Washington DC’s Cherry Blossoms are in bloom for National 4-H Conference!
It’s going on this week at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center. This is the 85th gathering of 4-H’ers in DC since National 4-H Camp started in 1927. 4-H members from across the country are meeting with their congressional delegations, testifying on Capitol Hill, and visiting the White House – all long-held National 4-H Conference traditions. (The National 4-H Calendar painting, at the right, documents a time in the early 1970s when 4-H Conference also coincided with the Cherry blossoms in full bloom.)
Map Your 4-H History
April 28 signals the debut of the “Map Your 4-H History” project wherein individuals, clubs, counties and states can nominate a historically important person, place or event on the National 4-H History Map. This geospatial project of the 4-H History Map Team is explained at
The explanation and the map go live starting April 28.
Wood County, Ohio, has an active 4-H display program at the county Historical Museum. It’s a great example of what you can do to showcase your county’s 4-H history. The brief interview explains how it came to be – and possibilities of how you can make it happen in your area.
4-H in the Great Depression
New to the 4-H History website: “4-H in the Great Depression.” An important and meaningful story of how 4-H helped maintain threatened family farms in that troubled era. Read a capsule here and the entire story on the website.
FilmFest 4-H is June 14-17 in St. Louis. The 4-H History Team supports this youth film-making project for the third consecutive year; the 4–H History category highlights films documenting 4-H memories of former members, staff and volunteers.
We don’t have a “Letters to the Editor” column (yet), but we welcome your comments, ideas and suggestions – even mild complaints – at Info@4-HHistoryPreservation.com
History of National 4-H Youth Conference Center Added to Website
The first Draft of the History of the National 4-H Center was recently added to the 4-H History Preservation Website. Please take a look at
There are many pieces of this history missing as much of it has been lost in the many construction projects and changes at the Center. The History Team would welcome any additions to complete this History by those who have worked or attended programs here over the past 55 years. Contact info@4-HHistoryPreservation.com
Many people in our reading audience have visited and/or worked at the National 4-H Center (now the National 4-H Youth Conference Center); to all of them it is definitely more than a group of buildings. We asked one of those visitors/workers to tell us what it meant to him.
1979 4-H Program Assistants at Citizenship Washington Focus make a human pyramid as part of their team building exercise.
The Center of it All
By Ron Drum, National 4-H Council and National 4-H History Preservation Team Member
It’s just 12.5 acres on Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase, Maryland, one mile north of the District of Columbia line and only seven miles north of the White House. It was originally built as an Inn in 1893, turned into a girls’ finishing school and, in the early 1950s when 4-H was looking for a national home, it became the location of that home. Purchased with money borrowed from a life insurance policy and paid off with the help of the nickels and dimes sent by 4-H’ers from across the country, those 12.5 acres became the national home of 4-H, the National 4-H Center.
Opened in 1959 by President Eisenhower, almost everyone who visits the place senses how special and important it is. I felt it the first time I visited. It’s now an oft-told-tale how, as a Citizenship Short Course delegate in 1973, I sat on the front steps of old Smith Hall and thought “I’m going to work here someday.” Even I could not have guessed that I’d actually return three times to do so.
I first returned in 1979 to serve as one of the first Citizenship Washington Focus (CWF) Program Assistants, the year Citizenship Short Course became CWF. By then things had changed. National 4-H Council had been created in 1976 by joining the National 4-H Service Committee with the National 4-H Foundation. Smith Hall had become J. C. Penney Hall, rebuilt with a sizeable gift from J. C. Penney. A new dormitory and conference room complex (Firestone, McCormick, and Kellogg Halls) now comprised the recreated campus; Turner and Warren Halls still stood to the left and right of J.C. Penney Hall as if guards.
The Supply Service stayed in Turner Hall. The Program Assistants (PAs) stayed in Warren Hall, named for Gertrude Warren, the first head of Girls Club Work at USDA. Twenty-eight early 20- somethings found ourselves living together for three months in that small building – I wonder what the fire marshal thought! I roomed with Thomas Tell Tyler Thompson from Tennessee in a basement bedroom. A little stream would flow through it whenever it rained – until they fixed the foundation.
