Newberg, and the principal of the superior educational institution. Uncle John did not live on a farm, but on the edge of a small town, which was a mistake, according to Herbert's way of looking at it. And the Pacific Academy of Newberg, Oregon, could not be compared in interest with the district village school of West Branch, Iowa.
After two or three years of life with Dr. John, young Herbert was handed over to the care of a Grandfather Miles, for Dr. John decided to give up country doctoring in order to go into the land business "down in Salem," the capital city. Therefore, as little Herbert's schooling in the academy which he was attending all the time he was living with Dr. John, could not be interrupted, he was placed in the home of this Grandfather Miles on a farm just on the edge of the academy town.
Herbert's life with Grandfather Miles does not seem to have been a very happy one, for the old gentleman did not believe in spoiling little boys by too much kindness. There were many chores to do before and after school, and little time for playing. And the chores just had to be done, and not be forgotten as they sometimes were. Probably this strictness of discipline was a good thing for the small boy. But, like other small boys, he did not like it. So, also, like many other small boys, he decided to run away.
Running away may not be the exclusive prerogative of young Americans, but some way it is hard for me to picture European boys of fourteen going off on their own. And yet perhaps they do. At any rate it is such a favorite procedure with us that hardly one of us—I mean by us, American males—has not had a try at it or connived at some neighbor's son trying it. My own experience was only that of a conniver. A schoolmate of thirteen, whose father believed in a more vigorous method of correcting wayward sons than my father did, ran away from his house to as far as our house. There my brother and I secreted him in a clothes-closet for the nearly three hours of freedom that he enjoyed in half-smothered state. Then the stern father came over, discovered him and haled him away to proper discipline. I shall never forget the howls of the captured fugitive, nor the triumphant and accusing remark to us, shouted by the terrible capturer as he dragged off his victim: "Now ye see what liars ye are!" For, of course, we had done our impotent best to throw the hunter off the track. It was several days before I could lie again without a violent trembling.
But Herbert Hoover ran away for keeps. He did not run away to ship before the mast or to kill Indians. Nor did he run very far, only to Portland and to Salem, which his geography had already taught him were the principal city and capital, respectively, of the state of Oregon. And he ran away with the full knowledge and even tolerance of his relatives. But he went away to be independent, and to fit himself for the special kind of college to which he had already decided to go. In Salem he lived again with his Uncle John, helping in the real estate business, but in Portland he lived entirely on his own.
That part of his reason for running away which was connected with preparing for a college of his own choosing seems to have come about because of a difference of opinion that had arisen between young Herbert and his Quaker relatives with regard to the future course of his education. They had taken it quite as a matter of course that from the little Quaker academy in Newberg he would go to one of the reputable Quaker colleges of the country. But Herbert had come to a different idea about this matter of further education, and, as is characteristic of him, this idea had led to a decision, and the decision was on the rapid way to lead to action. In other words, Herbert had made up his mind that he wanted to study science, and for that purpose wanted to fit himself for and go to a modern scientific university. Also, he wanted to be, just as soon as he possibly could, on an independent financial footing. He probably did not express these wishes, in his boy's vocabulary, by any such large mouthful of phrases; he probably said to himself, "I want to earn my own living, and go to a university where I can learn science."
Just what led him to the decision about the modern university and science is not easy for the grown-up Herbert Hoover of today to tell. But he is pretty sure that a large part of this determination came from the casual visit of a man whom he had never seen before and has never seen or heard of since, but who was an old friend of his father.
This man, on his way through the town to look at a mine he owned somewhere in eastern Oregon, dropped off at Newberg so that he might see the little son of his Iowa friend. He was a "mining man," and, from the impression that Mr. Hoover still has of him, probably a mining engineer. He stayed at the local hotel for two or three days, and saw what he could of young Herbert between school-hours and chore-times. His conversation was apparently mostly about the difference in the work and achievements in the world of the man who had a profession and the one who had not. It was illustrated, because the speaker was a miner, by examples in the field of mining. The talk also was much about engineering in general and about just what training it was necessary for a boy to have in order to become a good engineer, with much emphasis put on the part in this training which was to be got from a university. He also explained the difference between a university and a small academy-college.
And then the man went on to his mine. He invited the fascinated boy to go with him for a little visit, but permission for this was not obtained. The trails of this man and Herbert Hoover have never touched again, and yet this stray mining engineer, whose name, even, we do not know, almost certainly was more responsible than any other external influence in determining Hoover's later education and adopted profession.
In Portland Herbert got a job in a real estate office as useful boy-of-all-work, including particularly the driving of prospective purchasers about to see various alluring corner lots in town and inviting farmsteads in the surrounding country. For his work he received sufficient wages to pay for all of his very modest living. He had hoped to go to the high school to prepare himself for college, but found that he could not do this and earn his full wages at the same time. So as the wages were a first necessity, he gave up his high-school plans and devoted himself to study at nights and odd hours of the day. He discovered a little back room in the real-estate office half filled with old boxes and bags, of which no one else seemed to be aware, and this he fitted up with a bed, a little table and a lamp, and made of it, with a boy's enthusiasm—especially the enthusiasm of a boy who had known Indians—a secret cave in which he lived in a mysterious and exciting way. He slipped out to little restaurants and cheap boarding-places for his meals.
He remembers once standing fascinated before a sign that read: "Table d'hote, 75 cents"; but after thinking twice of indulging in a single great eating orgy, he decided that no human stomach, much less his own small one, could possibly hold all the food that seventy-five cents would pay for, and that therefore he could not get all of his money's worth. So he went on to some fairer bargain.
