President Hoover’s Response


Hoover’s steadfast resistance to government aid cost him the reelection and has placed him squarely at the forefront of the most unpopular presidents, according to public opinion, in modern American history. His name became synonymous with the poverty of the era: “Hoovervilles” became the common name for homeless shantytowns (Figure) and “Hoover blankets” for the newspapers that the homeless used to keep warm. A “Hoover flag” was a pants pocket—empty of all money—turned inside out. By the 1932 election, hitchhikers held up signs reading: “If you don’t give me a ride, I’ll vote for Hoover.” Americans did not necessarily believe that Hoover caused the Great Depression. Their anger stemmed instead from what appeared to be a willful refusal to help regular citizens with direct aid that might allow them to recover from the crisis.

Photograph (a) shows a mother and her son and daughter standing before a shanty on a bare patch of land. Photograph (b) shows a pile of tires in front of a shanty next to a railroad bridge.
Hoover became one of the least popular presidents in history. “Hoovervilles,” or shantytowns, were a negative reminder of his role in the nation’s financial crisis. This family (a) lived in a “Hooverville” in Elm Grove, Oklahoma. This shanty (b) was one of many making up a “Hooverville” in the Portland, Oregon area. (credit: modification of work by United States Farm Security Administration)