Tyler, as he liked to be called, would open CWF each week by announcing, a la Harold Hill of The Music Man, “Now either you are closing your eyes to something you don’t wish to acknowledge or you are simply not aware of the caliber of opportunities awaiting you here at the National 4-H Center!”
In January 1980 I left Council to try my hand at 4-B in Botswana but returned again in 1981, welcomed back by Ray Crabbs and Francis Pressly; assigned to the staff of Jean Cogburn and John Allen. Although against policy, I began dating a co-worker named Phyllis Dupuis. We got around policy in 1983 by getting married; one of many such “connections made at the National 4-H Center (perhaps another story?).” It was during this time that Louise Kilpatrick told me, “If you want to be successful in Extension, you need to leave Council and work in a county. That is where the real work of 4-H occurs.” So, in 1984, I left Council to see if Louise was right.
As a 4-H Agent in Massachusetts, then a member of Maine’s 4-H staff, I had many happy occasions to return to the National 4-H Center with delegations to CWF, National 4-H Conference and other programs. However, it wasn’t until 2002 that I was able to return again as an employee – this time to coordinate the development and implementation of 4-H Afterschool under the direction of Dr. Eddie Locklear. Eddie retired and 4-H Afterschool became an essential vehicle for 4-H; my work continued with 4-H Science and grant management.
But when the day arrives that I leave for the third time, perhaps I’ll think of how Patti, one of the ‘79 PAs, expressed her feelings as she prepared to return home at the end of that summer, “It’s not like going home, it’s like leaving home. You’ve become family.” Leaving Council can be something like that. I know I’ll hear the words of Dot Emerson. As the ’79 PAs departed she said, “What I have learned from you would be like living in a foreign country. New ideas, new freedoms, nonsense, laughter, and enlightenment.” That is what being at the National 4-H Center is like.
The National 4-H Center. It’s just a few buildings located on 12.5 acres in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Yet it is so much more.
March is supposed to come in like a lion, right? Well in DC, it’s been doing that!
Thanks to you and others, your 4-H History website hit the 100,000th US visitor! We’re delighted and you should be too! If you’ve not visited, you’d better get in there before the next 200,000th visitor is announced.
We’ll be adding an interactive National 4-H History Map! Participate by sharing your most important local historical 4-H sites. Join in next month!
The all-new History website feature highlights decades of 4-H promotions and the compendium brings them all to life for you.
Partner with Us
We’d welcome a state to partner with the 4-H History Preservation Team to devise and deliver a 4-H history component for a newly-proposed staff development training module. Interested?
4-H has benefited from years of private (and public) sector support. We’re tracking the enormous impact of donor support to 4-H youth development; it’s much more than you think.
Get to Know the Center
What is that place we call the “4-H Center?” For those who visit and work there, it’s way more than most of us could ever imagine.
4-H FilmFest 2015
4-H FilmFest 2015 kicks off in St. Louis in June. Will your 4-H’ers submit a video or film in the “Voices of 4-H History” category? Hope so.
Support the 4-H History Preservation Team
Please take a moment to click on the “DONATE” button at the top of the page or below. It will take you to a list of items where funds are needed to keep this totally volunteer History Team working to preserve the valuable indeed irreplaceable history of 4-H. Every gift is tax deductible.
If you’re reading this in front of a fireplace, enjoy and don’t tell us; if you’re basking in sunshine, don’t tell us that either. We’re hoping that promised March lamb is coming to DC shortly!
There is a proud history of human development that 1890 institutions will be celebrating during this year’s 125th anniversary of the founding of those colleges and universities created to serve America’s black population. During 2015, many impressive moments and accomplishments of the 1890 schools’ history will be rediscovered and applauded. The 4-H History Preservation Team is interested in being involved in the documentation of the History of 4-H as it was delivered through these institutions because they have not located a national collection of this information to date.
As a part of this honored heritage and celebration, each institution will be making every effort to document, acclaim and preserve this legacy, making it easier for upcoming generations to retrieve these findings as a basis for future youth program development. Part of this effort is currently getting started in the leadership of the National 4-H History Preservation Team, made up of Cooperative Extension retirees and current staff of the National 4-H Council and NIFA, USDA.