There was a bank-vault just across the alley from his secret back room in the real estate office, and many a night did young Herbert lie awake in his cave hearing his imaginary bank-robbers mining their way into the vault and escaping with much rich treasure. But mostly young Herbert studied in that secret cave of his, and that he studied hard and to good purpose is proved by the fact that in little more than two years he felt himself ready to attempt the entrance examinations for college.
For some time the newspapers had been full of accounts of the founding and approaching opening of Stanford University at Palo Alto, California. Soon after Leland Stanford, Jr., the only child of Senator and Mrs. Leland Stanford, died in Rome in 1884, the Stanfords announced their intention to found and endow with their great wealth a new university in California. The romantic character of the founding and the picturesque setting of the new university in the middle of a great ranch on the shores of lower San Francisco Bay, with the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains rising from its very campus, its generous provision for students unable to meet the expenses of the older institutions of the East, and the radical academic innovations and freedom of selection of studies decided on by the Stanfords and David Starr Jordan, the eminent scientific man selected to be the first president of the new university—all this, together with the evident strong leaning of the institution toward science, as revealed by the character of the president, faculty and curriculum, combined to assure young Hoover that this was the modern scientific university of his dream, just made to order for him. It was exactly the place where he could become a mining engineer like the wonderful man he had always remembered.
So when it was announced in the Portland papers that a professor from Stanford would visit the city in the early summer of 1891, to hold entrance examinations for the university, which was to open in the autumn, Herbert decided to try the examinations. But when he came to compare thoughtfully his store of knowledge with the published requirements he would have to meet, he found that his self-preparation had been rather one-sided. For in this preparation he had followed his inclinations more than the prescribed schedules of college entrance requirements. Why should one waste a lot of time, he had thought, and be bored during the wasting, by studying grammar if one could already talk intelligibly to people? And why should one not revel in complicated problems of figures and geometrical designs that really took some hard thinking to work out, if hard thinking was just what one liked to do?
So, much to his distress he found out, as the examinations went on, that he was decidedly unprepared in some of the required lines such as grammar, rhetoric, etc. And even in mathematics, his favorite study and the one in which he made his best showing, he had not been able to cover, in his limited time for study, the whole ground required for college entrance. He seemed doomed to be refused the coveted certificate of admission.
But the Fates worked for him. In the first place, Professor Swain, the examining professor—now president of Swarthmore College—was the head of Stanford's department of mathematics. In the second place, he was a Quaker, and a man who liked the right sort of boys. And so a candidate who was a little weak in the languages, but was strong in arithmetic and geometry—and was a brave Quaker boy, besides—was not to be too summarily turned down.
This kind and wise examiner has described to me, recently, how he was first attracted to the young Quaker in the group of candidates before him by his evident strength of will. "I observed," said President Swain, "that he put his teeth together with great decision, and his whole face and posture showed his determination to pass the examination at any cost. He was evidently summoning every pound of energy he possessed to answer correctly the questions before him. I was naturally interested in him. On inquiry I learned that he had studied only two books of Plane Geometry, and was trying to solve an original problem based on the fourth book. While he was unable to do this, he did much better; for the intelligence and superior will he revealed in the attempt convinced me that such a boy needed only to be given a chance. So although he could not pass all of the tests, I told him to come to my rooms at the hotel after the examinations, as I would like to talk with him. He came promptly at the appointed hour with a friend of his, the son of a banker in Salem, Oregon. The two boys invited me and Mrs. Swain to stop at Salem to visit them, which we did. I learned there that Herbert Hoover, for that was the boy's name, was an industrious, thoughtful, ambitious boy earning his own living while he studied."
All this was enough for the wise teacher. And an arrangement was mutually agreed on between examiner and examined to the effect that if young Hoover would work diligently for the rest of the summer on the literary necessities of the situation, and come on early to Stanford for a little special coaching, he might consider his probabilities for admission to the university so high as to be reckoned a sure thing.
Well, it all turned out as desired by both candidate and examiner. And Herbert Hoover was enrolled the following October among the first students, the "pioneer class" of Stanford University, and was actually the first Stanford student to inhabit the beautiful great new dormitory called Encina Hall. It was not only his university of dreams come true, but it was really to be the university of his graduation, the alma mater of a boy without any other mother. And it was the university of which he was to become, in later successful years, a patron and trustee. Stanford did much for Herbert Hoover; but so has he done much for Stanford.
Any university means many things, for all their lives, to those who have come timidly and wonderingly to its doors as boys and girls, and have gone out on that final day of happy reward and tearful good-byes as men and women eager to try themselves against the world outside of sheltered school-rooms. And most of these things are to most persons who have known them, things of pleasant and loving memory.
Stanford is like any other university in this relation to its graduates. But there seems to be something unusually strong and yet at the same time unusually intangible in the ties that bind its former students to it. Perhaps the explanation lies as much in the special character of its students, at least its pioneer ones, as in the special character of the institution itself. The students who came to Stanford in its earlier years came because it was different from other colleges, and because they did this it is likely that they themselves were different from other students. Like the restless, seeking pioneers that came over the desert and mountains to the Pacific Coast to find a different life from that of worn tradition and old ways, their descendants and the later coming youth, who had mixed with them and been infected by their seeking spirit, flocked to this institution that offered a different kind of college atmosphere.
