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Truman Library

Harry Truman and Herbert Hoover: An Unlikely Friendship

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Truman Library

In 1945, as World War II struggled towards its eventual close, a fateful Oval Office meeting between Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman over Europe’s fate sparked what became not only an effective professional relationship, but a deeply personal one as well, despite their vast partisan differences. “Yours has been a friendship which has reached deeper into my life than you know,” Hoover once wrote of Truman, a sentiment often reciprocated by the latter president.

It all began towards the close of World War II in 1945, just over a month into Truman’s administration. Hoover had effectively exiled himself from public service since his landslide loss to FDR in the election of 1932. Before occupying the oval office himself, Hoover had twice risen to political prominence: First as a self-made millionaire in the mining industry, and again as a humanitarian organizer whose efforts in healing war-torn Europe earned him international renown. Capitalizing on his surging popularity, “the great engineer” handily won the presidency as a Republican in 1928, only to become the target of nationwide scorn after the stock market crashed just under a year later (hitchhikers in 1932 often successfully acquired rides simply by holding up signs which read “Give me a lift or I’ll vote for Hoover!”). After his victory, Roosevelt was quick to distance himself from his increasingly-disliked predecessor and, fearing that his political career was over, Hoover eventually retreated to a private life in California.

Recalling Hoover’s stellar performance in distributing nourishment and supplies to starving European families ravaged by the first World War, Truman decided to enlist the ex-president’s aid in rebuilding the continent after the second, writing in an invitational letter, “I would be most happy to talk over the European food situation with you… Also it would be a pleasure for me to become acquainted with you.”  On May 28, 1945, the two met in the White House—marking the first time Hoover had entered the building in 12 years—to discuss famine relief. Impressed by his humanitarian credentials and fervor, Truman later appointed Hoover honorary chairman of the Famine Emergency Committee, a role which sent him across the globe to procure rations for the needy and homeless.

Truman also secured Hoover’s legacy by helping to officially give the Hoover Dam its current name in honor of the president who had played a vital role in its construction (previously, it’d been dubbed the Boulder Dam). 

But apart from simply working well together, the two developed a sincere friendship over the years, one that lasted until Hoover’s death in 1964. In fact, the last words ever known to have been written by Hoover were sent to Truman via telegram on October 14, 1964, after the former learned Truman had slipped in his bathroom and fractured two ribs. The message read: “Bathtubs are a menace to ex-presidents for as you may recall a bathtub rose up and fractured my vertebrae when I was in Venezuela on your world famine mission in 1946. My warmest sympathy and best wishes for your recovery.” 

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‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0
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Get Your GIFs Ready for This International Public Domain GIF-Making Competition
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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0

Excellent GIF-making skills can serve you beyond material for your clever tweets. Each year, a group of four digital libraries from across the world hosts GIF IT UP, a competition to find the best animated image sourced from public domain images from their archives.

The competition is sponsored by Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), New Zealand’s DigitalNZ, and the National Library of Australia’s Trove, all of which host millions of public domain works. The requirements are that the source material must be in the public domain, have a 'no known copyright restrictions' statement, or have a Creative Commons license that allows its reuse. The material must also come from one of the sponsored sources. Oh, and judging by the past winners, it helps if it’s a little whimsical.

The image above won the grand prize in 2015. And this was a runner-up in 2016:

via GIPHY

This year’s prizes haven’t been announced yet (although Europeana says there will be a new one for first-time GIF makers), but last year’s grand prize winner got their own Giphoscope, and runners-up got $20 gift cards. (Turns out, there’s not a lot of money in public domain art.)

Not an expert GIFer yet? You can always revisit the audio version of DPLA’s advanced GIF-making tutorial from last year.

The fourth-annual GIF IT UP contest opens to submissions October 1.

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