Cherished Charters

by Sue Benedetti

(This article first appeared in the August/September 2017 4-H History Newsletter.)

They stand among the most cherished, if not THE most cherished, possessions of many a 4-H Club. In fact, 4-H Clubs have been known to request new ones if their original became damaged or lost. Many 4-H Clubs feel that, yes, charters are THAT important. After all, we are talking about the 4-H Club’s very own “USDA 4-H National Headquarters-issued” 4-H Club Charter signed by the Secretary of Agriculture! If your 4-H Club has one, you know what I’m talking about!

If the one your 4-H club has is one of the first charters issued back in the day, you probably have it framed and hanging on the wall looking sort of like this:

Now today, each state approaches the idea of “the 4-H Club” slightly differently from each other state. There are in-school clubs, after-school clubs, community clubs, general clubs, SPIN clubs, pen-pal clubs, project clubs, and so forth. We find this to be a strength today. It was that way in the beginning, too, but when it all started, such diversity in club work models was seen then as a problem.

It works today only because of the lessons we learned “back then.” Back then, everyone was doing “their own thing” and such a lack of standardization had widely varying results. Extension leaders wanted to standardize the club work format to increase the educational impact nationally.

To that end, national 4-H Club Standards were developed in 1918. Under these standards, four requirements were suggested to define groups as “official” youth work clubs: 1. A minimum of five members working on a similar project, 2. The presence of an adult local leader, 3. Democratically elected appropriate officers, and 4. The existence of a plan, or program of work, for the year.

Shortly thereafter, probably early 1919, the Extension Service, USDA, started issuing charters to groups that met the four requirements. These charters, although not dated, were signed by the State Club Leader, the State Extension Director, and the Secretary of Agriculture. Then, if the club continued to meet these standards, and met the following additional accomplishments, the club would receive a National Seal of Achievement to be affixed to their charter annually.
• Hold at least six meetings during the year;
• Present an annual exhibit;
• Have a team that performs at least one public demonstration program in the community;
• Attain a 60% project completion rate; and
• Hold an achievement day program.
Some clubs received their initial Seal with their first charter.

“Hold on a second,” you may be saying, “We have a 4-H Club Charter and it even has Achievement Seals but it sure doesn’t look like THAT!” Not to worry, the style of the charters changed over time. The first charters were issued probably in 1919. If you have one of these, the Secretary of Agriculture who signed it was David F Houston. Now if yours is anything like the “Houston Charter” shown above, you can barely read the signature. Houston was Agriculture Secretary 1913 – 1920. If it is signed by Edwin T. Meredith, it dates to 1920-21, when he served. Next came Henry Cantwell Wallace who was Secretary of Agriculture from 1921 to 1923. Now be sure the middle initial is a “C”. If it is an “A” it is his son, Henry Agard Wallace. He served as Secretary 1933-1940.

The first style changes weren’t big. In fact, the charters grew smaller, about 20% smaller! It seems that happened around 1925. Another change seems to have happened after WWII when charters started looking like this:

This particular charter is an example of a “replacement charter”. It is dated 1932 but sure doesn’t look like a charter from 1932! In fact, this club’s original charter was lost when their meeting place, the local fire hall, was remodeled. So, upon the club’s request, this one was issued as a replacement around 1957.

Then the “happening” 1960’s decade happened and the “look” of the charters changed again around 1970. The one pictured here was issued in 1972. Seems each time the “look” changed, they added a signature! The ’50s version is signed by the Federal Extension Service Administrator in addition to the three others. The 1970s version added the Assistant Federal Administrator for 4-H making FIVE signatures.

Charters are still issued to 4-H Clubs today. The 4-H National Headquarters provides a digital charter template that state 4-H program leaders download to complete and issue.
Tell us about YOUR 4-H Club’s charter. It’ll make good reading and might even help us fill in the timeline a bit more. We’re approaching the 100th birthday of National 4-H Charters and would like every state to help us tell this history correctly. Write to:

How it came about that the Conyngham Valley Historical Society celebrated National 4-H Week.

Have you ever been to the Conyngham Valley Historical Society (CVHS) Museum in Conyngham, Pennsylvania? NO? Well, me neither until recently! Even though I’d called Conyngham/Drums “home” all my life, I’d only ever driven past the museum. I’d wonder if it was open and then continue on to get groceries or get them home before the ice cream melted.

I’ve been researching my family’s history. My name is Drum and that’s the town’s name too, and yes, there is a connection. His name was George and in the mid-1790’s he arrived in the valley that would acquire his name, became a church leader, built a tavern, but I digress.

