Category Archives: Herbert Hoover

1917 Boys’ Life: Signaling and Beans


A hundred years ago this month, both the front and back cover of the June 1917 issue of Boys’ Life magazine featured signaling methods. In the cover art shown above (with no attribution to the artist that I could find), a Scout is shown relaying a semaphore message to a distant point.

1917JuneBLBackNot to be outdone, the back cover, an ad for Colgate toothpaste, used International Morse Code to proclaim the messsage, “I BRING GOOD TEETH GOOD HEALTH.”  Since the nation was at war, the ad also reminded Scouts “how soldiers and sailors benefit from good teeth, and that they must have them to pass the physical examination.”

But the wartime service promoted by most of the magazine was the Scout’s duty to feed the nation and the troops.

It proclaimed that “no organization in the United States acted more promptly than the Boy Scouts of America when Congress declared, on April 5th, that a state of war existed between our country and Germany.  ‘Be Prepared’ is the Boy Scout motto, and more than a quarter of a million Scouts proved they WERE prepared.”  One of the first actions suggested was that in every large city, the Scouts should mobilize, march to the City Hall, and offer their services to the Mayor.  According to the magazine, many Scouts immediately did exactly that.

Mobilized Scouts offering their services at an unnamed city hall.

Mobilized Scouts offering their services at an unnamed city hall.

But the biggest task undertaken by Scouts was to help win the war through the gardening movement. As soon as the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that every citizen was needed to increase the food supply, the National Headquarters of the BSA issued an emergency circular urging every scout to start a garden and persuade nine other people to do the same.

The slogan adopted was, “every scout to feed a soldier.” It meant that every Scout was expected to raise enough food to feed himself, thus freeing up enough food to feed the soldier.

Almost immediately, National Headquarters fired off a telegram to London, to none other than Herbert Clark Hoover, who was already “famous for his great efficiency in managing the enormous relief work among stricken peoples of Europe.” The cable read:

Two hundred fifty thousand Boy Scouts of America tender services as your aides as producers and conservers of food as service to our country.

Mr. Hoover immediately cabled back his response, and his response was that Scouts should raise beans:

The prime service of our Country in this War is ships and food, and we can here display the true American ability at great efforts.

In order to provide the food necessary we must from this moment eliminate all waste and stimulate food production at every point. We must send to our Allies more wheat, corn, beans, meat, bacon and lard than we have ever sent before if their men are to fight and their women and children to live; and our people must economize and eat other things.

Among these foodstuffs couldn’t the Scouts take as their own province the stimulation of bean production, for there is not only a great shortage at Europe and at home, but they are the best of foods. Let them help make America able to export ten times as many beans as she ever exported before. To do this, let the Boy Scouts see to it that they are planted everywhere, so that the biggest bean crop ever known shall be the war contribution of the Boy Scouts to America and her Allies.

(Signed) Herbert C. Hoover.

Theodore Roosevelt, upon receiving a copy of Hoover’s telegram, signaled his assent: “I think Mr. Hoover’s suggestion that the Scouts take as their own province the stimulation of bean production is particularly good. Let each Scout start a garden and thereby help feed the soldiers.”

Scouts clearing idle land in preparation for a crop. The caption notes that fire is a useful ally, but the Scouts watch it closely. In a month, this field was to be covered with navy beans.

Scouts clearing idle land in preparation for a crop. The caption notes that fire is a useful ally, but the Scouts watch it closely. In a month, this field was to be covered with navy beans.

The magazine noted that navy or field beans were an easy crop to grow. They would show good yields even on poor soil or thin soils. They could be planted late, after the rush of other planting had subsided, and required only a third of the cultivation required of corn. With a good season and average care, a yield of 10 to 25 bushels per acre was to be expected. Their high food value and ease of storage made them an excellent war crop.

The magazine also noted that many Scout camps would turn into farms. Since there was a scarcity of farm help, the Scouts would help to fill the gap. Even though they would learn to plant and pick, there would still be plenty of fun after the day’s work was over.

Finally, the magazine announced that the BSA would be offering a War Service Emblem for Scouts who were responsible for starting ten gardens or inducing ten people to increase their garden acreage.

Peace Light and NPOTA: Herbert Hoover National Historic Site



I was recently in Iowa to present some Continuing Legal Education programs in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines.  Whenever possible, I like to combine trips, and I used this opportunity to take part in two other events.

