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Interesting 4-H Historic Trivia

This is simply a 4-H history "fun" section relating to a variety of anecdotal stories and obscure facts associated with the 4-H movement through the years.

What to Name the Baby!

Always a BIG decision. That little baby has to live with that name for the rest of their life. The March, 1986 issue of "National 4-H News” reports that if you want an unusual name for your newborn calf the Bear Creek Beavers 4-H Club in Portage County, Wisconsin, recently published a list of more than 1,500 cow names in alphabetical order.

(National 4-H News, March 1986)

38 Days Too Late!

O. J. Kern, who was county superintendent of schools in Winnebago County, Illinois, is considered one of the national pioneers of 4-H. He is noted primarily for the relationship between one-room schools and teaching agriculture and gardening principles from the university, particularly the introduction of hybrid corn. He formally started a Farmer Boys' Experiment Club in his office on February 22, 1902 - 38 days too late! A. B. Graham's first club meeting had taken place in Ohio on January 15, 1902. And, that's history!

(Two books relating to O. J. Kern can be found in the 4-H History Books Section on the 4-H history preservation website.)

[Historically, there is no specific date that 4-H "began" as the concept of providing out-of-school training and assistance for rural boys and girls started as grassroot movements in many different places across the country.]

Radio Club Organized

Club members from Sunset community, Spokane County, Washington, have organized the first radio club in the state, with Claude Senge local leader. The Sunset Radio Club is composed of 12 members and includes Jack Adams, Gordon Brown, Helen Brown, Edward Gassman, Maude Hamilton, Halbert Hewett, Elsie Johnson, Jack Stainer, Harold Stoll, Martin Tuttle, and Mark Wells.

In writing about the club Claude Senge states: "Some people think we can't make a success of the club, but I believe that it can be put over all right. Altho the club may not be a money making proposition at present, we will be able to get farm reports, weather reports and news for our community."

The club members ave their station set up and are receiving messages which will help the community in getting the latest weather and farm reports.

(Farm Boys and Girls Leader, September 1922)

Largest 4-H Girl's Club Convention

Not to be out done by the recent large 1928 political conventions, the 4-H club girls of Iowa under the leadership of Miss Josephine Arnquist, State Agent in charge of girls' club work, staged what is said to be the largest 4-H girls' club convention ever held. Two thousand five hundred girls and 100 leaders from 97 of the 99 counties in the state were present. The program was inspiring, comprehensive and well balanced and will result in giving much added interest to 4-H club work in Iowa. (Iowa 4-H Girls Annual Meets were held for a number of years.)

(National Boys and Girls Club News, July 1928)

4-H Pigs Visit South Pole

A herd of 4-H club pigs are now dining aboard one of Commander Byrd's South Pole expedition vessels. The herd consists of six gilts and one boar which are kept aboard the ship for breeding purposes in order to supply the pork needed for the expedition party during their stay in the South Pole region. The 4-H club boys who sold the hogs to the Byrd purchasing agent are Prior and David Gimbert of Princess Ann County, Virginia.

(National Boys and Girls Club News, January 1929)

Boy Sends Calf to Egypt

Thomas Rich, from Hobart in Delaware County, New York, has the distinction of being the first person in the United States to introduce a pure-bred calf into Egypt. His 4-H calf, "Sophis Sons Viola" was purchased by Professor M. C. McFeetra, professor of Agriculture at Assuit College, American mission at Assuit, Egypt. It was necessary to secure a special permit to make the importation into Egypt, as formerly all stock was slaughtered at the docks.

(National Boys and Girls Club News, November 1929)

Japanese Club Boy Shows Grand Champion at Denver

Masa Matsutani, Japanese 4-H Club boy of Paxton, Nebraska, won the grand champion of both the 4-H Club and open classes of the Western Stock Show at Denver with his 1,080 pound Hereford steer. The 15-year-old boy has been a 4-H Club member for three years. In the contest for the championship of the Hereford division he had to compete with three first prize Hereford steers which were being shown by agricultural colleges.

