"Mulligan Stew" Made 4-H Television History

Produced in 1972 and released in 1973, “Mulligan Stew” was not the first 4-H TV series, but it stimulated an extraordinary increase in 4-H enrollment at the time.

The series of six half-hour programs centered on a kids’ rock band that “turns on” to good nutrition by – a la “Mission Impossible” – solving a different type of nutrition problem in each episode. It was developed and produced by Extension Service/USDA, and filmed by USDA Motion Picture Service, based on work by Developmental Committees and Iowa State University Extension Service 4-H Nutrition Television Programs, with a grant from the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).

Member project book for television viewers.

Member project book for television viewers.

Eleanor L. Wilson, national 4-H TV coordinator at the time, recalls that the 4-H TV Developmental Committee liked what Iowa State did with nutrition content, but the series did not emerge as a creative whole until Ira Klugerman was hired to direct the show. Klugerman, with a background of children’s television at WQED in Pittsburgh, came up with the title and general treatment.

Production began on location in Washington, DC in 1971. Besides budget concerns which Wilson managed, nutrition content had to meet existing standards.

Sue Kleen Benedetti, Home Economics Information Specialist at the time, was named along with Wilson as Technical Director to assure that everything was nutritionally correct. Benedetti chose, prepared and staged food for the home scenes. The child actors were sometimes difficult and Wilson recalled that when she was not juggling budgets, she was settling arguments on the set or haunting local produce markets looking for just the right shade of green vegetables for the next day’s shooting.

“Mulligan Stew” premiered October 4, 1972, during National 4-H Week at the National 4-H Center, but it was already a winner. Advance information had enticed the states and they were lining up their viewing schedules and stockpiling materials. The series included the six half-hour films, leaders’ guides, and a “Mulligan Stew” comic-book developed by Michigan State University. “Mulligan Stew” was promoted and distributed through the National 4-H Service Committee, and Television Specialist Larry L. Krug recalls the comic-book printer’s reaction: “We placed an initial order for one million copies of the comic book and before they got them off the presses I had to call back and order another one and a half million. They thought I was crazy. Before the series was completed we had printed over seven million copies of the ‘Mulligan Stew’ comic-book.” Cooperative Extension Service invested $716,000 in “Mulligan Stew,” or about $1 per child enrolled, compared to the $10.48 cost of enrolling a child in a single 4-H project at that time.

A 4-H member from McConnelsville, Ohio, summed up the series’ appeal when he wrote, “Dear Mulligan Stew, Thank You for putting on the show. It taught me a lot about nutrition. My little brother watched it and is eating better now. I hope you will show it again next year. It was funny too.” From letters like that it was apparent that the series had succeeded in promoting concepts of good nutrition in an educational – yet fun – way, and the series very significantly increased 4-H enrollment at the time.

To learn more about the “Mulligan Stew” TV series, please visit http://4-HHistoryPreservation.com/History/Television/

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What did the 4-H Supply Service Sell 90 Years Ago?

The following story is from the July 2015 issue of the 4-H History Preservation Newsletter

What was your first image of the 20 dozen paper hats that were the first item ordered from the National 4-H Supply service? The editor of this Newsletter was thinking of something like this:


But when we looked in the 1926 4-H Handy Book, which was the National 4-H Catalog at the time, we found that not only was this paper hat available. But there were also these then-fashionable wonders:

The paper hat on the left is described as “being suitable for either boys or girls. Makes fine appearance in a parade or at a 4-H club banquet.”

As we looked through the 1926 4-H Handy Book we found that it was a lot like today’s smart phone. It was designed to be the size and shape to fit into a pocket or a lady’s purse and included the following information:

  • Club Work — What It Is
  • The National Club Emblem
  • The National Club Motto
  • The National 4-H Club Colors
  • 4-H Club Pledge
  • Ritual (review of what the emblem means)
  • Flag Salute (Pledge of Allegiance)
  • Facts About Club Work
  • 4-H Club Initiation Ceremony (2 page description)
  • 4-H Club Songs (36 of these)
  • 4-H Equipment (7 pages of 27 items)
  • Achievement Day Suggestions (2 pages)


The Handy Book continued to be produced by the National 4-H Supply Service until sometime in the 1940’s when it became only a catalog. PDF files of the contents of several of the handy books as well as more history of the National 4-H Supply Service are available at



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National 4-H Center Becomes a Reality

http://4-HHistoryPreservation.com/History/4-H_Center/June 16, 1959 is a date etched high up on the calendar of 4-H history. It was on that day that President Dwight D. Eisenhower stepped onto the portico of then-Smith Hall and cut the green and white ribbons hanging between the two center pillars, officially opening the National 4-H Club Center.

He had just finished addressing an audience of more than 800 people, including delegates and leaders attending the 29th National 4-H Club Conference, at which time he said, “I am here just because I like the 4-H’ers.” “…because they are dedicated to do things better.

As long as we have young people of these characteristics, devoted with their hearts and their heads and their hands and their health to doing these things, America cannot be anything but successful.”

The President was assisted in cutting the ribbon by Anita Hollimer, 4-H member from New York, and Larry Dilda, 4-H member from North Carolina. Miss Hollimer presided during the morning ceremony and Dilda gave the invocation.