During 2015, the National 4-H History Preservation Team, with the help of staff from the 1890 institutions (now called Historically Black Colleges and Universities – HBCUs), plan to construct that significant segment of the history of 4-H youth development, from the founding of the 1890 institutions to the current decade. One possibility is to organize the history of the African American youth development programs delivered by those schools, decade by decade, highlighting issues, set-backs, efforts and accomplishments of each decade from 1890 to 2015.
If you or someone you know is interested in working with the 4-H History Team on this project please contact us at Info@4-HHistoryPreservation.com . And since February is National Black History Month, as you research things to celebrate, don’t overlook the treasure trove of important information at the HBCUs
The front cover of the April, 1930, issue of Extension Service Farm News, issued by the Extension Service, A & M College of Texas, features a photo of a 4-H Beauty Shop exhibit at the Fort Worth Fat Stock Show.
Visitors to “Secrets of Feminine Charm,” found the popular exhibit in the girls’ division of the home demonstration booths. Frequent inquiries came to Miss Mae Belle Smith and Miss Mary Powell who arranged it. The brief article noted that “those who viewed the exhibit were inspired with hopes of immediate transformation by this simple and effective method.” As the article questioned, whoever dreamed that onions were eye sparklers; or that business women used heads of lettuce and cabbage for vanity cases? When did a baked potato become a powder puff, or apples a skin softener; or milk a vanishing cream?
Maybe Fort Worth 4-H’ers can reprise that exhibit for “Voices of 4-H History,” film it and answer those burning questions?
In 2014, two Youth-Adult Partnership teams consisting of two teens and one adult participated in the “Voices of 4-H History” project for Hawaii.
According to Joan Chong, HI Extension service, the teams from Kona and Maui participated in a basic training that covered interview questions and techniques, project design and management, pre-production, filming, and camera techniques.
Because of training time constraints, the teams were also encouraged to connect with the local Community Access Television (CAT) to assist in editing and piecing the video together, and CAT was happy to help out. They offered classes in basic video production, camera operation, editing, lighting and studio production. Once the participants became certified producers at the CAT studios, the use of the television equipment and facilities were FREE! All the Youth-Adult Partnership teams needed to do was ask for help. When asked about the project, we found that youth participants not only learned video production but also gained knowledge about 4-H and the effect it has had on others.
Here are a few quotes from the youth:
“I felt that this project allowed me to experience what it felt like to be a part of 4-H many years ago. Through their stories, I can see how 4-H shaped people’s lives and how it helped 4-H’ers to ‘make the best, better!’”
“The best part of participating in this project was being able to learn more about 4-H and its history. I also learned a new skill of how to edit videos on the computer. I enjoyed meeting new people and learned how much 4-H meant to them.”
“It opened my eyes and gave me a better understanding of 4-H. It was heart-warming to listen to their experiences. Times were so different, yet very similar in many ways.”
“It provided us with so many learning opportunities. Several of the people we interviewed told us how much it meant to them to have their story told.”
One Adult participant shared observations as well:
“Participating in this project provided me with the opportunity to have a Youth-Adult partnership; it was a unique experience working side-by-side with the youth. It was not a top-down partnership where I needed to tell them what to do, but a collaboration of working together and equally contributing ideas. Although it was very interesting to hear how 4-H has changed (or not) over the years, it really was dependent on the perspective of the person being interviewed as their experiences and involvement in 4-H varied.”
This National Archive photo of Booker T Washington’s “School on Wheels” depicts one of the early innovations of the 1890 Institutions which took education to the rural areas.
February is National Black History Month, so what better lead than a feature on the 125th anniversary of the creation of the 1890 Universities, those educational institutions created to serve the country’s African-American population. Important 4-H programs were delivered from those schools before integration and continue today.
National 4-H Week was created in 1945 – but in March instead of October – with the theme “Head, Heart, Hands and Health for Victory!” It’s not too early to start contacting local media to feature 4-H (and 4-H history) this fall as well as any time during the year.
In 1930, Fort Worth 4-H girls featured “Secrets of Feminine Charm” in a stock show booth. Do you think they could convince women to use an apple as a skin softener, or milk as a vanishing cream?