Its low-arcaded quadrangle of mission buildings of yellow stone and heavy red tiles, nestling under high hills that run back to mountains, surrounded by wide grain fields flecked with rounded live-oaks and tall strange eucalyptus trees, and neighbored by great barns and well-kept paddocks and exercising tracks in which sleek trotting horses of famous Palo Alto breeding lounged or trained, was a strange new setting for studying Greek and Latin and mathematics and science.
"Die Luft der Freiheit weht" is the Stanford motto; and there was truly no more likely place for the winds of freedom to blow than over and through this college on a California ranch. And its founders did well to find for its first head a man than whom no other American scholar had given clearer indications of being anxious to break with clogging scholastic tradition.
The university itself, so tenderly conceived as a memorial to a boy lost to his parents, and so generously established as an opportunity for other boys, some of whom, like the hero of our story, might have had their parents lost to them, is an almost unique example of a great educational institution maintained by the fortune of a single family. All of the Stanford millions are returned today to the country in which they were accumulated in the form of a great endowment and of the beautiful halls in which thousands of students have found a free training for independent existence and right citizenship. These students wear the Stanford cardinal as a red badge of obligation, not anarchy. No other college in the country had more of its sons and daughters, in proportion to their total number, devoting themselves to their country's service during the Great War. If Herbert Hoover was the most distinguished of the serving sons of Stanford he was not more eager and devoted than many others.
But we leave Our Hero waiting too long upon the threshold of his dream university come true. It had been agreed, you remember, between young Hoover and his friendly examiner in Portland that the candidate for admission should come to the Stanford Farm—which is the students' name for the campus, and which literally described it in those beginning days—before the time of the opening of the university to be coached in the two or three studies in which his preparation was deficient.
So he came down from the North a month before the announced time for opening, a lonesome boy without any friends at Stanford except the good Quaker professor of mathematics, and with all of his savings from the "real estate business" tucked away in an inside pocket. They amounted in grand total to about two hundred dollars.
It was less simple getting to Stanford in those first days than it is now. There was not even a beginning then of the beautiful thriving town of Palo Alto that stands today with convenient railway station, just at the entrance to the long palm-lined avenue that runs straight up to the main university quadrangle. It was all grain field then, part of the great Hopkins estate, where now the college town welcomes the annually incoming Freshmen, and offers them convenient lodging places of all grades of comfort and quick trams and motor busses to the university.
Young Hoover had to get off at Menlo Park, the station for a few great country houses of California railway and bonanza kings, which offered no welcome for small boys with a few saved dollars in their inside pockets. He had to find a casual hackman to carry him and his bag and trunk to the university a couple of miles away. But even there he found no place yet ready to house him. So someone advised him to go to Adelanta Villa, a mile or more back from the university, in the hills, where a number of the early arrivals among the men of the new faculty were living. And there he did go, and found a warm and simple welcome and hospitality. He was soon ensconced in the old mansion and doing odd jobs about the establishment to help pay for his board and lodging.
Between jobs he was feverishly at work on the finishing touches for his final entrance tests, and probably quite as feverishly worrying about them. He felt pretty safe on everything but the requirements in English composition. As a matter of fact, when he came to that fearful test he ignominiously failed in it, and, indeed, did not finally get the required credit in it until nearly ready to graduate! But he was passed in enough of the entrance requirements to be given Freshman standing, "conditioned in English," a phrase not unfamiliar to other college students. He had, however, added something to his score by a Hooverian tour de force.
Noting that a credit was offered in physiology, about which he knew nothing technically, he reasoned that as everyone, of course, knew already a little something about his insides and how they worked, one ought to be able to find out a little more from some textbook, and that the two littles might make enough for passing purposes. Thereupon with that prompt and positive reaction to stimulus which has been conspicuously characteristic of him all his life, he got a book, read it hard all of the day and night before the examination—and passed in physiology!
The story of Herbert Hoover's college life reveals no startling features to distinguish it from the college careers of other thousands of boys, endowed with intelligence, energy, and ambition, but not with money, and hence forced to earn their living as they went along. Nevertheless it does reveal many of the main characteristics that we know so well today. For he did things all through those four years in the same way that he does them today, promptly, positively, and quietly. They were mostly already done before it was generally recognized that he was doing them.
His two hundred dollars could not last long even in a college of no tuition fees and an unusually simple student life. He had to earn his way all the time, and he earned it by hard work, directed, however, by good brains. Many a story, most interesting but, unfortunately, mostly untrue, has been told of his various expedients to earn the money necessary for his board and lodging, clothes, and books. Not a few of these stress his expertness as waiter in student dining-rooms. Undoubtedly he would have been an expert waiter if he had been a waiter at all. But he was not. A famous San Francisco chef has often been quoted in interesting detail as to the "hash-slinging" cleverness of the future American food controller in the dining-room which this chef managed—by the way, just after Hoover left college—in the great Stanford dormitory in those early days. But, though interesting, these details are mythical. As are also the accounts of the care he took of professorial gardens, although that would have been an excellent substitute for the outdoor exercise and play which he found little time for in college except in geological field excursions and camps. Nor was he ever nurse to the professorial babies, which also has been often placed to his credit by imaginative story-tellers.
For at the very beginning of his college life Herbert Hoover and another distinguished son of Stanford, known to the early students as Rex Wilbur and to the present ones as Prex Wilbur—for he is now the university's president—put their heads together and decided that if they had any brains at all in those heads they would make them count in this little matter of earning their way through college. And both of them did.
