Calendars Helped Build National 4-H Center
The 4-H program enjoys a “national home” and focus of its citizenship education right outside of Washington, DC, the center of our country’s democracy. 4-H’ers themselves contributed money to this proposed center but, also, revenue from the National 4-H Calendar Program helped significantly to bring that dream to fruition.
1949 National 4-H Calendar produced by Brown & Bigelow Co.
Long ago, when calendars were first sold to local businesses for advertisement, 4-H was approached by national calendar companies to appear on calendars, and the six-decade National 4-H Calendar Program began. For use of the 4-H name and emblem, companies paid a 10% royalty on sales of 4-H calendars to be used for the development of the National 4-H Center. During the first decade, between 1949 and 1959, $377,000. was made available for the rebuilding and maintenance of the 4-H Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
The program was announced in 1947 with approval of the Committee on Organization and Policy of the Land-Grant Colleges and State directors of Extension (ECOP), to be conducted with the cooperation of the National Committee on Boys’ and Girls’ Club Work of Chicago. In addition to helping purchase and develop the National 4-H Club Center, the production of a calendar would:
- Gain prestige for the 4-H movement;
- Bring 4-H activities to the attention of the general public;
- Increase membership through a widened knowledge of what 4-H Clubs do; and
- Establish a royalty fund to assist in further development of the 4-H program.
1949 National 4-H Calendar by Thos.D. Murphy Co.
The earliest 4-H calendars were actually produced in the late 1930s and early 1940s by the Thos. D. Murphy company of Red Oak, Iowa. However, when calendars became more popular after the war, Brown & Bigelow company of St. Paul, Minnesota, was also approved to produce and sell 4-H calendars. However, the first national 4-H calendars didn’t appear in the public until 1949 because of the production, sales and shipping time required, including:
- Year one – subject chosen and artist paints illustration for calendar;
- Year two – calendar is advertised to local businesses across country, orders taken and requisite numbers of calendars printed and shipped to each buyer with their name on it; and
- Year three – calendars are presented to local businesses who purchased the calendars as gifts to their customers.
The Brown & Bigelow 4-H calendars had a circulation of nearly a half million the first year and combined calendar sales exceeding a million and a half by the second year. The first year’s royalties were over $25,000.
In addition to Brown & Bigelow and the Murphy Company, other calendar companies joined the National 4-H Calendar Program producing different annual calendars in their respective print shops. Shaw-Barton, Inc., Coshocton, Ohio, was authorized to manufacture 4-H calendars on April 15, 1948; Gerlach-Barklow Co., Joliet, Illinois, authorized on July 23, 1946; Gettier-Montanye, Inc., Glyndon, Maryland, authorized on February 3, 1947; and Custom-Cal Co., Atlanta, Georgia, authorized on December 17, 1954.
You can learn more about the program and view all of the images that we have found in the updated website section at:
We are always looking for more images of these historic calendars, so if you have one or know someone who has one, please let us know at: Info@4hHistoryPreservation.com .
Next time you visit the National 4-H Conference Center, check the Heritage Hallway to see the original pieces of art; truly pieces of Americana. As you walk that Hallway, recall that those national 4-H calendars helped build the “national home” of 4-H.
Please help us preserve 4-H History . . .