For a history of the National 4-H Center, including more information on the ribbon-cutting, visit http://4-HHistoryPreservation.com/History/4-H_Center/

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National 4-H Camp Comes to D.C.

4-H_CampNational 4-H Camp, an annual event since 1927, was held in Washington, DC 26 times before being replaced by National 4-H Conference in 1957; no 4-H Camps held during World War II.

For those 26 years, National 4-H Camp made an indelible impression on the countless youth who participated in the event and experienced the speeches by national leaders, field trips to nationally significant sites, and camaraderie among participants that made it a much anticipated yearly tradition by 4-H members and leaders from around the country. The sitting Presidents and First Ladies often visited the camp site and talked with the delegates or 4-H’ers visited the President at the White House.

The annual “tent city” of the 4-H’ers on the National Mall, next to the USDA Administration building and in the shadow of the Washington Monument, could not help but be noticed by Washington, DC residents and visitors, alike, including the Representatives and Senators. It was most definitely a high visibility event.

The complete history of the National 4-H Camp is posted on the 4-H History Preservation website at: http://4-HHistoryPreservation.com/History/4-H_Camp/

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Tell Us YOUR 4-H Story

The National 4-H History Preservation Team and our expanding group of 4-H history volunteer consultants, are busy continuing to research and document all facets of 4-H history at the national level. While most of us are retired, and as a group, represent well over 1,000 years of 4-H experience, there still are many aspects of 4-H history where we need additional help – particularly from those who for a number of years worked (or are now working) in 4-H as professionals or volunteers.

 If you would like to help us, please contact us at Info@4-HHistoryPreservation.com

 While we would welcome your help in writing some of the national 4-H history segments, simply sharing your recollections, or reviewing copy on a particular section that others have written, would also be helpful.

 Perhaps you served on the committee for the National 4-H Dress Revue, or National 4-H Awards Judging Committee; helped plan National 4-H Conference, National 4-H Commodity Marketing Symposium or National 4-H Dairy Conference; maybe you were involved in Volunteer 4-H Leader Forums, had an IFYE experience or were a host family; perhaps your programming experiences included work in urban 4-H programs, or Native American 4-H, after school programs or working on military bases. We need help in documenting stories in all of these areas and many more. We look forward to hearing from you. Thanks!

 National 4-H History Preservation Team.

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National 4-H Conference (Continued from National 4-H Camp since 1959)

Over 300 delegates and chaperones from 47 Land Grant Universities, Puerto Rico and Canada are attending the 2015 National 4-H Conference from April 11th to16th, at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center. This is the 85th gathering of 4-H’ers in the nation’s capital since National 4-H Camp began in 1927.

The following story is from the National Compendium of 4-H Promotion and Visibility on the National 4-H History Website at http://4-HHistory.com/?h=4-H_Promotion

When National 4-H Camp was replaced by National 4-H Conference and moved to the National 4-H Center in 1959, definitely one thing changed: the living conditions were  considerably better! Historically, one of the overriding goals of creating a national “home” for 4-H in the nation’s capital was to accommodate National 4-H Conference. Mac McGarry, host of the popular high school quiz show “It’s Academic” hosted the first National 4-H Conference Clover Bowl. Participants answered questions about the history of the Constitution, 4-H, and of Washington, D.C. (Spring, 1987, National 4-H Council Quarterly) National 4-H Conference has remained a strong national 4-H event for nearly 60 years, and continues today, with the programs and experiences focused heavily on leadership and citizenship and providing “growth” experiences for the delegates. While some releases, delegate interviews and media coverage may take place, National 4-H Conference has never been a primary promotion or visibility event, per se.

Mac McGarry, host of the popular high school quiz show "It's Academic" hosted the first National 4-H Conference Clover Bowl. Participants answered questions about the history of the Constitution, 4-H, and of Washington, D.C. (Spring, 1987, National 4-H Council Quarterly)Mac McGarry, host of the popular high school quiz show “It’s Academic” hosted the first National 4-H Conference Clover Bowl. Participants answered questions about the history of the Constitution, 4-H, and of Washington, D.C. (Spring, 1987, National 4-H Council Quarterly)

The major exception to this is that often, through the years, the participating speakers and workshop presenters at National 4-H Conference have created enough promotion and visibility to merit classifying this event as a major promotion event. Traditionally, Conference planners often were not shy in asking the “top resources of Washington” to be on the Conference program. And, if their schedules allowed, they usually were happy to do
so. This would include U.S. Congressmen and women, Senators, Supreme Court Justices, national media representatives and leadership from the various departments of government, national organizations headquartered in Washington, and representatives from foreign embassies.

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Partner with Us to Design a 4-H History Staff Development Component

4-H has been at the forefront of experimental and experiential youth education since its very inception. Understanding the evolutionary history of 4-H has been shown to enhance the knowledge of this educational youth development base for both professional staff and volunteer leaders; hence our theme “Preserve 4-H History, the Foundation of our Future.” This history reflects exciting “Learn by Doing” programs and methodology which is still relevant for designing contemporary 4-H Youth education. Learning the progressive best practices in 4-H history can further strengthen the structure and delivery of today’s programs.

