8

The Amazing Real Life Experiences tells a story about how the pianist Ignace Jan Paderewski did a favour for a student Herbert Hoover, and that later Hoover (in his role of head of the US Food and Relief Bureau) returned the favour to Paderewski (in his role of Prime Minister of Poland.

I sense too much coincidence and sensationalism in the story. I can't, however, find anything that corroborates or discredits this. Is it true?

  • Note: While Herbert Hoover did become POTUS, the story finishes with Hoover as the Director of the US Food Administration (1917-1918), years before he was President (1929-1933). – Oddthinking May 31 '17 at 9:09
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It's false.

In his memoirs, The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover: Years of Adventure, Hoover only gave a brief description of his relationship with Paderewski during his Stanford years (pg. 357):

I had known Paderewski for many years. When a college boy I had conducted with partners a sort of lecture bureau to relieve our deficient finances. We had scheduled Paderewski for an appearance, but it did not come off for some reason or other. In 1915, I again met him, when I was trying to get some relief to Poland.

He organized lectures, not concerts and in any case, Paderewski did not come. The other events he organized at Stanford were baseball and football matches. If there were such a beneficiary concert, he would surely have mentioned it in greater details.

Other specifics from the story also contain historical inaccuracies:

  • Paderewski was the Prime Minister of Poland, not premier. There is no such title in the Polish government.

  • Hoover came to Europe under the order of President Woodrow Wilson to oversee the U.S. humanitarian efforts during World War I, not on invitation by Paderewski.

  • U.S. relief efforts had been ongoing since before the Armistice and across multiple European countries, not just Poland.

  • The people of Poland did not choose Paderewski as their Prime Minister. U.S. foreign policies (for which Hoover was the personification) did. Earlier on the same page:

Dr. Kellogg asked that he be authorized to inform Pilsudski that unless this [making Paderewski PM] was done American co-operation and aid were futile. I did so and got the hint reinforced from President Wilson. As a result, Pilsudski was elevated to the position of "Chief of State," and Paderewski became Prime Minister on January 16th.


Hoover's was the first class at Stanford. It's not surprising that records from these formulating years are bad enough for the current Stanford University to trip on its own history. Herbert Hoover is much loved in Poland for his humanitarian works and the building of a young Polish state but this story takes the facts too far.

  • About the "Paderewski was the Prime Minister of Poland, not premier. There is no such title in the Polish government." - "premier" means "prime minister" in polish – Xyzk Feb 25 at 2:34
5

The story is possible, but more likely seems to be an embellishment of an otherwise true story.

From the Stanford University website...

The story goes that in 1892, Herbert Hoover, a member of Stanford's Pioneer Class, invited Polish composer Ignacy Jan Paderewski, one of the leading pianists in the world, to give a benefit concert. Due to problems with scheduling and publicity, only a few people attended. Hoover asked the pianist not to play, but he performed anyway, waiving his concert fee. And when Paderewski discovered that Hoover owed thousands of dollars for rental of the concert hall, the musician covered the bill. That incident marked the beginning of a friendship between the two men that would last 50 years.

During and after World War I, when Poles faced massive starvation, Hoover repaid his debt to Paderewski, who became Poland's prime minister, by organizing the largest relief operation ever mounted in Europe, said Zbigniew Stanczyk, East European specialist at the Hoover Institution.

The following are confirmed true aspects of the story.

  1. Mr. Hoover and Mr. Paderewski met at Stanford in 1892 under the pretext of a concert.

  2. Mr. Hoover had difficulty in coming up with all of the funds in order to pay for the concert after scheduling conflicts.

  3. Mr. Paderewski covered the bill upon discovering this

  4. The friendship that resulted from this meeting was a factor in delivering foreign Aid to Poland after World War 1

What is unclear.

  1. What the "benefit concert" was benefiting. It is conceivable that the benefit concert was for the purposes of raising tuition funds.

The earliest reference to the concert being for the purposes of tuition I could find online was from this bible.org page, which in turn references the book "Perhaps I am" by Edward Bok.

There were once two young men working their way through Leland Stanford University. Their funds got desperately low, and the idea came to one of them to engage Paderewski for a piano recital and devote the profits to their board and tuition. The great pianist’s manager asked for a guarantee of two thousand dollars. The students, undaunted, proceeded to stage the concert. They worked hard, only to find that the concert had raised only sixteen hundred dollars. After the concert, the students sought the great artist and told him of their efforts and results. They gave him the entire sixteen hundred dollars, and accompanied it with a promissory note for four hundred dollars, explaining that they would earn the amount at the earliest possible moment and send the money to him.

“No,” replied Paderewski, “that won’t do.” Then tearing the note to shreds, he returned the money and said to them: “Now, take out of this sixteen hundred dollars all of your expenses, and keep for each of you 10 percent of the balance for your work, and let me have the rest.” The years rolled by—years of fortune and destiny. Paderewski had become premier of Poland. The devastating war came, and Paderewski was striving with might and main to feed the starving thousands of his beloved Poland. There was only one man in the world who could help Paderewski and his people. Thousands of tons of food began to come into Poland for distribution by the Polish premier. After the starving people were fed, Paderewski journeyed to Paris to thank Herbert Hoover for the relief sent him.

“That’s all right, Mr. Paderewski,” was Mr. Hoover’s reply. “Besides, you don’t remember it, but you helped me once when I was a student at college and I was in a hole.”

However, the book itself is not quoted directly and there are not any sources online that could be used to prove or disprove that the book is even properly cited.

-4

The story is true, according to the this 2006 Stanford News article from Stanford University.

The story goes that in 1892, Herbert Hoover, a member of Stanford's Pioneer Class, invited Polish composer Ignacy Jan Paderewski, one of the leading pianists in the world, to give a benefit concert. Due to problems with scheduling and publicity, only a few people attended. Hoover asked the pianist not to play, but he performed anyway, waiving his concert fee. And when Paderewski discovered that Hoover owed thousands of dollars for rental of the concert hall, the musician covered the bill. That incident marked the beginning of a friendship between the two men that would last 50 years.

  • 5
    Welcome to Skeptics! This source is little more than a press release. The author, Lisa Trei, is in communications, not the history department. "The story goes" is an idiom to distance the author from the veracity of the story - it is saying "I am just reporting the gossip, not confirming the facts." This is just a repeat of the claim. – Oddthinking Dec 16 '17 at 0:45

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