(National Boys and Girls Club News, February 1931)

Florida 4-H Club Boys Lease an Acre of Water for First 4-H Oyster Project

Five Florida 4-H Club boys leased an acre of water for the first 4-H oyster project in the nation. The boys, under the leadership of George H. Toepfer, Florida conservation agent, salt water division, and Bay County Agent J. A. Sorenson, have signed a lease with the state for one acre of East Bay near Panama City in which they will plant, cultivate and harvest oysters for a potential market.

The lads who are launching the project are: Donnie Wildman, Albert Hogan, Marshall Gore, Fred Waters, and Bobby Seaborn. Mr. Sorenson conceived the idea to interest boys who, like their fisherman fathers, look to the sea rather than the land for a livelihood. They will receive training in all phases of oyster production and enjoy other advantages of being 4-H Club Boys. A photo of the boys busy at their project is featured on the cover of the August 1954 issue of 4-H News.

(National 4-H News, August 1954)

Philosophy of a 4-H Club Reporter

During the height of World War II a 4-H Club reporter, Doris Roy of New Roads, Louisiana, adds this paragraph to the end of a nicely typed account of what her club was doing in garden and other wartime projects:

"No one who has given an animal care, who has watched it grow and tended to its needs has done so without enriching his own nature. The same may be said of those who have placed emphasis on beautifying their homes, or who have cared for vegetables. That is why the love for livestock and gardening which 4-H projects foster, makes enduring contribution to a young person's life, reaching far beyond the results he may be able to show with records and figures."

(National 4-H Club News, April 1944)

4-H Alumni and Their Projects

Vice President Al Gore raised Angus cattle as his main 4-H project. Cowboy star Roy Rogers had a pig project... so did First Lady Patricia Nixon, while First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy had a horse. Author John Updike raised strawberries and Popcorn King Orville Redenbacker had poultry.

(National 4-H History Preservation website)

4-H and a Sick Baby

In his July 1960 Washington News and Views column in National 4-H News, Ed Aiton, Director, 4-H Club and YMW Programs, Extension, USDA, writes: "4-H pops up in the most interesting places! Now its in the big time motion picture business. I'm writing this article from Hollywood, California. Tomorrow morning we give a final review and approval to a feature-length movie that's all about a 4-H community in Katy, Texas. The title is "Tomboy and the Champ." You'll see it soon in your neighborhood theatre.

"While flying here to filmland this afternoon I was reminded of an almost forgotten contribution of 4-H to the Stars. Once long ago our small town family doctor telephoned and said 'Ed, We have a mighty sick little baby here. We can't find any food that agrees with her. Will you take real special care of some low-butterfat milk and bring it in twice a day. Strain it, and cool it carefully and...'

"So 'Toots' - my Holstein 4-H heifer - became an experimental foster mother for about six months. The whole town was mighty pleased that the tiny girl began to feel better right away. At three, she started singing with her father on the stage at the local theatre, between the first and second shows. And later, she changed her name to Judy Garland, whom you know as the film and TV star.

"I hope that every 4-H boy and girl can experience a similar thrill by making someone happy or healthy, producing something, being somebody or doing something useful and worthwhile. That's why we use the term 4-H Club work. It implies service and usefulness. Also, that's why 4-H should be kept flexible - so that local leaders, parents and 4-H members can shape and fit it to local needs and problems. How fortunate that our 4-H project outline and requirements for the heifer program was flexible enough to market the milk from 'Toots' in a very unusual way for six months. That's the way it must always be in 4-H, so we can always say 'When A Star is Born' - 4-H helped to raise it to the sky."

(National 4-H News, July 1960)

4-H'ers Help Boost Meat in Novel Chicago Parade

More than 200 Noble county, Indiana, 4-H Club members participated in the spectacular livestock and meat parade in Chicago on June 18, 1931. Carrying banners that told the story of 4-H Club work and their activities in livestock projects, they were the first marching unit in this striking three-mile long parade that made its way up Michigan Boulevard to south Water Street and down State Street through the Loop, telling the story that "Meat is cheap, and good to eat."

These club members were a part of the Noble county 4-H Club group attending a Chicago sight-seeing tour sponsored by the New York Central lines.

