Friday, January 05, 2007

I Like Ike! (No, Not That One...the Other One)



For nearly a half century Irwin H. Hoover was an extremely important man. He had a large amount of power, and knew where the secrets were buried for eight different presidential administrations of the United States. Imagine the conversations he overhead not just from the President, but every Congressman and every diplomat that entered the White House.

Hoover went to the White House in 1891 at the request of the Edison Company. His task was to assist in the wiring of the White House for electric lights. This was a very new and untested invention at the time and President Harrison and his wife, like many Americans at the time, were extremely afraid of the effects of having electric lights in their home. It is said the Harrisons were so afraid they didn’t even want to turn the lights on and off. Hoover was asked to stick around to make the transition to electric lights easier. He stuck around for forty-two years.

President McKinley appointed Hoover as Chief Usher where he was in charge of making the White House a home for the First Family, oversaw the many items that make the White House a museum of American History, and oversaw all of the official and ceremonial events of the White House. Today, the Chief Usher keeps track of a large budget, chooses the Christmas tree for the Blue Room, and is usually the one seen holding an umbrella for the President as he leaves or arrives at the White House.

Ike Hoover was described as being tall, immaculate, and dignified. Time Magazine for March 4, 1929 described Hoover as “crisply grey of hair, vigorous of demeanor, it is he who inspects all callers, who engineers all receptions, arranges the First Lady's teas, sends the White House motor hither and yon.”

At some point one source states he was offered $50,000 to tell his stories. He turned the offer down stating, “When I pass out everything goes with me.” Apparently though at some point he changed his mind and did write his memoirs. He didn’t exactly do a “tell all” book, but did leave a wonderful primary source for studies of the administrations he served.

Through Hoover’s eyes we see many of the personalities of the Presidents he served and their families.

Hoover described William McKinley as “[someone who] had a passion for cigars and was perhaps the most intense smoker of all the presidents during my life. One never saw him without a cigar in his mouth except at meals or when asleep.”

There have been many things written about the riproaring White House when it was invaded by Theodore Roosevelt and his horde of children. Hoover advised, “Something indeed was wrong when there were not two or more guest for [lunch].” Hoover went on to explain it was impossible to get an accurate count. “The place was really a transient bordinghouse, and how everyone got enough to eat was the wonder of the household.”

In his daily diary of events written on White House paper seen here you can see that Wilson’s inauguration was just another day at the office for Hoover. In his memoir Hoover titles the chapter, “Taft out---Wilson in: a typical inauguration day.”

When a stroke paralyzed Wilson’s left side and left him incompetent. “The President lay stretched out in the large Lincoln bed. He looked as if dead. There was no sign of life. His face bore a long cut above the temple from which the signs of blood were still evident…He was just gone as far as anyone could judge from appearances.”

In an online article titled Fakery In American Journalism by Thomas Fleming we truly can understand how grave Wilson’s situation had become though while Americans were not told about the condition of the President. Fleming uses this quotation from Hoover’s memoir to describe Wilson, “that intellectually he had shrunk from a giant to a pygmy.”

Upon the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt Hoover observed, “Republicans dropped out of sight overnight.” Those who were left seemed to have changed into Democrats.”

It was FDR who had the sad duty in 1933 to send telegrams to the widows of Presidents Harrison, Cleveland, Roosevelt, Wilson, Taft, Coolidge, and Hoover to inform them of Ike Hoover’s passing. He simply left the White House one afternoon after a day of work and had a heart attack and died at the age of sixty-two. When FDR spoke of Ike Hoover he said, “It was Ike who met me at the door when I came to make the White House my home. It was good to receive his welcome and during those months to have his help and devotion in official and family life…The nation, too, has lost a true and faithful servant, who, during every administration since that of President Harrison, has given his best to his government.”

A fellow blogger at The Boiled Egg of Infinity, stated in his post titled Sudden Rush of Widening Horizons that Hoover had the fortune of developing a unique perspective over the many years he served in the White House. He compares Hoover’s memoir to a blog and contends “if Mr. Hoover were alive today, a blog would be the ideal format for him.”

I believe he might be right.

Ike Hoover’s picture was part of of a Wordless Wednesday post seen here. Teachergirl has the distinction of correctly advising the identify of Mr. Hoover. Way to go!

6 comments:

Jason said...

Great post. It's amazing how many people act behind the scenes to make things work. Thanks for the post and I'm going to look into his memoirs.

elementaryhistoryteacher said...

You are right, Jason. There are many great Americans in government service we never hear about.

Anonymous said...

What a great resource for the domestic lives and public duties of those whom Mr. Hoover served!

I read a bit of his memoir concerning the visit of the Queen of Roumania and Princess Ileana. This prompted me to research these two remarkable women. The Queen was actually quite heroic during WWI and the princess eventually became a nun and founder of a abbey in Pennsylvania!

But Mr. Hoover was most concerned with their breach of etiquette while visiting the Coolidges!

A.M. Whittaker

Andrew Pass Educational Services, LLC said...

Your knowledge of history and even the people behind the scenes continues to impress me. I would love to be one of your students.

Andrew Pass
http://www.Pass-Ed.com/blogger.html

Anonymous said...

good article.See the televison film "Backstairs at the Whithouse". this is a great film about the servants and Mr. Ike Hoover and thier daily lives at the Whitehouse in the early 1900,s. This film is available at netflix and also I think some retail bookstores.I highly recommend it.

Anonymous said...

Please correct me if Im wrong but I believe his book was made into a play. I saw it once and it was fascinating