Hoover's father died when he was six and his mother when he was nine. He and his brother and sister were separated and raised by uncles. Hoover was sent from Iowa to live with an uncle in Oregon when he was 11.
After university he had a successful career as an engineer, which made him wealthy, and in 1917 he entered politics. During and after World War I he worked unpaid for the government, first to organize food relief to Belgium, then in charge of US food supplies, and later to organize relief to Europe. He did the same job after World War II, and in 1947 chaired the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government. In 1921 he became secretary of commerce under Harding and held the same post under Coolidge.
He was president from 1929 to 1933, but was unpopular because he seemed to have no understanding of the Depression or the effect it was having on ordinary people, and his personal lavish lifestyle continued unabated while the common people went hungry.