(National Boys and Girls Club News, June-July, 1931)

Delegates to First National 4-H Camp Receive Special Gavels

Each delegate at the first National 4-H Camp, held on the Mall in Washington, D.C. in 1927, was given a special gavel from th U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, W. M. Jardine. The head of the gavel was made from wood taken from The White House during remodeling. The gavel handles were also special, fashioned from a hickory log harvested from Washington's Mount Vernon.

(from Iowa 4-H History, Iowa 4-H Foundation)

4-H'er Bart Simpson

A 2008 episode of 'The Simpsons,' centers around Bart joining a 4-H Club and raising a scrawny little calf... that eventually develops into a raging bull.

(National 4-H History Website, National Compendium of 4-H Promotion & Visibility)

4-H'ers Ride Physical Fitness Float in Inaugural Parade

President George H. W. Bush's 1989 Inaugural Parade's float by the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports featured members of a Washington, D.C. 4-H Club and the California Raisins. The California Raisins was a popular fictional musical group in the late 1980's. 4-H is still popular!

(National 4-H History Website, National Compendium of 4-H Promotion & Visibility)

End of Hitler

Even during the pressures and seriousness of the war years, there were often stories of a humorous nature reported by 4-H Club members and leaders. An example, as it appeared in the March 1944 issue of National 4-H Club News:

Bobby Karg not only has a good record and a fine poultry flock, but also a good story. The Barred Rock hens in Bobby's yard were formerly ruled over by a strutting big rooster named Hitler because of his arrogant attitude. The club leader and other friends advised Bobby repeatedly to eat the tyrant, pointing out that eggs keep much better if unfertilized. But Bobby had plans of his own, and a purple ribbon in view. He kept his rooster until May and entered him at the fair, sure that Hitler would be grand champion male of the show. But the judge's first choice was another Barred Rock rooster entered by a youngster named Fidel Alvarez. So into the pot went Hitler.

(National 4-H Club News, March 1944)

Playing the Cow Game

What did 4-H'ers do to pass the time while traveling cross-country during the mid-1930s? Why, they played the Cow Game, of course.

Miss Rose Kronmiller, Home Demonstration Agent in LaPorte county, Indiana explains the game in the September, 1937 issue of National 4-H Club News. It may be played by any number from two to a bus load. The group divides into two sides, each choosing one side of the road. They then proceed to count all cows, calves (anything bovine) on their respective side. If a white horse is seen by any member, the side may double its score, but if a graveyard appears, all cows must be buried, the score becoming zero, and the group must begin counting again. (Example: 10 cows plus two cows plus six cows equals 18 cows; meet team of white horses gives 72 cows. Pass graveyard, score zero.) "It is surprising how many white horses you see and many times scores will run into thousands and then graveyards are decidedly unwelcome but hilarious joy to the other side," Miss Kronmiller says.

4-H Becomes A Radio Pioneer

In 1922, before it was even a year old, the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work (now National 4-H Council) became a radio pioneer. Arrangements were made with the Westinghouse Radio Service of Chicago for news of Boys and Girls Club Work to be presented each Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6 p.m. In 1922 there were only 30 radio stations in the country and a quarter million receiving sets scattered across the nation.

A special segment on the 4-H history preservation website is entitled "4-H and Radio... Early Days, Growing Up Together."

(National 4-H History Preservation website)

The Strongest Club?

As reported in the June 1921 edition of Farm Boys and Girls Leader, at a recent meeting in the west, attended by George E. Farrell, in charge of boys and girls club work, north and west, the question as to which state had the strongest club was raised. Mr. Farrell said Massachusetts claimed to have the strongest club – its Onion Club. California delegates immediately challenged the Massachusetts boast by announcing that they have a Garlic Club, but Colorado came in on the finish with their Skunk Club. "We won't argue with Colorado for one minute!," the article concluded.

(Farm Boys and Girls Leader, June 1921)

First National 4-H Theme

It is believed that the use of 4-H themes at the national level began in 1924 with the theme "We are for Boys and Girls Club Work" used for a poster suggested by Gertrude Warren; produced and distributed by the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work (a year before they even had a Supply Service).

A complete listing of annual national 4-H themes up to the present time is located on the 4-H History Preservation website.