In most of the things that Herbert Hoover did as a college boy to earn his needed money he revealed an unusual faculty for "organizing" and "administering" which is precisely a faculty that as a man he has revealed to the world in highest degree. He organized, at some profit to himself, the system of collecting and distributing the laundry of the college boys which had been done casually and unsatisfactorily by various San Jose and San Francisco establishments. He acted also as impresario, at a modest commission, for various lecturers and musicians, developing an arrangement for bringing visiting stars from San Francisco to the near-by university.
More important in its permanent influence on student activities was his work in reorganizing the system of conducting general student body affairs, especially the financial side of these affairs. In his Senior year he had been made treasurer of the student body and on taking office found little treasure and much confusion. Each of the many student activities had its own separate being, its own officers and own funds—or debts—and a dangerous freedom from general student control. Hoover worked out a system by which all control was vested in the officers of the general student body, and all funds passed into and out of a general treasury. The Hoover system of student affairs management prevails, in its essential features, in the university today.
In later years, as trustee of the university, he was the initiating figure in reorganizing the handling of all the institution's many million dollars worth of properties, and so his organizing genius is evidenced today at Stanford both in the management of student activities and in the handling of the financial affairs of the whole university.
But the work that he did in his student days that paid him best, because it brought him more than money, was that which he did partly for, and partly at the recommendation of his "major" professor, Dr. John Casper Branner, a great geologist and remarkable developer of geological students.
Dr. Branner has been one of Stanford's greatest assets from the day of its opening in all his successive capacities as professor, vice-president, and president, and he still wields a benign influence on the institution as resident professor and president emeritus. It was the particular good fortune of young Hoover to find that his early decision to become a mining engineer, like the wonderful man who had visited him in Newberg, led him, when he came to the university, into the class-rooms and laboratories of this kind and discerning scholar. Dr. Branner quickly discovered "good material," something that he was always looking for, in this industrious, intelligent, and ambitious Quaker boy; and Herbert Hoover found in his major professor not only a teacher but a friend, who, in both relations, has had a great influence, all for the best, in his life. It is an interesting illumination of the democracy of American education to note that while the professor became the university's president the student became one of its trustees.
The first money-earning work that student Hoover did for Dr. Branner, except for various little jobs about the laboratory or office, was a summer's work on a large topographic model of Arkansas which that state was having prepared by Dr. Branner after a new method devised by him. Part of this summer was spent in the field in Arkansas and the rest of it wrestling with the model in the basement of the professor's house.
Two summers were spent in work with the U. S. Geological Survey in the California Sierras around Lake Tahoe and the American River under Waldemar Lindgren, one of the greatest of American scientific mining engineers. This work was on the relations of the famous Sierra placer gold deposits to the original gold-bearing veins and lodes, and resulted in tracing those comparatively recent placers back to the old mountain slopes and valleys. It was a fascinating problem successfully carried through. The young geologist's association with Lindgren, whose standards of personal character and regard for the dignity and ethics of his profession were of the highest, was a source of much valuable education.
All this summer activity was of value to young Hoover not only for the help it afforded him in his struggle for existence, and for the outdoor exercise it involved, but for the practical experience in geological work which it gave him to mix in with his lecture room and laboratory acquisitions and to test them by. He seemed to have no difficulty in getting all of this kind of work he had time to do. In fact, some of the other students used to speak a little enviously and suggestively about "Hoover's luck" in this connection. Dr. Branner happened to overhear some remarks of this kind from a group around a laboratory table one day and promptly broke out on them in his forcible manner.
"What do you mean," he said, "by talking about Hoover's luck? He has not had luck; he has had reward. If you would work half as hard and half as intelligently as he does you would have half his luck. If I tell any one of you to go and do a thing for me I have to come around in half an hour to see if you have done it. But I can tell Hoover to do a thing, and never think of it again. I know it will be done. And he doesn't ask me how to do it, either. If I told him to start to Kamchatka tomorrow to bring me back a walrus tooth, I'd never hear of it again until he came back with the tooth. And then I'd ask him how he had done it."
Dr. Branner was as kind to his boys as he was stern when sternness was needed. Hoover came down with typhoid in his Junior year, just at a time when his finances could not afford such an expensive luxury. So Dr. Branner sent him to a hospital and saw that he was cared for by the best of physicians and nurses and told him to forget about paying for it all until after he had graduated. And that probably meant that the good professor had to go for some time without buying books, which was what he usually did with his extra money.
Another unfortunate illness was announced to the busy student by an outbreak of little red spots on his body which were declared by the college physician to be the result of poison oak. But they were not; they meant measles, and measles needs prompt attention. Unfortunately young Hoover's neglected case affected his eyes to such an extent that for several years afterward he had to wear glasses. And out of this grew the familiar Stanford tradition that Herbert Hoover ruined his eyes while in college by over-much night work on his studies!
As a matter of fact Hoover was no college grind. He studied hard enough at what he liked or thought important for his fitting to be a mining engineer, but he did not dodge getting a few credits from well-known "snap" courses, and he got through other required, but, to his mind, superfluous ones without doing much more work on them than necessary. He had a disconcerting habit of starting in on a course and then if he found it uninteresting or unpromising as a contributor to the special education he was interested in, of simply dropping out of the class without consultation or permission. But he did dig hard into what he thought really counted; his record in the geology department was an unusually high one.
