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4-H Emblem

The official 4-H emblem is a green four-leaf clover with a white H on each leaf standing for Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. The stem of the clover is always to the right. There is little doubt that the 4-H emblem is one of the most highly recognized logos in the world.

The 4-H name and emblem have United States federal protection under federal code 18 U.S.C. 707, passed in 1939, slightly revised in 1948. This federal protection makes it a mark unto and of itself with protection that supersedes the limited authorities of both a trademark and a copyright. The Secretary of Agriculture is given responsibility and stewardship for the 4-H name and emblem, at the direct request of the U.S. Congress. These protections place the 4-H emblem in a unique category of protected emblems, along with the U.S. Presidential Seal, and Smokey Bear.

Creation of the 4-H Emblem

In 1907 or 1908, the first emblem used nationally was designed by O. H. Benson, superintendent of Wright County (Iowa) schools, as a three-leaf clover with three "H's" signifying head, heart, and hands. A four-leaf clover design with H's appeared informally around 1908.

As the story goes, one sunny June morning in 1906 at a one-room country school near Clarion, Iowa, 11 pupils were spending their recess outside searching for four-leaf clovers. They had plucked seven clovers when a visitor drove up, the Superintendent of schools. At the teacher's suggestion, the children surrendered their good luck charms and placed the seven clovers into the hands of the superintendent. He said, "I've been looking for an emblem for the agricultural clubs and the schools of the county, and you have just given me that emblem, the four-leaf clover; it will help explain to young and old the message of a four square education." (In those early days, 4-H was known as "four-square education," which was based upon education, physical, moral, and fellowship development.)

Although a good story, it may not be totally accurate as in 1907 Benson had designed, along with Jessie Field Shambaugh, from Page County, Iowa, a 3-leaf clover with "H's" standing for Head, Heart and Hands which was used as an embleom on several different items. Nonetheless, the H's and the clover emblem - regardless of whether we're talking three leaves or four leaves - is credited to O. H. Benson and to Clarion, Iowa.

In 1911, Benson referred to the need for four H's -- suggesting that they stand for "Head, Heart, Hands and Hustle... head trained to think, plan and reason; heart trained to be true, kind and sympathetic; hands trained to be useful, helpful and skillful; and the hustle to render ready service, to develop health and vitality..." In 1911, at a meeting of club leaders in Washington, DC they approved the present 4-H design. O.B. Martin is credited with suggesting that the H's signify Head, Heart, Hands and Health - universally used since then.

Update: January 1, 2012

Compiled by National 4-H History Preservation Team.

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