4-H: An American Idea 1900-1980 and The 4-H Story

The following story is from the National Compendium of 4-H Promotion and Visibility on the National 4-H History website — http://4-HHistoryPreservation.com/History/4-H_Promotion/


There have been two major authoritative history books published at the national level on 4-H during the first 100 years of its existence.

4-H: an American Idea 1900-1980, A History of 4-H,” was written by Thomas Wessel and Marilyn Wessel, and published by National 4-H Council in 1982, in cooperation with the Cooperative Extension Service. It documents the record of excellence of the nation’s largest youth educational organization, recounting 80 years of change, evolving from a program primarily concerned with improving agricultural production and food preservation to one dedicated to the development of young people. It follows the expansion of 4-H from an almost exclusively rural organization to one serving young people wherever they live – in the city, small town, suburb or on the farm.

Prior to the Wessel book, the major history on 4-H was “The 4-H Story, A History of 4-H Club Work” written by Franklin M. Reck and published by the National 4-H Service Committee in 1951.

The Wessel book does not replace the Reck book, but reinforces it and brings the history 30 years closer to the present.

Frank Reck, author of "The 4-H Story" stays busy autographing his history book for delegates at the 1951 National 4-H Congress. (From January 1952 National 4-H News)

Frank Reck, author of “The 4-H Story” stays busy autographing his history book for delegates at the 1951 National 4-H Congress. (From January 1952 National 4-H News)

Together, they make good resources on 4-H, although neither had the luxury of space to tell the “whole story” on the many faceted areas of 4-H history. Both histories are digitized and appear in the books archives of the 4-H History website.

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