But with all his work and study he found time for some other kinds of activity. At least the two Irwin boys, Will and Wallace, who were Stanford's most ingenious disturbers of the peace in pioneer days, claim that Hoover, in his quiet effective way, made a few contributions of his own to the troubles of the faculty. But such contributions from others were generally credited—or rather debited—to the more notorious offenders, so that they had to suffer not alone for their own brilliant inspirations but for those of other less conspicuous collaborators. Wallace, for what seemed to the faculty sufficient reasons, was, as he has himself phrased it, "graduated by request," while Will had his Senior year encored by the faculty, so that it took him five years, instead of the more conventional four, to graduate. In fact, I remember that even as this fifth year was drawing near its close, the faculty committee of discipline, of which I was a reluctant member, seriously considered letting Will go in the same way that Wallace had gone. But some of us argued that if we should let Will graduate in the more usual way we should be rid of him soon anyway and without risking the bare possibilities of doing him an injustice. President Jordan always maintained that Will had good stuff in him, and he used his ameliorating influence with the faculty committee. So Will Irwin is today one of Stanford's best-known alumni.
Herbert Hoover's haunting trouble all through his college course was that unpassed entrance requirement in English composition. Indeed, he did not pass in it until about a week before he graduated, although he tried it regularly every semester all through his four years. How he finally got his passing mark has been told me by Mrs. Hoover. She knows because she was there through most of the long agony.
After failing regularly at each semester's trial principally, he thinks (and Mrs. Hoover is inclined to agree), because he always had to take it under a particularly meticulous instructor, his predicament began to worry even his professors in the geology department. It looked as if their star student might not be allowed to graduate. Finally a date was set by the English department for a last trial before the end of his Senior year.
A day or two before this date the professor of paleontology, J. P. Smith, famed not only for his erudition but for his especial kindness to all geology students—especially if they did well in paleontology—came to the worrying Senior with a paper that Hoover had written sometime before on a paleontological subject, and said to him: "Look here, you will never pass that examination in the state you are in. Take this paper; it's fine. Copy it in your best hand; remember that handwriting goes a long way with professors of English; look up every word in the dictionary to be sure you have got the right one; then put in all the punctuation marks you ever saw, and bring it back to me." Hoover did it.
Then Professor Smith disappeared with the paper in his study, but soon came out with it, abundantly blue-penciled. "Now take it and re-copy it with all these indicated changes, and bring it back again." Again the interested Senior obeyed his mentor. Then the professor left the laboratory with the paper in his hand. Hoover awaited his return with ever-increasing interest. Pretty soon he came back with a cheerful smile, handed Hoover the paper, and said: "Well, you've passed; although you probably don't deserve it."
Professor Smith, it seems, had carried the paper, not to the fatal instructor, but to the head of the English department and had said to him: "See here; your instructor is holding up the best man we have from graduating. Now look at this paper of Hoover's. Is there anything the matter with it? Doesn't it make good sense? Isn't it well written? Isn't it well punctuated?"
The English head glanced over it impatiently—he was translating Dante, his dearest recreation, at the moment—and then roared out: "Well, it looks all right. I suppose Instructor X has to live up to the rules, but if the boy can do this well for you it's good enough for us." And with his Dante pencil he wrote a large "Passed" across the paper.
Someway all this does not sound like an account of life at the conventional university. Nor does Professor J. P. Smith, who used to interrupt his lecture to wake up a dozing student with a sharp but kindly "Here, Jack, wake up, this is an important point and I will surely ask about it in examination," seem to be of the conventional type of professor. And most Freshmen coming to Yale or Harvard would hesitate a little before taking the advice of some workman about the campus to go, with bag and trunk, in search of board and lodging to a house full of professors.
But as I said at the beginning, Stanford was different. It is precisely because it was, that Hoover's particular college experiences and acquisitions were what I have tried to suggest, and not what you might think they would be from your knowledge of other universities. And while Stanford has converged somewhat with years toward the more usual university type—colleges get more alike as they get older—it has still an atmosphere peculiarly its own. But it was in the first days that this atmosphere was so very distinctive. Its president and faculty and students, all living closely together in the middle of a great ranch of seven thousand acres of grain fields, horse paddocks, and hills where jack rabbits roamed and coyotes howled, were thrown together into one great family, whose members depended almost entirely on one another for social life. And each department was a special smaller family within the great one. Life was simple and direct and democratic. Real things counted first and most; there was little sophistication. Work was the order of the day; recreations were wholesome.
The geology family was an especially close and happy one. Some of Dr. Branner's former assistants and students had followed him out to California. They were the older members of the family. Almost all of them are now well-known geologists and mining engineers. So also are many of his younger ones. The family went on long tramps and camps together. The region about Stanford is singularly interesting from a geologist's point of view; and in those days it was a terra more or less incognita. Everybody was discovering things. It was real live geology. Lectures and recitations were illustrated, not by lantern slides, but by views out of the window and revelations in the field.
And at the same time these young geologists learned real life; they had come to know intimately real men and women, all fired with the enthusiasm of a new venture, new opportunities, and a high ideal. With all this, Herbert Hoover learned, in particular, one additional very important thing. He learned that a certain unusual girl, beautiful, intelligent, and unspoiled, a lover of outdoors, and, as proof of her unusualness, a "major" student in geology, was the girl for him. Having learned this he decided to marry her. And later, she decided that he had decided right.
And so with all his experience at earning his living by organizing anything needing organizing, and with his stores of geological lore gained from lecture room and textbook and field work and close personal association with his able and friendly professors, and, finally, with the knowledge that he had already found exactly the right girl for him, Herbert Hoover went out from Stanford, in 1895, with his Pioneer Class, ready to open his oyster. But he had only himself to rely on in doing it.
