The public life of Herbert Hoover, which spanned five decades and two world wars, illustrates his unique role in American history. I am pleased, therefore, to introduce this new volume of essays on the lives and legacies of Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover. There is no question that this collection is long overdue. No full-length biography of Hoover has appeared since the publication of Richard Norton Smith’s masterful account An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover in 1984. No collection of essays on Hoover has appeared since former U.S. senator Mark Hatfield compiled Herbert Hoover Reassessed in 1981.
As you might expect, the majority of the chapters here were first presented at the Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa. But it will come as a surprise to some that no less than a half-dozen were first presented at a conference at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston. To paraphrase Tim Walch’s aptly titled chapter, some of Hoover’s best friends were Democrats.
This volume is only one of the many projects cosponsored by this nation’s ten presidential libraries. This nationwide network of libraries is administered by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). These are not traditional libraries but rather repositories for preserving and making available the papers, records, and other historical materials of U.S. presidents since Herbert Hoover. The libraries also work together to develop traveling exhibits, joint websites, interdependent educational programs, and much more. Although the individual libraries are as unique as the presidents they respectively represent, they share a common goal of bringing the history of the American presidency to the people.
The work of the presidential libraries is part of NARA’s overall mission to provide ready access to the essential evidence of government. We preserve and provide access to both federal and presidential records, ensuring