September 29th Rare Autograph & Document Auction
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HOOVER, HERBERT. ALS 4 very full pages qto dated April 8, 1899 on the letterhead of Chinese Engineering and Mining Company to His Excellency Chang Yen Mow, Imperial Director of Mines, Peking. Hoover, a 24-yr. old mining engineer then living in Tientsin, had been engaged to appraise the prospects of three mines. This letter is a virtual primer on mining economics, some of which is a prerequisite for understanding the basis for his opinions. Then he reported his tentative conclusions, which would be explained and amplified when he returned to Tientsin. The letter clearly provides a magnificent record of a largely unknown period in the life of this brilliant but often maligned man who served as our 31 st president. Accompany ding the letter is a reprint of an article about it in Manuscripts magazine, providing explanation and context.

HERBERT HOOVER: MINING ENGINEER

 

This was surely a great deal of responsibility to place on a twenty-four year old. Hoover was well prepared for it. Orphaned at age eight, he learned the discipline of hard work from the two uncles who reared him first for two years on a farm in Iowa and then in the home of an Oregon country doctor. Religious training also helped form his character. At fifteen, his uncle started a land-settlement business, and Herbert went to work full time as office-boy. In his spare time, he learned how to type and something about bookkeeping. His typing ability would later help him land his first job in the mining industry.

When a free university founded by Senator Leland Stanford opened in California, Hoover managed to enroll. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Geology in 1895 and was an outstanding student in the first graduating class of the new university. During summer vacations, he obtained valuable practical experience. After his freshman year, he was employed as an assistant on the Geological Survey of Arkansas. The next two summers, he worked on the U. S. Geological Survey in California and Nevada. After graduation, he took a job as a common laborer in a mine. He soon became a full-fledged miner. After not many months, his typing skills led to a job as copyist in the San Francisco office of Louis Janin, an outstanding mining engineer.

In only a few days, Hoover had an engineering assignment, and from that day on, he "never again asked for or looked for an engineering job of any kind.They have come of their own accord. In 1897, Janin was asked by a major British mining firm to recommend an engineer skilled in American gold-mining practices for work in Australia. Although Janin did not want to lose Hoover, he recommended him in spite of his youth and relative inexperience. The young man obviously was good at his profession. Hoover spent two years in Australia working for Bewick,Moreing and Company, which was based in London. They were quite pleased with his work and trusted his judgment. For example, he was impressed with the possibilities of a small mine he visited, so he cabled his home office suggesting that they acquire an option. When they did, he examined the mine and recommended that they purchase a 2/3 interest for $250,000 and provide another $250,000 for working capital. They did that also, and it turned out to be a profitable deal. Hoover was appointed manager of the mine and was given a small percentage of the business. The Chinese Engineering and Mining Company floated a large bond issue in Europe. Several European governments were pressuring Chang, the Director of Mining, to appoint their nationals to control the technical staff. Moering, Hoover's boss, suggested that Chang avoid the political pressures by appointing an American as Chief Engineer. Of course, he recommended Hoover for the job. Hoover jumped at the opportunity. The best part of it was that the princely salary of $20,000 would make it possible for him to marry his college sweetheart, Lou Henry. In January of 1899 he went to London to learn more about the job in China. Only three months later he wrote this letter.

 

The letter is on the letterhead of the Chinese Engineering and Mining Company, Director's Office, Tientsin. Hoover hadn't been there long. On February 10, less than two months earlier, he had married Lou Henry in California, and they had caught the steamer the following day for China. They arrived in Peking sometime in March, where in a meeting with mining officials, the decision was made that the Hoovers should live in Tientsin. He was thus very new to the Chinese mining scene when he wrote this letter.

The addressee was Chang Yen-mao, who was Director General of the Chinese Engineering and Mining Company, a position to which he had been appointed by the Chinese government. He also was head of the newly created Bureau of Mines. The company was basically in the coal mining and cement business,but Chang had a particularly keen interest in gold mining and had sent the young American engineer to appraise the prospects of three mines. Hoover begins by describing the mines generally.

 

April 8, 1899

His Excellency Chang Yen Mow (sic) Imperial Director of Mines Peking

Dear Sir:

 

I have examined the mines located at Nui Shin Shan, Nu ErYeh and Tse Er Nu and in accordance with your request write you the conclusions I have arrived at. I shall make more complete reports upon the various districts upon my return to Tientsin and shall then give my suggestions regarding the best future policy. The gold is found here in "veins". These veins are the result of the deposition of quartz containing gold and other minerals in cracks and fissures through the rocks. There are two kinds of these veins - one known as "gash" veins and the other "true" fissure veins. The former are the result of mere cracks in the rocks and have no constant extension either laterally or in depth. That is they are liable to disappear any moment and mining ventures started upon them always result in failure. The second variety or "true" fissure veins are the result of great movements in the rocks and usually extend to great depths and it is upon this variety of gold deposit that most of the gold mining industry of the world is done.

A width of from 5 to 10 inches would pay by their processing, but I am of the opinion that about two feet wide would pay with machinery. I cannot definitely say that this is the case until my return and Mr. Wilson+ has made the chemical tests necessary to determine the exact percentage of gold. Upon this vein therefore there is quantity enough of ore and the vein is of the character which bids fair to extend to great depth and it is now left to determine if it is of sufficient quality. The other two of these genuine veins are very narrow and would scarcely pay in themselves to erect machinery but they would form valuable auxiliaries to the principal vein.

He closes with an interesting comment about what might have been. It is very unfortunate that the residues from the previous washings have not been saved for they contain much gold obtainable by American processing. It is impossible to remedy this defect without entirely rebuilding the mills, an expenditure that the future of the company as working at present does not warrant.

Very sincerely yours,

H. C. Hoover

 

 

 

With One of a Kind Collectibles LOA

Important Herbert Hoover 4 pg ALS about Chinese Gold MiningImportant Herbert Hoover 4 pg ALS about Chinese Gold MiningImportant Herbert Hoover 4 pg ALS about Chinese Gold MiningImportant Herbert Hoover 4 pg ALS about Chinese Gold Mining
Important Herbert Hoover 4 pg ALS about Chinese Gold Mining
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