THE YOUNG MINING ENGINEER
Herbert Hoover began his mining career very simply and practically by taking his place as a real workman in a real mine, with no favors shown, following in this the emphatic advice given by Dr. Branner to every student graduating from his department. He went up into the mining region near Grass Valley in the Sierras where he had already studied with Waldemar Lindgren, and became a regular miner, a boy-man with pick and shovel working long hours underground or sometimes on the surface about the plant. But always he had his eyes wide open and always he was learning. He preferred the underground work because he wanted first to know more about the actual occurrence of the ore in the earth than about the mill processes of extracting the mineral from it.
Here he worked for several months, and gradually rose to the position of night shift-boss or gang foreman. But he began to realize that he was exhausting the learning opportunities of this particular place and kind of work, and so one night deep down in the mine, when for sudden lack of ore-cars or power or some other essential, work was held up for the last half hour of his shift, he went off into a warm corner, curled himself up in a nice clean wheelbarrow and slept away the last half hour of his pick and shovel experience.
He had decided to get into association, some way, with the best mining engineer on the Coast. There was no question about who this was at that time. It was Louis Janin in San Francisco. So he appeared at Mr. Janin's office as a candidate for a job, any job so that it was a job under Louis Janin.
But the famous engineer, well disposed as he was toward giving intelligent, earnest young men who wanted to become mining engineers, a chance, had to explain that not only was there no vacant place in his staff but that a long waiting list would have to be gone through before Hoover's turn could come. He added, as a joke, that he needed an additional typist in his office, but of course——. The candidate for a job interrupted. "All right, I'll take it. I can't come for a few days, but I'll come next Tuesday, say." Janin was a little breathless at the rapidity with which things seemed to get settled by this boyish, very boyish, young man, but as they were apparently really settled he could only say, "All right."
Now the reason that the new typewriter boy could not begin until next Tuesday—this was on a Friday—was that he had in the meantime to learn to write on a typewriter! Trivial matter, of course, in connection with becoming a mining engineer, but apparently necessary. So learning what make of machine he would have to use in the office, he stopped, on his way to his room, at a typewriter shop, rented a machine of proper make, and by Tuesday had learned to use it—after a fashion.
That kind of boy could not remain for long a typist in the office of a discerning man like Louis. Perhaps certain idiosyncrasies of spelling and a certain originality of execution on the machine helped bring about a change of duties. But chiefly it was because of a better reason. This reason was made especially clear by an incident connected with an important mining case in which Janin was serving as expert for the side represented by Judge Curtis Lindley, famous mining lawyer of San Francisco. The papers which indicated the line of argument which Judge Lindley and Mr. Janin were intending to follow came to Hoover's desk to be copied. As he wrote he read with interest. The mine was in the Grass Valley region that he knew so well. He not only copied but he remembered and thought. The result was that when the typewriter boy delivered the papers to the mining engineer they were accompanied by the casual statement that the great expert and the learned attorney were all wrong in the line of procedure they were preparing to take! And he proceeded to explain why, first to Mr. Janin's indignant surprise but next to his great interest, because the explanation involved the elucidation of certain geologic facts not yet published to the world, which the typewriter boy had himself helped to discover during his work in the Grass Valley region.
The outcome was that Janin and his new boy went around together to Judge Lindley's office where after due deliberation the line of argument was altered. The further result was that the boy parted from his typewriter, first to begin acting as assistant to various older staff men on trips to various parts of the Coast for mine examinations, then to make minor examinations alone, and finally to handle bigger ones. The letters from the young mining engineer to the girl of the geology department, still at Stanford, came now in swift succession from Nevada, Wyoming, and Idaho, and then very soon after from Arizona and New Mexico. Little mines did not require much time for examination and reports signed "Hoover" came into Janin's office with bewildering rapidity. Janin liked these reports; they not only showed geological and mining knowledge, but they showed a shrewd business sense. The reporter seemed never to lose the perspective of cost and organization possibilities in relation to the probable mineral richness of the prospects. And the reports said everything they had to say in very few and very clear words.
Herbert Hoover was not only moving fast; he was learning fast, and he was rising fast in Janin's estimation. He had a regular salary or guarantee now with a certain percentage of all the fees collected by Janin's office from the properties he examined. What he was earning now I do not know, but we may be sure it was considerably more than the forty-five dollars a month which he had begun with as typewriter boy, a few months before.
The work was not entirely limited to the examination of prospects and mines. In one case at least it included actual mine development and management. Mr. Janin had in some way taken over, temporarily—for such work was not much to his liking: he preferred to be an expert consultant rather than a mine manager—a small mine of much value but much complication near Carlisle, New Mexico. This he turned over to his enterprising assistant to look after.
It was Hoover's first experience of the kind, and it was made a rather hectic one by conditions not technically a regular part of mining. The town, or "camp," was a wild one with drunken Mexicans having shooting-bees every pay day and the local jail established at the bottom of an abandoned shaft, not too deep, into which the prisoners were let down by windlass and bucket. It was an operation fairly safe if the sheriff and his assistants were not too exhilarated to manage the windlass properly, or the malefactors, too drunk to hang on to the bucket. Otherwise, more or less regrettable incidents happened. Also, it led to a rather puzzling situation when the sheriff had to take care of his first woman prisoner, a negro lady of generous dimensions and much volubility.