The National 4-H History Preservation Team would like to partner with one or more states to develop and pilot-test a history component as an integral part of staff development curriculum. The Team invites you to:

1. Identify any 4-H history content currently being used in your state; and

2. Identify 4-H staff who may have interest in partnering with the Team to design a 4-H History Component as a base for future staff development.

The 4-H History Team has digitized volumes of documents, photographs and instructional materials on the history website as well as compiled histories in a number of national programs to contribute to this knowledge base.

Please send your information about current 4-H History components in your staff development curriculum and/or indication that you would like to partner with us to Info@4-HHistoryPreservation.com


Learning about the many successful 4-H promotions and programs of the past can help professionals and volunteers in making their programs relevant to today’s audiences.

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History Preservation Newsletter
July/August 2014

UGH! August in Washington, DC, is miserable. If it weren’t for our loyal readers (probably in air-conditioned offices), we’d be at the beach. Not totally true: 4-H is always “non-miserable” and there are some real success stories in this month’s Newsletter. Read on.

We often wonder, is the preservation of 4-H history taking hold at state and local levels, as much as we’d like to think it is at the national level? Two stories this month illustrate how national agendas and resources have been adapted and applied independently in a state and a county initiative:

  • How does a new Extension hire use the resources of the National 4-H History Preservation Program? So many resources to draw from; where to go first? A WV Extension staffer shares his personal experience; and
  • 4-H History is best preserved at the local level and Polk County Missouri 4-H’ers grab that challenge and run with it. They’re implementing “Voices of 4-H History” the way the program was envisioned: to celebrate local alumni and highlight county history!

During World War II, 40 US Liberty (cargo) ships were named by 4-H members who raised money through war bonds to commission the ships and stock them with food and supplies for our troops. Two ships were named after which Congressmen who had a significant impact on 4-H and Extension? Answer inside. Do you know if your state named a liberty ship or ships? If so, whose name did they carry. Let us know at: Info@4-HHistoryPreservation.com.

All too often in history, sadly, 4-H was portrayed as only a white kid’s activity; indeed, Extension struggled long and hard to make the program relevant to all ethnic groups. Programs for Native American 4-H’ers have, in many ways, served as models to tailor programming to fit cultural realities. The 1943 Oklahoma Indian story here documents such a success.

The 2014 FilmFest 4-H featured five youth developed films about 4-H History. Was your state represented this year? Read about some of the neat film-related workshops conducted this time.

You’ll note two articles above written by state/local Extension staff. We want to receive more! Tell us how you use the resources we represent, and let us know your local stories. You are, after all, the history of 4-H!

Contact info@4-HHistoryPreservation.com , and enjoy this issue.

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Cherry Pies and 4-H History

Cherry_Pie Food and nutrition projects were a mainstay of early 4-H. After all, Health was one of the four H’s represented in the organization’s name and emblem that were adopted back in 1911.

Articles about food and nutrition projects and programs were plentiful in many editions of the National 4-H News magazine. The magazine carried stories about 4-H members involved in canning, dairy, food preservation, gardening and meal preparation.

The April 1939 issue carries a feature on Ruby Hudson, a 16-year old Missouri 4-H member who had recently been selected the winner of the annual cherry pie baking contest held in Chicago. The annual contest was held to celebrate George Washington’s birthday in February (his 207th in 1939), and was sponsored by the National Cherry Week Committee and the “Hatchet Club.” Ruby took her first train ride for her visit to Chicago for the contest accompanied by her county home demonstration agent. As the contest winner, Ruby received a check for $100 and a sight-seeing trip to Washington,DC for herself and her chaperone.

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History Preservation Newsletter
April 2014

The last few days of balmy spring weather brought DC’s cherry blossoms bursting Cherry_Blossomsforth in all their frothy pink splendor to highlight the annual Cherry Blossom Festival.  This painting captured that spring ritual in the c. 1975 National 4-H calendar art.  So, for this issue, what is more fitting than 4-H helping Mrs. Obama plant a cherry tree?  Or a “Hands on History” challenge to create healthy cherry-based snacks?

There’s a new self-guided history tour at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center.  Using QR Codes, we’ve put up six sites in and around the J. C. Penney lobby for visitors to scan and learn a bit about that piece of 4-H history.  The tour covers a broad span of time from a portrait of the “Mother of 4-H” to artifacts from the most recent 10 years of the program.  Scan the QR Code in this issue and see where it leads.

We continue the “Voices of 4-H History” program of recording audio and visual memories as we come closer to the Centennial date of signing the Smith-Lever Act (May 8) which gave federal funding to the Cooperative Extension Service.  Progress updates from several states, some suggestions, and a list of available resources make up this month’s coverage.

“Voices” participants are scripting, filming, editing, re-filming, and re-editing their potential entries in the national 4-H film festival, “2014 FilmFest 4-H.”  This year’s festival will be in St. Louis and “Voices of 4-H History” is an official category in the August competition.

And now it’s time for that healthy snack: a juicy slab of freshly-baked cherry pie while you enjoy this issue!

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