A Unique Travel Document with Hoover’s Signature

Travel Document Hoover’s Signature
I have come across a document that bears the signature of Herbert Hoover, who served as the administrator of the United States Food Administration. The document in question is a large quarto size and appears to be partially printed. It does not specify any particular location, but it does bear the seal of the United States Legation in Berne, Switzerland on the lower right corner. The date of the document is December 26, 1918, and it includes a photograph of an individual named Charles H. Welter.

U.S. Food Administration Unique Travel Document Hoover’s Signature

The United States Food Administration (1917–1920) functioned as an independent Federal agency. During the nation’s active participation in World War I, it took on a crucial role. Its primary responsibility was overseeing the production, distribution, and preservation of food within the U.S. With the aim of preventing monopolies and hoarding, the administration sought to maintain strict government control over food resources through voluntary agreements and licensing arrangements.

In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson chose Hoover to lead the U.S. Food Administration. As a symbol of the sacrifice necessary for all Americans, Hoover declined to accept a salary. Hoover’s name became linked with America’s efforts to redirect food resources for feeding soldiers being deployed to Europe and supplying food to U.S. allies.

By promoting the belief that food could win the war, Hoover appealed to patriotic sentiments and encouraged Americans to conserve food, reduce waste, and limit the consumption of various food products. To “Hooverize” became a catchphrase used amongst Americans when discussing food preservation efforts.

American Relief Administration Unique Travel Document Hoover’s Signature

After the armistice in Europe, The United States Food Administration became unnecessary. President Woodrow Wilson’s suggestion led to the agency’s transformation into the American Relief Administration. Which received official approval through an Act (Public, No. 274, 65th Congress) on February 25, 1919. The purpose of this transformation was to support the reconstruction of Europe.

Unique Passport with Hoover's Signature
Travel Document 1918, U.S. Food Administration issued at the US Legation in Berne, Switzerland

The Travel Document

Although the document does not explicitly bear the word passport in its title, it serves as some kind of travel document (in the form of a Safe Conduct?) issued by the U.S. Food Administration.

Herbert Hoover, who would later become the 31st U.S. President, personally signed it, and the issuance took place at the U.S. Legation in Berne, Switzerland.

“To all to whom these presents shall come, greeting: The bearer hereof Charles H. Welter a citizen of the United States, whose photograph is affixed hereto, is traveling on behalf of the United States Food Administration for the sole purpose of food relief.

I, therefore, request that he be permitted to pass freely, with all property under his control, and that there be extended to him all friendly aid, protection, and information which may forward the purpose of his Mission. In testimony whereof, I, Herbert Hoover, United States Food Administrator, have hereunto set my hand this twenty-sixth day of December 1918.”

Signed by Herbert Hoover and Charles H. Welter.


United States Food Administration records
The Minister in Switzerland to the Secretary of State


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FAQ Passport History pasaporte passeport паспорт 护照 パスポート جواز سفر पासपोर्ट

1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...

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