The Hoovers in China

Hoover items


Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover were newlyweds when they boarded a steamship in San Francisco harbor on February 11, 1899, on their way to China. However, this was more than a honeymoon. Bert was starting a new job as a consulting engineer to the Chinese Engineering and Mining Company.

As the Hoovers settled into the foreign compound in Tientsin, Lou studied Chinese and assisted her husband in his work, becoming the first woman to descend into the mines. The Hoovers traveled extensively, but when news of Boxer violence reached them in May 1900, they stayed inside the walled compound with hundreds of other foreigners.

It must have been a shock when the first shells hit Tientsin on June 17th. Facing a siege and defended by only 2,500 soldiers, Bert led an engineering detail to bolster the walls while Lou tended to the wounded and distressed. On at least two occasions Lou cheated death: once, shells smashed the porch of her home while she was nearby, and another time a bullet missed her leg by inches, puncturing her bicycle tire. The siege was broken in mid-July when more foreign and American troops reached the city.

At age 25, Lou took it all in stride. "You missed one of the opportunities of your life by not coming to China in the summer of 1900," she wrote in a letter to a friend. "You should have been here - at the most interesting siege and bombardment of the age."

The mining company collapsed, so the Hoovers spent the autumn in England, returning to Asia in 1901. Lou took up residence in Japan while Bert traveled on the Chinese mainland. When the Belgians bought out British mining interests, the Hoovers were free to seek their destinies.

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Lou Henry Hoover objects
Deformed Bullet - retrieved after puncturing the bicycle tire of Lou Henry Hoover during the Siege of Tientsin. The bullet missed her leg by only inches.
--Artifact courtesy of Margaret C. Hoover, Portola Valley, California

Shrapnel Fragments - from a shell that had burst inside the Hoover residence.
Commemorative Medal - brass, honoring the Siege of Peking.
Photographs - from scrapbooks of Lou Henry Hoover, 1899-1900.
Red Card - Chinese characters spells the Hoover family name.
--Artifact from the collection of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, West Branch, Iowa



army items

Uniform - with black braid and yellow shoulder straps, worn by Lieutenant Colonel Webb C. Hayes, on the staff of Major General Chaffee.
Photographs - Webb C. Hayes, the son of former President Rutherford B. Hayes, who was part of the American Relief Forces during the Boxer Rebellion.
Disemboweling Sword - with a crescent-shaped blade. Captured by the 6th U.S. Cavalry under General T. J. Wint, in a battle in which 5 American soldiers were slashed and their horses were disemboweled. However, none of the Chinese Boxers escaped.
Chinese Temple Bell - bronze with a fish clapper, "captured" after the relief of Peking.
--Artifacts courtesy of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, Fremont, Ohio


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