Lot 47: Hoover, Herbert. A remarkable archive of over 500 letters, speeches, memos and notes.
July 11, 2014
Calabasas, CA, USALive Auction
47. Hoover, Herbert. A remarkable archive of over 500 letters, speeches, memos and notes spanning from February 1918 to June 1964, no less than 46 years.
An economic and policy wonk, Hoover enjoyed a successful career as businessman. He took to the details and inner workings of economics like few other politicians would or could then or now. Trusted by many future Presidents, both Republican and Democrat, Hoover may indeed have been one of the most honest and hardest working Presidents of the modern era. Some letters reflect his view that the press did not always treat him fairly or complain of mudslinging by political operatives, but it seems to be well tempered and he did not fixate on it. A substantial portion of the archive centers on Hoover’s correspondence to Lewis Strauss. Strauss’s rise to prominence in American politics and nuclear science began with his years as Hoover’s private secretary. Strauss proceeded to enjoy many highly successful years as an investment banker in New York. World War II brought Strauss to public service in the Navy Department where he attained the rank of Rear Admiral. In 1946, Harry Truman appointed Strauss to the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). In 1953, Dwight D. Eisenhower made Strauss chairman of the AEC. As a result of his achievements, in his successive positions, Strauss counted among his friends and colleagues many of the leading politicians and scientists of his time. As evidenced by this archive, Strauss’s friendship with Hoover was a strong one that endured for almost a half century.
The archive consists of mostly letters from Hoover to Strauss with other associated correspondence. The vast majority are typed letters, but many have handwritten emendations, notes and postscripts by Hoover himself. Most have his full signature, but there are some signed with just initials. Some of the correspondence to Mr. & Mrs. Strauss and a few of a lighter tone to just Strauss are signed (“Herbert”) demonstrating the deepening of their friendship, generally after the 1940s. Although many of the letters are on policy and political matters, the correspondence over the decades clearly shows a growing, deep friendship between, at first, Hoover and Strauss and then to include both spouses. It becomes apparent there is deep loyalty between the two men right to the end.
Highlights of the archive include:
A long series of letters relating to the gold standard and economic recovery during the Depression. Includes a long 1933 memorandum proposing the restoration of the gold standard as a means of recovery. Excerpts from these letters include:
Typed letter signed, 27 November 1933. In part:
…The holding up of the bond market by government purchases only means they will have to issue that many more securities later on, and if I recollect the tradition of the stock exchange correctly, the one thing that people naturally do in a supported market is to sell against it…
Typed letter signed 5 December 1933. In part:
…So far as the commodity dollar or any other form of unstable currency is adhered to we will have a prolongation of large-scale unemployment by just that length of time…
Typed letter signed, 25 August 1933. In part:
… I am enclosing herewith a memorandum of a tentative proposal of mine for restoration of the gold standard. I have no gold experts here to check up with me on this proposal. I am wondering if you would check it up (with yourself and [in Hoover’s hand]) with some of the experts around New York and if you find that they agree with it I think it might be a good idea to take it to Mr. Ochs and ask him if he would run it in the Times as a letter from a subscriber…
The four-page memorandum accompanying the 25 August letter has several handwritten emendations by Hoover.
Typed letter signed, 4 October 1933. In part:
I also have a statistical department, consisting of the leading brokerage houses in San Francisco who out of patriotism (they certainly get no income) send me this data every morning, often by telephone. They seem to have a desire to keep me in economic trend and I read all of the personal dispatches that come over their private wires feel at times that I sit in with the New York Stock Exchange. I recognize the validity of part of the criticism which you found on my gold scheme [see 25 August 1933]. I am wondering if it could be made workable if we added to it the provision that the American government should sell gold at the rate of $25,000,000 a month for two years in the open market and if possible that the French government should do the same?
Two detailed, apparently unpublished Hoover memoranda on the state of the American economy.
Typed letter signed, 4 March 1937
The other day in order to save myself a lot of conversation, I dictated some views on the immediate economic situation. This is not intended for publication, a speech, or anything much, but just to give a little relief to the safety valve. I thought you might be interested in it.
Excerpts from the accompanying 12-page document:
…There are eleven inflationary policies of the Roosevelt Administration in action…
Prices of most stocks are at ranges unwarranted by their earnings. They are being purchased in some degree out of fear of inflation. Prices of bonds are artificially high as the result or artificially low interest rates and some day will fall 20 or 30%. For the first time in American history there is no island of safety for investment or savings…Again, there is a flood of foreign investment in American securities. The total is new estimated as high as $7,500,000,000. This arises partly from the belief abroad that we are headed for inflation, partly because of our business recovery, and partly because of the debacle in currency ratios. These investments comprise a great danger for any attempt to realize on a large scale and will produce a debacle in the American markets. The capapcity [sic] of the New York market to absorb selling is probably not one-third of that of 1929…
…The practical question is when is the smash coming? Nobody knows. One practical suggestion can be made. The Roosevelt Administration will try to stave it off with more inflation. If they administer enough inflation to stave off all these destructive forces, it may take us down the German alley. In the meantime, we are likely to be artificially happy during 1937.
