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J. C. Penney Mural

Gracing the spacious lobby of J. C. Penney Hall at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center (Chevy Chase, Maryland) is the mural Head-Heart-Hands-Health. Painted by the eminent muralist, Dean Fausett, in the American genre, the mural captures the evolution of 4-H and the J. C. Penny Company during the 20th Century. Prominent in the mural is James Cash Penney, founder of the company that bears his name. He stands with a youth and his blue ribboned dairy heifer, reflecting Mr. Penney's benevolent support of 4-H and the 4-H tradition of recognizing excellence.



James Cash Penney

A legend in his own lifetime, James Cash Penney was born on a small farm near Hamilton, Missouri. Mr. Penney supported 4-H for the last 45 years of his life. He took an active role in the expansion of the National 4-H Center, serving as honorary co-chairman of a national 4-H advisory council. Since his death in 1971, Caroline A. Penney and the J. C. Penney Company have continued interest in and support of 4-H. The family and company contributed generously to the expansion of the National 4-H Center, including J. C. Penney Hall, completed and dedicated in September 22, 1977. The dedication ceremony included the unveiling of the mural. J. C. Penney Company also supported volunteer leader training and other 4-H activities for many years.

Mrs. Caroline Penney, widow of J. C. Penney, paid tribute to her husband at the dedication of J. C. Penney Hall and the Penney Mural on September 22, 1977. She shared her husband's interest in 4-H and carried on his tradition of support. Together with her daughters, Mary Frances Penney Wagley, headmistress of St. Paul's School for Girls, Baltimore, Maryland, and Carol Penney Guyer, vice president of the Henry Street Settlement House, New York, Mrs. Penney devoted many hours of time and talent to the plans, progress and interior decoration of J. C. Penney Hall, including the mural.

 


About the Mural

The left portion of the mural shows boys and girls at work in corn growing and tomato canning clubs. These clubs, that sprang up in rural America at the turn of the century, were the forerunners of 4-H. Toward the center the muralist has caught the changing scene of 4-H as the program diversified and expanded to serve the needs of youth in urban as well as rural America and around the world. The right hand portion of the mural features many of the projects and activities that typify contemporary 4-H in the 1970s, when the mural was created.

The background of the mural depicts Penney's first store, opened in Kemmerer, Wyoming in 1902, called the Golden Rule because of his conviction that it is possible to combine a high order of ethics with economics. Mr. Penney never wavered from that principle as he worked to expand his company. The skyscraper headquarters of the J. C. Penney Company, one of the major retail enterprises in the nation, shown at the right of the mural, stands as testimony that James Cash Penney was right in his conviction. Some of Mr. Penney's grandchildren are represented as youth in the 4-H mural.



The Canning Clubs were early 4-H activities for the girls. Cooking and Sewing clubs soon followed

 

Early Boys Club activities included raising of corn, cotton, potatoes and vegetables

 

Raising chickens, beef and dairy cattle, sheep and pigs became popular activities for both boys and girls

 
From the rural areas the clubs moved into international activities and serving youth in urban areas

The 8 ft. by 16 ft. mural was painted in oil tempera on four gesso panels in the artist's studios in Dorset, Vermont and transported to Maryland where the panels were joined in place. The artist was paid $25,000. for the project.

In 1985 a replica of the famous "Head-Heart-Hands-Health" mural was created by Mr. Fausett for display in the General Federation of Women's Clubs' International Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The mural, a gift from Mrs. Patrick Healy, III, is a tapistry-like signet painting. At the unveiling of the 4-H painting and a second piece of artwork, "Education in a Free Society," on December 8, 1985, Jeri Winger, International President of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, stated "both mural themes directly apply to our General Federation of Women's Clubs continuing concern and programs of devotion and dedication to the welfare of children, which help them achieve their potential as children of God."

Dean Fausett - the Artist (1913-1998)

Dean Fausett was commissioned by members of the Penney family to paint the mural as a tribute to James Cash Penney and the close affinity of his personal life with the history and ideals of 4-H. Mr. Fausett, a native of Utah, received many awards and world-wide recognition for his murals, his portraits and landscapes.

Dean Fausett was named one of the "Ten Best" painters in America by ART NEWS. He was a winner of the Carnegie Institute International Prize, the Whitney Museum's Purchase Award, the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, the Mural Award of the National Society of Mural Painters and the Tiffany Foundation Fellowship.






Compiled by National 4-H History Preservation Team.


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