Cedar Rapids is close to the birthplace of Herbert Hoover in West Branch, Iowa.  It is the location of the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, as well as the Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.  I’ve been looking forward to putting this National Park Service (NPS) unit on the air during the NPS Centenial year as part of the  ARRL National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) event.  During this event,  Amateur Radio operators are setting up their equipment in NPS units  to make contact with other Amateurs around the world.  Since the beginning of the year, the event has been extremely popular.  There have been over 900,000 individual two-way contacts made from the parks, and it appears almost certain that this number will top a million before the end of the year.  As I’ve reported in other posts, I’ve made contact with over 300 different parks and operated multiple times from parks in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

I was especially eager to operate from President Hoover’s birthplace, since he played such an important role in the history of radio.  Indeed, his son was an avid amateur radio operator, and served in the 1960’s as president of the American Radio Relay League, the national organization sponsoring the event.

img_20161201_164804I didn’t have time for a long operation, but I was able to spend about an hour operating from the parking lot of the historic site’s visitor center, as shown in the photo above.  President Hoover’s birthplace home is barely visible in the photo (just to the left of the larger building in front of the car.  Despite the short time available, I managed to make contact with about 30 stations, all CW (Morse Code), ranging from Alaska to Florida.  After operating, at dusk, I paid my respects at the gravesite of President and Mrs. Hoover, shown here.

img_20161203_145243The next day, I used my drive home to the Twin Cities to transport the Peace Light of Bethlehem from Des Moines to the Twin Cities.

For at least the past several hundred years, and possibly more than a thousand, a lamp has continuously burned at the grotto of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the traditionally accepted location of Christ’s birth.  Since 1989, the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides of Austria have annually sent a child to Bethlehem, who lights a lamp from the light and returns it to Austria.  From there, it is passed on around Europe during the Advent season.  Since 2000, the Peace Light has been delivered to North America where volunteers, most of whom are connected with Scouting, deliver it around the country.

This year, there was a gap in the distribution, and it wasn’t making it to the northern tier of states.  I coordinated with members of the Peace Light North America Facebook group, and made arrangements to meet with an Iowa Scouter in the parking lot of a Des Moines coffee shop.  From his kerosene lantern, we lit my lanterns, shown here, and I took the burning lanterns home.

From there, others have come to light their candles and lanterns, and the same ancient flame is burning in lamps in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Another volunteer from North Dakota is on the way here, and within a few days, the Peace Light will be burning in North Dakota, Manitoba, Montana, Washington, and probably other places along the way.

Many are curious as to how the Peace Light crosses the Atlantic.  It is transported by Austrian Airlines in the passenger cabin of an aircraft.  The ailine transports the flame from Israel to Austria, and then to New York and Toronto.  The flame is held within a blastproof miner’s lamp, which allows the open flame to be transported safely by air.  At Kennedy Airport, it’s walked through customs by an airline employee to the airport chapel, where a ceremony is held attended by those who fan out around the country to transport it.  Among those were one or more volunteers who transported it to Chicago.  From there, it went to Davenport, Iowa, where it was picked up by the person who gave it to me.


Armistice Day: America’s Obligation and Opportunity To Serve Stricken Humanity

free-vector-poppy-remembrance-day-clip-art_106032_Poppy_Remembrance_Day_clip_art_smallNinety-eight years ago today, the First World War ended with the signing of the Armistice, with hostilities to cease at 11:00 AM, November 11, 1918.

The next day’s newspaper carried the plea of Food Administrator Herbert Hoover with respect to America’s duty: “The nation’s obligation and opportunity to serve stricken humanity in war-torn Europe by helping to provide sustenance until the next harvest will demand further sacrifices of the American people.” He pointed out that North America would need to furnish 60% of the world’s supply of food, and to forestall starvation, would need to export 20 million tons, as compared with the prewar normal of 5 million.

“The group of gamblers in human life who have done this thing are now in cowardly flight, leaving anarchy and famine to millions of helpless people.”

June 29, 1946


The newspapers 70 years ago gave a glimpse at how the postwar world was going to be different.  This is the Milwaukee Journal of June 29, 1946.  The pictures are taken a Bikini Atoll, where Operation Crossroads
was underway, with the world’s fourth atomic blast scheduled for the next day.

The headline at the top of the page reports Herbert Hoover’s statement that mass starvation in the world had been averted, except in China, where there was still a pressing need.  Just over a year earlier, President Truman had enlisted Hoover to deal with the food situation, and Hoover’s final report was noted here.