Indeed, the American economy and stock market took a sharp downturn in mid-1937, lasting for 13 months through most of 1938.
Typed letter signed, 31 July 1933. In part:
…as I am the sole occupant of this industry of being and Ex-President…The memorandum which I gave to Wiley was part of the enclosed memorandum. The basis of it was prepared by a former employee in the Budget Bureau…
Excerpts from the accompanying 4-page document:
President Roosevelt’s method of balancing the budget is finally made clear by the provisions in the Industries Control Bill by which all public works are to be charged to bond issues and only the interest thereon charge to the current account…It has also been provided that the cost of agricultural relief will be met by a sales or “processor” tax on food payable to the Secretary of Agriculture and not to the treasury so that agricultural relief will not be a charge on the budget. Furthermore, the statutory retirement of the capital of the national debt is to be suspended. Whether the budget will be balanced after this, which the New York Times calls “painless arithmetic,” remains to be seen. It is interesting to note what the effect of this sort of bookkeeping would have been had it been pursued by the Hoover Administration…
After a listing of expenditures for fiscal years under Hoover and the probable results for Roosevelt’s first year under the new rules Hoover concludes that …On this basis of accounting, the Hoover Administration would have shown not only a balance budget but a surplus of about one billion. Such are the wonders of bookkeeping.
Typed letter signed, 11 May 1943. In part:
I receive constant demand or expression of hope for the formulation of more adequate, more realistic and more definite bases of peace policies…Some twelve months ago Mr. Gibson and I published a book advancing some new ideas upon the subject…We proposed wholly new approaches to the machinery for making lasting peace so as to avoid another debacle like Versailles. And we proposed new approaches to the long-view peace settlements…The road to lasting peace is one of harsh realism with foundations of experience and ideals…
An autograph letter signed being a cover note accompanying a four-page memo dated 5 June 1919 discussing issues of the draft treaty. Hoover was part of the American Delegation to the Paris Peace Conference because of his role as Director General of Relief he was one of seven technical advisors to the American Commission to Negotiate Peace. Hoover’s central role in every economic issue made him, after Wilson and House, the most important American at Paris and a major figure at the peace conference. As Hoover established the Hoover War Collection at Stanford University and donated all the documents from the Commission for Relief in Belgium, the US Food Administration and the American Relief Administration, there are few documents outside institutions available to collectors.
A signed draft copy of his 23 January 1919 letter of resignation from the US Food Administration to President Woodrow Wilson while Wilson was staying at the Hotel Murat in Paris. The Paris Peace Conference opened on 18 January 1919. In part:
…It is an impossible conception that the personality of any one man should be allowed to retard measures of this character upon which such a mass of human life and the hope of peace depends. This work must be done for the honor of the United States and I have no wish to show so little patriotism as to embarrass you or your supporters…
An autograph letter signed to Hoover from John Maynard Keynes announcing his resignation from the British Delegation in Paris in June of 1919 negotiating the Paris Peace Conference leading to the Treaty of Versailles and accompanied by a typed copy of Hoover’s response of the same day.
Keynes writes in part:
You are the only man in Paris in my judgment who has come through this tragedy without discredit and has accomplished some part at least of his aims. The rest has been all wickedness, greed, meanness, smallness and failings…There is nothing but shame behind and misfortune in front. How it will all end God knows…
A large group of 78 typed letters signed to Lawrence Richey from 1933 to 1955. Richey was the closest, personally, to the President, and his tasks were the most diverse, sometimes confidential. A former detective and Secret Service agent, he managed the Secret Service, supervised the office, answered Hoover’s personal correspondence, and provided instant information. He was on call for any task. Richey had Hoover’s complete confidence; and serving Hoover was his purpose in life.
A typed letter signed from General John (Blackjack) Pershing to Lewis Strauss.
8 letters from Edgar Rickard and others to Hoover and to Rickard related to the American Relief Administration (ARA).
A letter signed from Hoover as President on 8 March 1930, thanking a group for their support and noting a tragic event of that very day: the death of former President Howard Taft.
4 signed pamphlets
2 signed images
A typed letter signed to Lewis informing him of a copy of the Congressional Act establishing the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government, the so-called “Hoover Commission”, and a memorandum as to the method of work which has been adopted by the Commission as well as a recent statement of the organization of this Commission.
Later letters show his continued involvement with the Republican Party up to 1960. Hoover actually spoke at the Republican National Convention on 25 July 1960. A copy of his speech is included in the archive with a letter to Strauss and his wife.
Even at 88, Hoover remained active in public life. Hoover sends Strauss a copy of his letter to William F. Buckley, Jr. He writes in part: I am still a trustee, director or chairman of nine educational, scientific, or charitable institutions, and have definite responsibilities to them…I have the personal responsibility to raise constant financial support for five institutions of which I had a part in founding or reorganizing in years gone by…Every time I lend my name to some righteous movement, the public holds me responsible – even if my associates have guaranteed that I do not need to think about the organization again. And they load my days with letters about it…I have two little books on the stove…and they require constant attention while cooking…
A rich archive providing extraordinary insights into the public life and the private life of America’s 31st President.
$20,000 - $30,000