While searching for “Drum” information, I heard here was a photo of George’s Tavern/Hotel in the CVHS Museum. If so, that was a photo I had to see! The CVHS website said the museum was open 1pm-4pm Saturdays so one Saturday late in June I headed over there.

I found the only photo of Drums they had on display (the rest, of course, were of the Conyngham/Sugarloaf area) but it wasn’t of the Drums Hotel. Still, their collection of Conyngham/Sugarloaf Valley area memorabilia was impressive. Yet, for me, there was something missing. They had nothing about 4-H!

Since 1928, 4-H has played a huge role in the lives of many people from the Conyngham/Sugarloaf area. It needed to be represented in the museum. But where could such memorabilia be found? That’s when I opened one of our closets and found myself looking at the three huge scrapbooks of information my mom collected from 1966 when we joined until June 2013, six months before she died. Mom helped organize the Sugarloaf Valley 4-H Club in 1972 so that was in the scrapbooks, too. Then I remembered Dad’s 4-H rocket, used to attract attention for 4-H at fairs.

He’d gather a crowd, have one of the 4-H Members tell them about 4-H, then launch his rocket. When that excitement passed, he’d invite everyone into the tent to see the 4-H exhibits. Worked every time.

I also had the club’s 4-H Banner we walked behind in parades and TWO USDA 4-H Club Charters hanging on the wall, not to mention a few other items scattered about the house.

So early in July I boxed the stuff up and back to the museum I went. They were so pleased to be receiving the stuff that they wanted to have a 4-H Open House during National 4-H Week to celebrate. They chose October 13, 2018 and the announcements went out. This is the one that appeared in the Hazleton Standard-Speaker.

And then the day arrived! Close to forty people attended; former 4-H’ers, former 4-H Volunteers, friends, even the Luzerne County 4-H Educator, Meghan Carroll, stopped by for the festivities.

Here we see Sugarloaf Valley 4-H Club Alumnus Laura Staudenmeier (right) reading about herself in one of the 4-H scrapbooks now part of the CVHS’s collection. That’s Dad’s 4-H Rocket standing beside the American Flag and the club charters can be seen one on either side of the flag, of course that’s the banner right in front.

The event made it into all the papers. Well, it got a photo at least in the Hazleton Standard-Speaker. So that’s something. And here it is!

After some time had passed, I wondered just what DID the museum do with all the stuff I gave them. So, on July 27, 2019, I went back to the museum to check it out. They originally were going to make an exhibit upstairs on the second floor. However, realizing 4-H was too good to hide up there, they put it right in plain view, right inside the front door!

Of course, the first thing you see is the big, green Sugarloaf Valley 4-H Club banner hanging on the wall near the ceiling. To its left is a blackboard we made out of an old, metal “Kick-a-Poo Joy Juice Soda” advertisement. I know, antique dealers everywhere just shuddered, but that’s what 4-H’ers do! They make things they don’t think are useful any longer, useful again. It’s called “recycling”! I think 4-H’ers may have invented it. Anyway, Dad used the blackboard at 4-H Fairs to announce stuff like food sale prices, give directions, coming events; although erased, it appears that the last thing that had been written on the board was an arrow pointing toward the Restrooms.

Below the blackboard is a 4-H Clover cross-stitch my mom made for the club and beside that we can see a 4-H “license plate”. Next we see two shelves of antique milk bottles that are not part of the 4-H memorabilia. The shelf below those, however, holds the two 4-H Club Charters (one for the Sugarloaf 4-H Club which preceded the SV4-H Club and the SV4-H Club’s own charter), an environmental education award received by the Brown’s Grove 4-H Club (another local 4-H club we belonged to), a 4-H “piggy-bank”, and the club’s gavel. The piggy-bank was used during meetings to collect money for refreshments. I made the gavel in High School Shop Class for the club’s President to use to call meetings to order.

The next shelf down holds two of Mom’s three 4-H Scrap Books and a number of 4-H Project Books. The project books were donated by another family when they heard about the gift I had made. To the left of that shelf, stands my dad’s 4-H Rocket.

The final piece of the museum’s 4-H display is Mom’s third 4-H scrapbook. That book can be seen near the bottom of the photo sitting on a box in front of the display. There is also a trophy on display in the museum that is not included in this photo. It was received by the Sugarloaf Valley 4-H Club in recognition of its participation in West Hazleton’s Bicentennial Celebrations.