In other news, President Truman had signed a bill extending the draft, which had been set to expire in March 1947.

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Aimee Semple McPherson & KFSG

Aimee Semple McPherson.jpg

Aimee Semple McPherson. Wikipedia photo.

I heard an interesting lecture by Reformed theologian and church historian Professor W. Robert Godfrey about the life of Pentecostal evangelist and media celebrity Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944).

Sister Aimee, as she was known, was a flamboyant figure and founder of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel and Angelus Temple in Los Angeles. Inspired in large part by the Salvation Army (indeed, she at one point pondered founding the Salvation Navy), she was a founder of Pentacotalism, and what Godfrey called a “prototypical example of Pentacostalism.”

Touched on in Godfrey’s lecture was the role that McPherson played in the early days of broadcasting.  She was the founder of KFSG, whose call letters stood for “Four Square Gospel.”  It was profiled in the June 1931 issue of Radio Doings, a West Coast program guide.

The article noted that the station had sprung up almost over night from one of the first churches to step into the world of radio. In addition to the church’s main auditorium, seating 5300 people, programs could originate from three studios. Music played an important part. It noted that Esther Fricke, the Temple organist, had broadcast 1528 organ recitals. McPherson was quoted:

Realizing that music is the universal language of all nations and that the soul finds expression in the creation of melody, I am vitally interested in the perpetuity of celestial strains. I have, therefore, devoted much of my time during my recent illness pouring forth from my own soul in drama and song the beautiful old stories of the Bible.  I t is my cherished hope and fondest dream to set eventually all of these  to music.

The humanitarian work done by McPherson was real, and is noted in the Radio Doings article:

In the main entrance of the Temple stands a life boat and into its capacious depths the Angelus Temple members and friends constantly pour packages of groceries, food, clothing and all the numerous articles of which poor families stand in need -from wheel chairs to baby clothes, from bedsteads to cook – stoves. Regardless of creed or color all who are in need are aided.

Professor Godfrey notes in his lecture that McPherson was in many cases the only source of aid to illegal immigrants, who had no recourse to government welfare.

KFSG was initially assigned to 1080 kHz, relatively clear of the other Los Angeles stations, KFI 640 kHz, KHJ 740 kHz, and KNX 890 kHz. However, interference complaints were received, and its likely that KFSG (and probably other stations) weren’t scrupulously tending to their assigned wavelength. After the Department of Commerce contacted McPherson, she reportedly fired off the following telegram to Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover:


Update:  I received an e-mail fro Los Angeles radio Historian Jim Hilliker, whose 2003 article about KFSG is linked below.  In 2011, he wrote an updated article (which my initial Google search about KFSG for some reason did not reveal) in which he makes a very convincing case that this telegram is a myth.

President Hoover first mentioned the telegram in 1945 in a radio speech, where he attributed it only to an unnamed female “evangelist in a certain city.”  The story was repeated in his 1952 memoirs with McPherson named.  Even though Hoover is the Official Favorite Former President of, Hilliker made an exhaustive search looking for any documentation supporting the story.  If regulatory action had been taken against the station, then there would have been a public record, and it would have been published in the Radio Service Bulletin.  But neither the Bulletin nor the station’s license file contain any such reference.  

After reading Hilliker’s updated article, I’m inclined to believe that Hoover’s recollection of this incident is a false memory.

The June 1925 issue of Radio In The Home magazine touched on the wavelength dispute, but added a positive spin:

When KFSG first went on the air, thousands of fans registered emphatic and vigorous protest because some nonselective sets would not enable them to tune out the new station. But that’s all ancient history now. Most of the people wouldn’t tune KFSG out now if they could.

This is a personal narrative of a church that not only brings the people to it by the thousands, but it also goes to the people by the hundreds of thousands in their homes, the rugged fastnesses of the mountain peaks, the whirling sands of the desert, the sluggishly flowing river houseboat, the tramp steamer on the high seas–everywhere, in fact, that the Word of God can go.

Aimee Semple McPherson, evangelist extraordinary, knows human psychology. Or, more properly speaking perhaps, she knows the practical application of everyday psychology. Of course, her programs include masterful benedictions, messages of cheer and inspiration, powerful and penetrating sermons, testimonials delivered with a punch and vigor, and healing services of faith and power.

