The glamour, excitement and riches of
the Western Australian goldfields in the 1890s attracted a diverse
cross-section of people from all over the world. Some came in search of
fortunes, others because they had expertise to offer the burgeoning gold mining
Herbert Hoover photographed in Perth, Western
Australia in 1898.
Among them was Herbert Hoover, destined to become
the 31st President of the United States of America. Aged just 23,
he arrived in Perth in 1897 to take up a post as mining engineer.
He fast established a reputation as an astute,
exceptionally talented “doctor of sick mines”. He also
demonstrated intuitive ability to judge the worth of prospective gold shows.
Hoover moved about in the vast area of the
Murchison, Mt Magnet and Coolgardie goldfields for
his employer Berwick Moering. He experienced the
extreme harshness of the Australian outback, describing the region as a land
flies, red dust, and white heat.”
His name crops up in the reminiscences of local
historians. One story has him perched on the cowcatcher of the first train to
steam into to the gold mining town of Cue, waving the American flag!
Hoover was best known in Australia as the manager of
the great Sons of Gwalia gold mine near Leonora, where he was responsible for
the unusual inclined shaft of the mine. While the deep level mines on the
‘Golden Mile’ at Kalgoorlie had
vertical shafts, the shaft at Gwalia went into the earth at an angle of about
30 degrees, following the gold lode for more than 1,600 metres.
Hoover departed Western Australia to marry his college
sweetheart two years later and to move onto a new post in China. His
association with Australia continued over the next eight years as a result of
his responsibility for various operations and investments here.
According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography “by
the time Hoover left Western Australia, he was one of the ablest and
best-known mining engineers in the colony. Blunt and laconic, he had a
phenomenal memory, prodigious capacity for work, and high ambition. An ardent
exponent of American mining methods, he helped to establish single-hand
drilling, disciplined management, and high standards of efficiency in the
aftermath of a boom.”
It has also been said that the fortune Hoover made
as a highly successful mining engineer put him firmly on course for the