4-H’ers Honor Smith and Lever During Second World War

During this centennial year of the passage of the Smith-Lever Act creating the Cooperative Extension Service, it is appropriate to recall one 4-H activity recognizing the creation of that legislation from 70 years ago.

Midway in the Second World War, the Extension Service in cooperation with the Maritime Commission worked out a unique incentive to 4-H achievement on the home front. It was proposed that states be permitted to name Liberty ships after a 4-H or Extension pioneer as a reward for bond sales and exceptional service in food production and conservation.
Liberty ships were the cargo carriers of the war. They were standardized freighters, 441 feet long and of 10,800 tons capacity. They carried food stuffs and war materials abroad, and brought back such scarce items as chrome ore, balsa wood, copper, rubber, ivory, manganese, jute, burlap, hides, tea, coffee and quinine. They cost about $2 million apiece and this was the goal of the 4-H bond sales.

In response to the “Name-A-Ship” campaign, the state 4-H youth intensified their war activities. Georgia club members raised almost $10 million in a war bond campaign and produced in one season enough food to fill a 10,000 ton ship. Their ship was launched and duly named “Hoke Smith,” in honor of the Senator who, as member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, co-sponsored the Smith-Lever Act.
In South Carolina, similar efforts resulted in the launching of the “A. Frank Lever,” thus commemorating on the high seas the other congressional sponsor of the original Extension Act, Representative Asbury Francis Lever, a member of the House Committee on Agriculture.

In all, 40 ships were christened in these 4-H “Name-A-Ship” campaigns. In the cabin of each ship was placed a plaque stating that the ship was named by 4-H club members of the state, and near the plaque was a history of the man for whom the ship was named, written on parchment and permanently mounted under glass.

World War II Liberty ship SS Jeremiah O'Brien at Pier 45, Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, California

World War II Liberty ship SS Jeremiah O’Brien at Pier 45, Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, California

SS John W. Brown on the Great Lakes in 2000

SS John W. Brown on the Great Lakes in 2000

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.