In May 1926, McPherson disappeared from Venice Beach, California. It was initially thought that she had drowned, but as a memorial service was being prepared, a phone call came in from McPherson, who reported being kidnapped. She was found in Agua Prieta, Mexico, but journalists were skeptical, since her clothes showed no wear after her escape and walk through the desert. However, this was disputed by those in Douglas, Arizona, where she had been taken to convalesce.

The truth of what happened will never be known, but there were reports of her being seen along the California coast in the company of KFSG engineer Kenneth G. Ormiston.

Despite the considerable theological differences, and despite much theological criticism, Godfrey concludes, “she was not a ‘prosperity preacher….’ The focus for most of her ministry was on preaching the truth. What makes me appreciative of Sister–not that I agree with her theology–but what makes me sympathetic on a certain level is that not only was she capable of and did preach the Gospel, but she had a real heart for the poor, and I think religious charlatans don’t usually have much of a heart for the poor.”

More history of the station can be found at this 2003 article by Jim Hilliker.

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National HRO Receiver, 1936


While interestingly not mentioning the name, 80 years ago this month, the January 1936 issue of Popular Mechanics contains a glowing review of the National HRO receiver. It stressed the set’s sensitivity and selectivity, and pointed out that the unique tuning dial represented a dial scale twelve feet long.  Without revealing the manufacturer or model name, the review simply describes the set as a “Short-Wave Receiver DeLuxe.”

The set was reportedly designed by Herbert Hoover, Jr., W6ZH, and Howard Morgan of Western Electric, with the design work done in Hoover’s garage. The set first hit the marked in 1935, with a price tag of $233, not including the speaker and power supply. Band switching was accomplished by changing the coil module below the tuning dial. Each coil came with an individually prepared calibration chart to show frequency, since the dial was simply calibrated between 0 and 500.

America Needs You, Harry Truman/Mister, We Could Use a Man Like Herbert Hoover Again

Seventy years ago today, President Harry Truman sent this handwritten letter to former president Herbert Hoover, inviting him to come to the White House to discuss the brewing humanitarian crisis in Europe.  With the war in Europe over, the population would need to be fed.

As Hoover would put it the next year, “we do not want the American flag flying over nationwide Buchenwalds,”

In making this invitation, Truman set aside partisan differences to seek out the man with a proven record in fighting wartime hunger.  Both during and after the First World War, he had headed American relief efforts.  They started in 1914 assisting Americans who had found themselves stranded in Europe at the outbreak of war.  From his own resources, he made loans and cashed checks for Americans.  He went on to save millions of lives, first in Belgium, and then elsewhere in Europe at the war’s end.

It was a welcome change.  In the days following Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt had summoned adviser Bernard Baruch and asked who was best fit to organize the home front.  Baruch quickly replied that Hoover would be best suited, but the suggestion was rebuffed.  Since Hoover was a convenient scapegoat throughout Roosevelt’s presidency, Roosevelt reportedly replied, “I’m not Jesus Christ. I’m not raising him from the dead.”

After Truman’s summons, Hoover approached the problem the same way he had approached it during and after the First World War, as an engineering problem.  He set out on a tour of Europe to determined the needs and resources of each country, and saw to it that resources were directed appropriately.

There was a lifetime friendship between the two presidents.  Truman spoke at the dedication of the Hoover presidential library in 1962 and told the crowd, “I feel sure that I am one of his closest friends and that’s the reason I am here.”  Later that year, Hoover wrote to Truman:

Yours has been a friendship which has reached deeper into my life than you know.  I gave up a successful profession in 1914 to enter public service. I served through the First World War and after for a total of about 18 years. When the attack on Pearl Harbor came, I at once supported the President and offered to serve in any useful capacity. Because of my various experiences . . . I thought my services might again be useful, however there was no response. My activities in the Second World War were limited to frequent requests from Congressional committees. When you came to the White House, within a month you opened a door to me to the only profession I know, public service, and you undid some disgraceful action that had been taken in prior years.

Truman had the letter framed and placed on his desk at the Truman library.

Harry, is there something we can do to save the land we love?


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Herbert Hoover and the Belgian Humanitarian Crisis

Today marks the 100th Anniversary of Herbert Hoover’s great humanitarian work in the First World War. His great granddaughter, Margaret Hoover, shared this poster today on her facebook page.

Starting a hundred years ago, President Hoover spent the last half century of his life serving his country, as Commerce Secretary, President, and Humanitarian. Fifty years ago today, the State of Iowa was preparing for the late President’s State Funeral. You can read more at the Cedar Rapids Gazette. You can also read more posts about President Hoover on my blog.