But the mine was well managed and Hoover acquired more merit with his employer. And soon came the new chance which led to much bigger things. It was now the spring of 1897, two years after Hoover's graduation, and the time of the great West Australia mining boom. English companies were sending out many engineers, old and young, to investigate and handle mining properties in the new field, and were looking everywhere for competent men. Janin was asked by one of these London firms to recommend someone to them. He talked it over with Hoover, telling him that it might be a great opportunity. It might, of course, not be; it would depend on the prospect—and the man who handled it. Janin expressed his entire confidence in the young man before him, and his belief that the opportunity was greater than any the Pacific Coast then had to offer. He would be more than glad to keep Hoover with him, but he wanted to be fair to him and his future. The young man was all for giving hostages to fortune, and so the recommendation, the offer, and the acceptance flew by cable between San Francisco and London, and Hoover prepared to start at once to England for instructions, as had been stipulated in the offer.
Just before he started, however, Janin caused him some uneasiness by saying, "Now look here, Hoover, I have cabled London swearing to your full technical qualifications, and I am not afraid of your letting me down on that. But these conservative Londoners have stipulated that you should be thirty-five years old. I have wired that I was sorry to have to tell them that you are not quite thirty-three. Don't forget that my reputation depends on your looking thirty-three by the time you get to London!" And Hoover had not yet reached his twenty-third birthday, and looked at least two years younger even than that. He began growing a beard on his way across the continent.
The London firm had stipulated, too, that their new man should be unmarried. Hoover was still that, although he had begun to get impatient about what seemed to him an unnecessary delay in carrying out his decision already made in college. As a matter of fact, there was still no definite engagement between him and the girl of the geology department, but there was an informal understanding that some day there might be a formal one. So Hoover appeared before the head of the great London house—perhaps the greatest mining firm in the world at that time—without encumbering wife and with the highest of recommendations, but with a singularly youthful appearance for an experienced mining engineer of thirty-five. In fact, the great man after staring hard at his new acquisition burst out with English directness, "How remarkable you Americans are. You have not yet learned to grow old, either individually or as a nation. Now you, for example, do not look a day over twenty-five. How the devil do you do it?"
The days were days of wonder for the homegrown young Quaker engineer. Across America, across the ocean, then the stupendous metropolis of the world and the great business men of the "city," with week-ends under the wing of the big mining financier at beautiful English country houses with people whose names spelled history. And then the P. and O. boat to Marseilles, Naples, Port Said, Aden, and Colombo, and finally to be put ashore in a basket on a rope cable over a very rough sea at Albany in West Australia. There he was consigned, with the dozen other first-class passengers, mining adventurers like himself, to quarantine in a tent hospital on a sand spit out in the harbor with the thermometer never registering below three figures, even at night.
And then he came to the Australian mine fields themselves in a desert where the temperature can keep above one hundred degrees day and night for three weeks together. Also there is wind, scorching wind carrying scorching dust. And surface water discoverable only every fifty or sixty miles. Of course one expects a desert to be hot and dry—that's why it is a desert—but the West Australian desert rather overemphasizes the necessities of the case. It is a deadly monotonous country although not wholly bare; there is much low brush just high enough to hide you from others only half a mile away; a place easy to get lost in, and hard to get found in when once lost.
All of this desert was being prospected by thousands of men of a dozen nationalities, all seeking and suffering, for gold. The railroad had got in only as far as Coolgardie, but the prospectors were far beyond the rail head. They carried their water bags with enough in them to keep themselves and their horses alive between water holes. In the real "back blocks" they could not carry enough for horses, so they used camels with jangling bells and gaudy trappings of gay greens, orange, scarlet, and vivid blues, making strange contrasts with the blue-gray bush. Along the few main roads moved dusty stages, light, low, almost spring-less three-seated vehicles, with thin sun-tops overhead and boxes and bags in front, behind and underneath, and all swarmed about by pestilential flies, millions of flies, sprung from nowhere to harass the thirsty, weary travelers.
But only the agents and engineers rode in the stages; it cost too much for the little prospectors, the "dry-washers," who carried their few provisions and scanty outfit in packs on their backs, and tramped the trails, stopping here and there to toss the dry soil into the air and watch for the gold flakes to fall into the pan while the lighter earth blew off in the wind.
In the camp were gathered a motley crew, mostly hard, reckless men, who drank and bet their gold dust away as fast as they found it. But everywhere they were finding gold, and all the time came new reports and rumors of more farther on. The headquarters of Hoover's employers were in Coolgardie when he arrived, but were soon moved on to Kalgoorlie, following the railroad. The offices were in one of the three or four stone, two-story buildings, which lifted themselves proudly above the ruck of sweltering little toy-like houses of corrugated iron. Forty thousand people were supposed to be living in this "camp" at one time, buying water at two shillings six pence the gallon, which was cheap—they were paying seven shillings in some other camps. At first it was all brought by rail from the coastal plains four hundred miles away, but when the mines began to get down they struck water at a few hundred feet. But it was salt, and expensive condensing plants had to be set up, which kept the price still high. Coolgardie once boasted of having the "biggest condensing plant in the world," with rows on rows of enormous cylindrical corrugated iron tanks lying on their sides, over acres of ground, with all the pumps and boilers and steam pipes to keep these tanks supplied. Water was cheap there, only twelve or fifteen shillings the hundred gallons.
