Donation adds to Herbert Hoover museum's collection

Desk, fire screen among items donated from Brigham estate

Published: February 24 2014 | 9:52 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 4:04 am in

A desk with secret compartments and a fire screen hand-embroidered by former first lady Lou Henry Hoover are among several items recently donated to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum in West Branch.

The museum recently uncrated the 13 items from the estate of Richard T. Brigham, who was married to Hoover’s granddaughter Margaret Ann Hoover. Brigham died in 2012 and Margaret Ann Hoover died in 2011.

Herbert Hoover, who was born in West Branch, was elected the 31st president of the United States in 1928. His wife, Lou Henry Hoover, also was from Iowa.

Library and museum Director Tom Schwartz said the museum is grateful whenever a piece of the Hoover legacy can be preserved.

“Herbert Hoover was a millionaire many times over. The Hoovers owned a lot of things over the course of their lives. The fact that these materials stayed within the family and we can trace them back is important,” he said.

He said unlike today, when presidential legacies are carefully preserved, starting while a president is still in office, artifacts from the Hoover era often were lost to history.

“The Hoovers had two sons and six grandchildren, so a lot has been dispersed,” he said. “To be able to get small caches back is important. We’re always happy when we’re given bequests like this.”

The items in the bequest include a reproduction of a James Monroe desk that Lou Henry Hoover had made, complete with the secret compartments of the original desk.

There also is a James Monroe replica dresser the first lady used for her personal items.

Other furniture includes a chest decorated with ivory and bone panels given to the Hoovers during a goodwill tour, four chairs the Hoovers used in the White House and a desk used by Herbert Hoover when he was secretary of commerce.

There are three pieces of art: a painting of the goddess Minerva that hung in the Hoover’s home in Palo Alto, Calif., a copy of the official White House portrait of Lou Henry Hoover and a sketch of Herbert Hoover.

The donation also includes a fire screen embroidered by the first lady with an image of the Washington Monument, which was used at the White House, and a rosewood walking cane monogrammed with Hoover’s initials that he used in the 1950s.

Schwartz said the artifacts will be added to the museum’s rotation of items for display. He said he hopes the new items help draw more people to see the legacy and artifacts of the former president and first lady.

"The import thing in a museum is for people to see the real thing,” he said. “That’s what gives them goose bumps.”

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