Recently, I was speaking to a former 4-H Parent from the club about this exhibit. When I mentioned she was in one of the scrapbooks and, therefore, now in a museum, she said, “Oh, me in a museum! That makes me feel old!”

“Not old”, I replied, “Important! After all, you made HISTORY!”

Does your community have a history museum? Perhaps you, too, can help them complete their story by giving them your 4-H Memorabilia. You’d be making history by preserving history!

The September 2021 Issue of the 4-H History Preservation Program Newsletter, The Bridge, is now available.

In this edition…

  • NAE4-HYDP: The History and The Future
  • So, THAT’S where it is! Mapping 4-H Points-of-Interest.
  • Enroll for Victory: 4-H During WWII
  • INTRODUCING: Caption Please!
  • Tell Us Your 4-H History Story

This edition, including all previous additions are available at:

… and we’re back!

'The Bridge' Masthead

If you thought the 4-H History Preservation newsletter was history, you were wrong! It’s ABOUT history, but it, as a newsletter, is alive and well! Dorothy Emerson told us that it is the pause that refreshes, so we paused, got refreshed, and even gave our newsletter a new name: The BRIDGE!

Our name is explained in our new edition, now available through our 4-H History Preservation website at and read on. It’s HISTORIC! 

Daylight Savings Time, Did you know?

US inventor and politician Benjamin Franklin first proposed the concept of DST in 1784, but modern Daylight Saving Time was first suggested in 1895. At that time, George Vernon Hudson, an entomologist from New Zealand, presented a proposal for a 2-hour daylight saving shift.

Find out more about Daylight Savings Time at

And don’t forget, if you use Daylight Savings Time where you live, set your clocks ahead 1 hour before you go to bed on Saturday, March 12, 2021. 

2019 Fall Back!

TimeAndDate.comYep.  It’s that time again.  When anyone living somewhere that uses daylight saving time to adjust how life is lived. At 2:00AM on Sunday, November 3, 2019, Daylight Saving Time, or DST, comes to an end here in the United States for another year.

The idea behind Daylight Saving Time (DST) is to save energy and make better use of daylight. 

In the spring,clocks are set ahead one hour when DST starts. This means that the sunrise and sunset will be one hour later, on the clock, than the day before. When fall come around, DST ends andwe set our clocks back 1 hour, returning to ‘Standard Time’.  

The value of daylight saving time is a topic of debate around the world. Many places have done away with the practice, and many more are moving in that direction. Here in the United States, Arizona (with the exception of the Navajo Nation) does not observe DST and stays on standard time year-rund.

For more information on the history of Daylight Saving Time, please visit

One more thing…

The Early Years of 4-H and Space

Although it perhaps started somewhat earlier, the decade of the 1960s produced a love affair between Americans and space exploration. And particularly the astronauts that were involved in the space program. It undoubtedly started with the space race between the US and the Soviet Union, and the launch of Sputnik by the USSR in 1957. Then came the bold challenge of President John F. Kennedy before a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.” And then, on July 21, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, flying on Apollo 11, set foot on the surface of the moon. And as they say, “the rest is history.”

Indeed, 4-H got caught up in this whole astronaut and space era in a number of ways. But historically, space and flight show up in 4-H history long before the 1960s.

Delegates to the 1931 National 4-H Congress in Chicago (above) were inspired to get to meet a great national hero – the man who flew over both the North and South Poles – Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd.

One of the major guests attending the 1932 National 4-H Congress,  handing out awards and honoring the winners, was the famous aviatrix Amelia Earhart.

In 1933, Thomas E. Wilson brought a pair of aviators to National 4-H Congress who had become famous only the week before. Marine Major Chester Fordney and Navy LCDR T. G. “Tex” Settle made America’s first stratospheric balloon ascension on November 20, 1933, in a balloon that had a gondola brightly inscribed “A Century of Progress,” the theme of the 1933 World’s Fair. The balloon reached a height of 61,237 feet, a record that stood for many years. It was the first successful trip by man into the upper atmosphere. The pair proved to be popular guests at the 1933 National 4-H Club Congress which took place just a few days after their well-publicized trip into “space.”

Thomas E. Wilson introduces 4-H’ers (left) to the two first men in space (in uniform at right).

You can read more about how 4-H’ers in later years became involved in model rocketry in the 1960s and the 1985 4-H Television Series “Blue Sky Below My Feet” by visiting:

HTTPS Comes to the 4-HHistoryPreservation Web Site

The 4-H History Preservation site at was switched over to use the HTTPS protocol effective April 12, 2018.