But out in the prospects and on the trails there was no such aqueous luxury. There was no water for washing and little to drink. And that little was mostly drunk as a terrible black tea, like lye, heated and re-heated, with now a little more water added, now another handful of leaves. I have a well-vouched-for story of an Australian girl who went into this gold-paradise with her husband who was manager, at a large salary, of one of the first mines. She used to take a cupful of water and carefully wash the baby and afterward the little girl, and then herself. After that it was saved for the husband to rinse the worst off when he came home from the mine. But he could have an additional half cup to finish with because he was so dirty. And they tried not to use soap with it so that finally, after letting it settle, it could be added to the horses' drinking water. It was not that the family could not afford to pay for water, but there was simply no water to buy.
Into this cheerful hell came the young Quaker engineer, from the heaven of California and the "city" offices of London where sat the big men who were intent on having their share of the big things in West Australia. He was to do his best for his particular big men, but how he was to do it was mostly for him to find out. His firm had already acquired interests in several promising properties. He was to help develop these mines and perhaps to find new ones to be taken on. A junior member of his firm was already on the ground when Hoover arrived, but he remained only a few months. It was a long way to London and Hoover could get few instructions. It was up to him. It was a hard life with many opportunities to go wrong in any of many ways. But he kept his brain clear, his body and soul clean, and just everlastingly worked.
There were all kinds of work to do, and all sorts of new things to learn about mines and mining. The ore occurred in the rock in a manner different from that in any other known gold field, so finding it and getting it out, and then getting the mineral out of the strange new kind of ore, required resourcefulness, "original research," as the scientists say, and constructive imagination. And the technical problems of discovering and manipulation once solved, there was still needed organization, system, and administration to make the mine a paying one.
But all these things were exactly the young engineer's specialties. He was from the beginning, as we already know, and conspicuously is today, resourceful, original, capable of prompt decision, an organizer and administrator. Although there were many trained engineers in West Australia, there was no one to equal him in these specialties of his. And very soon his firm's mines, which had so far had little benefit of executive ability coupled with technical knowledge and originality, began to pay and their stocks went up on the London market—which was the criterion of success in the eyes of the men in the "city." About the stock ratings Hoover knew little and perhaps cared less. He did care, however, about making good mines out of bad ones. And that was exactly what he was doing.
And very soon he did the other successful thing that the big men in London hoped for and that he kept always working for. He uncovered the big new mine. He had turned up several promising leads but their development proved disappointing. But the "Sons of Gwalia" realized his hopes from the beginning. It was out from Kalgoorlie four or five days hard riding, near a smaller camp called Leonora. He went out and took personal charge of the opening up and equipping of the whole mine and plant, living in a little "tin" house and gathering about him a staff of the best of the firm's assistants collected from all over the Colony. It was hot, although the climbing mercury usually stopped at about one hundred degrees. But that only further inflamed the enthusiasm of the group. They had the real thing, and they had a real leader—a very boyish looking boy of scant twenty-five. They forgot to watch the thermometer. They were more interested in water and transportation and labor and all the other things that are as necessary to a good mine as the gold in the ore-veins.
Occasionally, however, they had some relaxation. For one thing, they thought sometimes about food. One of the men had his wife with him, and she imported chickens and later even ducks which never, however, set web-foot in water. And they had a garden because they decided they were so in need of green vegetables. They turned a little priceless water from the condenser into the garden; but not enough for the vegetables and too much for the accountant's books. After estimating that the one undersized cabbage they raised cost them L65 worth of water, he discouraged further gardening.
They had also a pet emu. So did the wife of the manager of another mine near-by. They used to arrange to have the emus meet occasionally and there was always a glorious fight. Once when they had got the lady's emu over for a visit, one of the Australian boys thought it would look amusing in trousers. So he took off his overalls and after immense exertion got them on the legs of the creature, with the straps securely fastened over its neck and back. But the great bird became so enraged that the men could not safely get near enough to it to get off its clothing, and even its mistress feared ever to approach it again. There was also a pet goat named Sydney that ate several boxes of matches and had to have its internal fires extinguished by the only available liquid, which was the tinned butter that had yielded to the one hundred and ten degrees. Sydney lived through the experience but had always after that a delicate interior and was petted more than ever in consequence. And there was a tennis court occasionally wetted down with the beer that always went stale while they were saving it for state occasions. It was all a happy, glorious time—because they had discovered and were making one of the great mines of West Australia.
Hoover was now twenty-four, and a man of large reputation in mining circles in Australia and London, with a salary to correspond. He had spent about twenty-four months in West Australia, although they ran over all of one and parts of two other years, so that he is generally credited with having remained there three years. And he could have gone on among the Australian mines for as many years as he liked, for the big men in London now fully realized that they had in this young American engineer the unusual man, and that his only limit in Australia would be the limit of the possible. But the new opportunity and the new experience were calling.
Just about this time a young Chinaman of royal family in Peking had made a successful coup d'etat and had formed a cabinet for the first time in the history of China, and this cabinet decided, naturally also for the first time in the history of China, to effect a cooerdinated control of all the mines of the Empire. There was, therefore, established a Department of Mines, with a wily old Chinaman, named Chang Yen Mow, at its head. He understood that Chinamen knew little about mining, and hence decided to find a foreigner to help him manage the mines of the Empire. He also thought that a foreigner, thus attached as an official to his department, could be of particular help to him in dealing with other foreigners inclined to exploit Chinese mines more for their own benefit than China's. This official was to be in a position much like that of an undersecretary in a cabinet department, and was to be given the title, in the Chinese equivalent, of "Director-General of Mines." He was to have a salary appropriate to such a large title. With all this decided, it only remained to find the proper foreigner, who should be a man who knew much about mines and was honest. There was, as we know, just such a man in Western Australia.