The National 4-H History Preservation Website unveils its newest informative chapter: a Compendium of 4–H Promotion and Visibility stories which delight and educate. These are vignettes from history files of the myriad ways 4-H promoted itself from local communities up to the national and international levels. It’s pleasant reading.
“Voices of 4-H History” continues with Hawaii as its newest participant; the 2015 National 4-H FilmFest screens in June; University of Tennessee Collegiate 4-H joins the effort to preserve the history of campus 4-H clubs – and much more in this issue.
Whether you’re snowed in, being blown around by heavy winds, slogging through driving rain or basking in the warming sun (all of which are possible in February), we hope you enjoy this issue.
Three years ago on September 10, 2011, the National 4-H History Preservation website started using a visitor counter. This counter does not tally up “hits” on the site, but displays the actual number of visitors to the site. Your History website has had over 78,000 visitors from the United States with California residents visiting 5,373 times, followed by Ohio with 4,174 and Texas with 3,900. International visitors came from 147 countries! We’re proud of this outreach as it indicates that people are interested in 4-H History, and we look forward to increasing those numbers in the next few months.
We encourage states which have 4-H websites to help promote 4-H history to visitors to your local site by adding a link to the national history site. Graphic link banners are available at
From 1946 through 1980 a new theme and new poster were introduced every year during National 4-H Week.
Why was it started? When and why did it change from spring to fall?
The Federal Extension Service at USDA developed a “4-H Mobilization Week” which was held annually in the spring from 1942 through 1945 as a means of recruiting 4-H members and focusing their activities to support the war with Victory Gardens, canning, increased crop production, scrap drives and sales of war bonds. This was a very successful campaign which significantly increased membership and helped tremendously with the war effort. In 1945 they looked back in their membership records and saw a similar member increase during World War I and a great drop in participation the following year. Not wanting to repeat that historical episode, they decided to turn their mobilization experience into a National 4-H Week in order to continue recruiting new members every year.
The answer to the second question is 1964.
According to a feature in the March 1964 National
4-H News by Fern Kelley, Assistant Director, 4-H, FES/USDA, considerable study and analyses were done before the change was made. That year, instead of being in March, National 4-H Week was held September 26 to October 3; in the future it was to be held the week in which October 1 occurred. In 1968 it was finally decided that it should be held in the first full week of October each year.
There seemed to be a number of good reasons for the change. In most states, the local recruitment and club reorganization period was in the fall. An increasing number of states were moving to fall enrollment and a fall date for National 4-H Club Week made sense. Local 4-H Club leaders were also calling attention to other problems they were having because so many different youth programs observed a promotion week during the spring. This was causing problems for clubs competing with other groups for window display areas or newspaper space in their re-enrollment drives. The fall dates also allowed for nationally prepared reports and statistics to be more timely or up-to-date than the spring date. It must have been a good move as the fall date has held since 1964. This October we celebrate the <B><I>50th</I></B> autumn National 4-H Week October 5-11.
National 4-H Week, once held in the spring, is now held in the fall. Read the history of this commemorative event.
This National 4-H Poster was premiered during the first 4-H week held in the fall. What year do you think it was? The older girl’s 4-H uniform might give you a slight hint.
4-H has long featured aeronautics and space exploration; there was even a 4-H flag taken into space on a NASA mission. This year’s theme of National 4-H Youth Science Day is “Aerospace Engineering” and will include rocket projects designed by University of Arizona.
The final installment of our series on the two 4-H musicians at 4-H Congress in the 1950s features Maryland 4-H’er Helen Bovbjerg (now Niedung), a lyric soprano whose career, she says, was significantly boosted by her 4-H experience.
“Hands-On” 4-H highlights career preparation in 4-H; get your club to discuss the impact of 4-H on peoples’ lives.
Read what participants at the 2014 FilmFest 4-H said about their experience in St. Louis and making films, and see the winning films from “Voices of 4-H History” category.
Next month, we’ll feature the 2014 National 4-H Hall of Fame Laureates. This coveted honor goes to people who have made (and many continue to make) significant contributions to the success of 4-H. Many of the honorees are 4-H Pioneers, whose historical work helped shape today’s 4-H program.