What does this mean? There are two primary ways to view information on a web site: HTTP and HTTPS. HTTP transfers information between your computer and the web host using clear text. By contrast, using HTTPS encrypts all communications. (The S in HTTPS stands for ‘Secure’.)

Oversimplified, using HTTP is like sitting at a table in a diner where you can hear the conversations of everyone around you… and they may well hear yours. In the online world, this means that someone, usually the bad guys, is able to listen in on your conversation and possibly hack in to it to steal information such as passwords and credit card information, track your movements on-line, etc.

With HTTPS, all communication between you and the web server are encrypted. If someone tries to listen in, all they see is garbage. This includes your service provider.

Aside from the above, some of the reasons for using HTTPS are:

Search engine rankings improve with HTTPS.
Google and other search engines are giving a higher rank to sites that use HTTPS.

Enhanced privacy.
When a web site uses HTTPS, no one, including your service provider, can see URLs and content in an unencrypted form. All they will see is garbage. Keep in mind, however, that the actual domain name is always transmitted in clear text. While this allows someone to see what sites you are visiting, they are unable to see any content.

Public trust is increased.
Using HTTPS shows that the site owner cares about you, your privacy and your information. Modern browsers are starting to highlight secure web sites in the address bar. For example, the Google Chrome browser places ‘Secure’ in green at the front of the site in the address bar.

Other sites within the 4-H History Preservation Program will be transitioned to HTTPS in the coming months. The only thing that you should notice as sites transition is possibly the manner in which your browser shows the site address.


Please help us preserve 4-H History . . .

Country Living Features 100 Years of 4-H Memorabilia

The March 2018 issue of Country Living carries a great 4-color photo feature on 100 years of 4-H memorabilia. Written by Natalie Schumann and photographed by Brian Woodcock, the National 4-H History Preservation Program assisted with obtaining items to be included. The 4-page feature begins on page 20. Country Living is published by Hearst Communications and the magazine can usually be found in any magazine section of supermarkets, drug stores or similar outlets.

The 4-H feature includes excellent photos of ribbons, pins and medals, 4-H Club song books, pennants, old trophies, signs and banners, uniforms, books, manuals and much more.A brief narrative accompanies the photo feature.

Available on news stands now.

You may also read the article on their site at


Please help us preserve 4-H History . . .

History Preservation Newsletter
January 2018

It’s a New Year . . .

… and because history is made every day, it’s the start of another historical era for 4-H. How many of your New Year’s resolutions have to do with 4-H? Setting new individual and group goals? Starting or continuing efforts to preserve your 4-H History?

A few of the highlights from this issue:

4-H Ham and Eggs

Two Georgia counties started a swine and poultry exhibition in 1916 to encourage black farmers to grow other crops besides cotton, primarily food products to improve income and nutrition. The show grew from 21 hams and less than 100 visitors in 1916 to 1,813 hams and 2,000 visitors in 1945.

How to Start?

Most often asked questions at the 4-H History booth at 2017’s NAE4-HA meeting centered on how to get started saving local and state 4-H history. Minnesota’s Vintage 4-H Club of retired Extension staff presented several guidelines, now available by contacting that group’s History Committee.

A good way to start the new year is to go over the history of 4-H in the two main history books that exist. Both books can be read or researched in part at http// The first is The 4-H Story, A History of 4-H Club Work, by Franklin M. Reck, 1971 326p, the second is 4-H: An American Idea 1900-1980, A History of 4-H, by Thomas Wessel and Marilyn Wessel, 1982 353p.

What is 4-H?

Different sources have different definitions. But most of the broad definitions are based on individual experiences and stories. One Pennsylvania 4-H Club decided to spread their individual experiences through a club newsletter, and you can do the same. What is your definition of 4-H?

4-H History Map is Growing

Over 200 historical sites were added to the National 4-H History Map during last year’s NAE4-HA conference. Ohio Extension Educators are adding even more in their state, so you can visit some of the sites on your way to or from the 2018 NAE4-HA meeting in Columbus.

4-H Congress History, Continued

Pageantry and fun were always part of 4-H Congress held in Chicago, but there was also a heavy emphasis on educational opportunities for the gathered state winners. Especially when donor representatives met together with 4-H members, topics of mutual interest were sorted out in sometimes heated discussion.

Monitor Your 4-H Resolutions

Let us know throughout the year how you are doing at We predict you’ll make more progress with those than with your usual diet and exercise resolutions! But while you’re on the treadmill at the gym, enjoy this issue.


Please help us preserve 4-H History . . .