Herbert Hoover was born in West Branch, Iowa, in 1874. His father, a blacksmith and farm implement storeowner, died in 1880. When his mother died four years later, nine-year-old Hoover stayed with several relatives before finally going to live with an uncle in Oregon. He earned money as a farm laborer and office boy. Then, he worked his way through Stanford University by serving as a secretary and by managing both a newspaper route and a laundry agency. He earned a degree in geology and became an engineer for the U.S. Geological Survey and other mining companies throughout the world.
The Commission for Relief in Belgium drafted Hoover to direct humanitarian relief for 16 million people in Belgium and northern France during World War I. After the war ended, he led relief and reconstruction efforts in Europe, helping more than 320 million people. He served as the U.S. secretary of commerce under President Warren Harding in 1921. In 1929, Hoover became the thirty-first president of the United States.