6 November 1928: Herbert Hoover elected US president

On this day in 1928, Herbert Hoover won the US presidential election, ushering in an era of disastrous economic policies.

Herbert Hoover on the campaign trail
Herbert Hoover on the campaign trail
(Image credit: © Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

In a recent poll of American historians, Herbert Hoover was ranked as the seventh-worst president. However, in early life, he was extremely successful.

He was born in 1874; by the age of 40 he had accumulated a fortune of $4m through setting up his own mining consultancy. During World War I he threw himself into humanitarian work, organising food relief for occupied Belgium and helping the post-war recovery.

He was so popular that members of both parties encouraged him to run for president. He failed to become the Republican candidate, but in 1920 was appointed secretary of commerce by then-president Warren Harding. He used the post to try to improve industrial safety and labour relations.

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In November 1928, he became president in a landslide victory over Democrat Al Smith. Unluckily for Hoover, he came to office as a credit-fuelled boom was ending. The September 1929 stockmarket crash heralded the unravelling of the financial system. But his decision to sign the protectionist Smoot-Hawley Act didn't help, leading to a global trade war. And his efforts to stop firms from cutting wages or prices saw them slash production instead.

His insistence on a balanced budget further hit demand, turning recession into brutal depression. While his wartime humanitarian efforts saw the Finns add the word "Hoover" to their language, the slums that sprung up around major American cities became known as "Hoovervilles".

Hoover lost the 1932 presidential election to Franklin Roosevelt, and left the White House in March 1933 with unemployment at 25.6% and large numbers of American banks on the brink of collapse.

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

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