Herbert Hoover at Wikipedia 

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum

Hoover Institution at Stanford University

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Death of Herbert Hoover, 1964


Herbert Hoover, 1874-1964.

On this day fifty years ago, President Herbert Clark Hoover died in New York.   A native of Iowa and a graduate of Stanford University, he was a successful mining engineer.  During and after both world wars, he was first and foremost a humanitarian.  During the 1920’s as Secretary of Commerce, he was largely responsible for the regulatory scheme that allowed radio to flourish.

Hoover was involved in public life for half a century.  Fifty years before his death, almost to the day, he was named chairman of the commission charged with the relief of Belgium.  The Richmond (Virginia) Times Dispatch  for October 22, 1914, carries the following report:

At last real action has been taken for the relief of the Belgians, upon whom has fallen the great burden of suffering from the war. An American commission, headed by Herbert C. Hoover, of California, and composed of Americans resident in London and Brussels, as the result of an agreement reached between Belgium, Great Britain and Germany, will take under its charge the care of hundreds of thousands of Belgians threatened with starvation in their own country.

And President Hoover continued to serve the country long after he left the Oval Office.  Here’s what stated on his 85th Birthday, on Meet The Press, August 9, 1959:

 Mr. Hoover: My feeling is that we have involved ourselves in too many crises and that our major job today is to clean up our own household, that we are in more imminent dangers from internal causes than we are from the cold war.

Mr. Wilson: Which are you referring to, sir?

Mr. Hoover: We’re fast drifting into inflation, unbalanced budgets, overspending by Congress, the huge growth of crime. There are half a dozen different things that infest the public mind with worry, anxiety, that need to be cleaned up at home.

Mr. Wilson: Have these things weakened us so much that we can’t stand out strong against Russia?

Mr. Hoover: No, I wouldn’t want anybody to think for a moment that the American people are not capable of solving any crisis. As a matter of fact, this nation is now in its 183rd year, and it has lasted longer than any representative government.

It has gone through seven wars, has gone through three great depressions. It has had some bad administrations in Washington; it has fallen on evil days in every one of the wars which we’ve fought, which produced a series of crises, and yet, after all that, we still have of the original heritage of the American people a very large part of what the forefathers established. We still have a freedom of religion, freedom of press, freedom of assembly, freedom of enterprise within the limits of some socialistic tack, freedom of speech within the limits of very mild laws on the subject. Generally, we possess today the same vitality, the genius, the initiative and the ability to solve these crises that we have in the past. We need to be more diligent on the job.


Herbert Hoover at Wikipedia 

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum

Hoover Institution at Stanford University



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Mister, We Could Use A Man Like Herbert Hoover Again, Part 3: Outbreak of War

Herbert Hoover in about 1920.  Google Books.

Herbert Hoover in about 1920. Google Books.

A hundred years ago, the forces of war were relentlessly at work in Europe, but few other than heads of state and diplomats knew that the continent was about to erupt into conflict. Tens of thousands of Americans were in Europe, and the outbreak of hostilities caught them by surprise.

LiberalDemocratAmericansinEuropeThis article from the Liberal (Kansas) Democrat of August 14, 1914, reports the plight of those Americans who found themselves in Europe. Most found themselves stranded, food was scarce, and a great number of them found themselves penniless. One woman with two children, for example, was reported to be stranded in Prussia without cash but holding $2500 in checks.

The self-made millionaire mining engineer Herbert Hoover would later relate that this was the time that he ceased to be a private citizen. He became renowned for his relief efforts for Belgium, and later for the rest of Europe. And he began by assisting stranded Americans in London. The paper reports:

Herbert C. Hoover, a Californian, opened an office today in the American consulate and advanced amounts of $25 and upward to persons unable to get money by other means. Altogether Mr. Hoover gave assistance to 300 Americans who were absolutely without cash and announced that he would continue to aid them as long as his currency lasted.

As author Vernon Kellog later described this venture:

He gathered together all his available money and that of American friends and opened a unique bank which had no depositors and took in no money, but continuously gave it out against personal checks signed by unknown but American-looking people on unknown banks in Walla Walla and Fresno and Grand Rapids and Dubuque and Emporia and New Bedford. And he found rooms in hotels and passage on steamers, first-class, second-class or steerage, as happened to be possible. Now on all these checks and promises to pay, just $250 failed to be realized by the man who took a risk on American honesty to the extent of several hundred thousand dollars.

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