Family background and early life
Herbert Hoover was born on August 10, 1874 in West Branch, Iowa. He is the only president born in that state, and the first born west of the Mississippi River. His father, Jesse Hoover (1849–1880), was a blacksmith and farm implement store owner of German (Pfautz, Wehmeyer), German-Swiss (Huber, Burkhart) and English ancestry. Jesse Hoover and his father Eli had moved to Iowa from Ohio twenty years previously. Hoover's mother, Hulda Randall Minthorn (1849–1884), was born in Norwich, Ontario, Canada and was of English and Irish ancestry. Both of his parents were Quakers.
Hoover's family figured prominently in the town's public prayer life due almost entirely to Hulda's role in her church. His father, noted by the local paper for his "pleasant, sunshiny disposition", died in 1880. After working to retire her husband's debts, retain their life insurance, and care for the children, his mother died in 1884, leaving Hoover (age nine), his older brother, and his younger sister as orphans. Fellow Quaker Lawrie Tatum was appointed as Hoover's guardian.
Herbert Hoover birthplace cottage, West Branch, Iowa
After a brief stay with one of his grandmothers in Kingsley, Iowa, Hoover lived the next 18 months with his uncle Allen Hoover in West Branch. In November 1885, he went to Newberg, Oregon, to live with his uncle Dr. John Minthorn, a physician and businessman whose own son had died the year before. The Minthorn household was considered cultured and educational, and imparted a strong work ethic. Observers, including Minthorn himself, describe Hoover as being unhappy with the long days of toil he experienced while staying with the Minthorn household. Hoover attended Friends Pacific Academy (now George Fox University), but dropped out at the age of thirteen to become an office assistant for his uncle's real estate office in Salem, Oregon. Though he did not attend high school, Hoover attended night school and learned bookkeeping, typing, and mathematics.
Hoover entered Stanford University in 1891, its inaugural year, after failing all the entrance exams (except mathematics) and then being tutored for the summer in Palo Alto. Hoover claimed to be the very first student at Stanford, by virtue of having been the first person in the first class to sleep in the dormitory. Hoover worked a variety of odd jobs to support himself, and struggled in many of his classes, especially English. But he found a happiness at Stanford that previously eluded him.
Hoover had been unsure of his major before arriving at Stanford, but a position working for geologist John Casper Branner convinced him to switch his major to geology, and Hoover interned for Branner and the United States Geological Survey during the summer. Though he was shy among fellow students at first, Hoover won election as student treasurer and became known for his distaste for fraternities and sororities. In his senior year, he became smitten with a classmate named Lou Henry, but his financial situation precluded marriage. Hoover graduated from Stanford in 1895, in the midst of the Panic of 1893, and initially struggled to find a job.
While at the university he was the student manager of both the baseball and football teams and was a part of the inaugural versus rival the University of California and friend (Cal Manager) Herbert Lang. Only 10,000 tickets were printed for the inaugural game and 20,000 people showed up. Both Hoover and Lang had to find pots, bowls and any other available receptacles to collect admission fees. Stanford won the game.:21–22 In 1892 Hoover invited Polish composer Ignacy Jan Paderewski to give a benefit concert. Hoover and his associates were unable to pay Paderewski the entire honorarium. The musician after hearing their story returned them the money so they could pay for rental of the concert hall. In 1919 Paderewski, now prime minister of Poland, traveled to America to thank the head of the American Relief Administration for helping Poland. "That's all right, Mr. Paderewski," Hoover replied. "Besides, you don't remember it, but you helped me once when I was a student at college and I was in a hole."