(from National 4-H History Preservation website)

4-H a 'Career Starter' for TV Program Host

During a major 4-H push with urban programming in the 1960s, a local television station in Indianapolis, Station WLWI (now WTHR) created a weekly 4-H Saturday morning show called "Clover Power"... the show host was a young David Letterman, later to become a late night network talk show host.

(National 4-H History Preservation website)

Boys' Corn Club Pyramid is Popular 1904 World's Fair Exhibit

The Illinois entry in the state exhibits at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis was one of the most popular exhibits of the fair. Featuring ears of corn and photos of hundreds of participants, the exibit was entitled, "Grown by the Farmer Boys of Illinois – 8,000 Farm Boys in Contest."

(National 4-H History Website, National Compendium of 4-H Promotion and Visibility)

'The Green Promise' 4-H Film Features Natalie Wood

In the hit movie produced by R-K-O Radio Pictures in 1949, "The Green Promise" tells the story of a local 4-H Club getting involved in helping a widowed father and his four motherless children save his farm that he was about to lose. Premiered at the final banquet of the 1948 National 4-H Club Congress in Chicago, the film featured Robert Paige, Marguerite Chapman, Walter Brennan, Bobby Ellis and the child star, Natalie Wood.

(National 4-H History Website, National Compendium of 4-H Promotion and Visibility)

Garfield the Cat Promotes 4-H

In 2001, through a licensing agreement between the National 4-H Supply Service and Jim Davis, creator of Garfield... and, a former 4-H member, Garfield 4-H items became a popular product line. There was a wide array of 4-H Garfield products including T-shirts, stuffed animals and bean bag 4-H Garfields, and Garfield cookie jars, coffee mugs and limited edition Garfield 4-H holiday ornaments.

(National 4-H History Website, National Compendium of 4-H Promotion and Visibility)

Texas Boys Livestock Judging Team Competes Internationally

In 1920 when the Texas livestock judging team won the judging honors at the Southeastern Fair in Atlanta, Georgia, they received the right to represent the U.S. in judging at the Royal Livestock Show in Britain – the first U.S. team to do so. With a personal send-off by President Warren G. Harding, Secretary of Agriculture Wallace, and Texas senators and congressmen, the team departed for England. Unfortunately, the team did not win at the Royal Livestock Show but they let it be known that the Brits would be having serious competition in judging in years to come.

(National 4-H History Website, National Compendium of 4-H Promotion and Visibility)

The Beginning of IFYE

In the fall of 1946 Ed Aiton had been assigned to look into the possibility of international farm youth exchanges. At nearly the same time, O. T. Norris of the Young Farmer's Clubs of Great Britain was visiting in Washington, D.C. Prior to the war, the United States an Great Britain had exchanged dairy judging teams and Norris was interested in seeing the exchange renewed. Very quickly the two ideas coalesced into a general exchange of farm youth.

Until more plans could be made, the two agreed that a visit of several English farmers to the National 4-H Congress in Chicago later that year would be a good interim idea. The young men traveled to Chicago and were very much impressed with the Congress and discussed the idea of a general international exchange. At the Stevens Hotel (later Conrad Hilton), Aiton invited the gathered state 4-H winners to donate funds in order to send seven American farmers to Great Britain the next year. The delegates were enthusiastic with the suggestion and started taking up a collection right there during the assembly; from the balcony surrounding the auditorium 4-H'ers from across the country were dropping dollar bills, showering down on the delegates below, supporting the effort. The generosity of the 4-H delegates provided the initial contribution for sending the Americans to Great Britain in 1947, starting the International Farm Youth Exchange.

(National 4-H History Preservation website)

The President's Comments on Bread-making

Fifteen-year old Margaret Lofgren of the village of Ulen, Clay County, Minnesota, was thrilled to be in Washington, D.C. on June 20, 1914, as the first state champion bread-maker in the history of the 4-H clubs. Margaret met President Woodrow Wilson on her visit to the White House. He grasped her hand and said, "Margaret, what have you done to be entitled to represent the great State of Minnesota at the nation's capital?"

Embarrassed to be thus addressed by the President, Margaret bravely suppressed the tears she felt coming. "Mr. President, I have only learned to bake good bread," she said.

"Margaret," President Wilson replied, "the girl who has learned to make good bread has learned one of the greatest accomplishments of an American woman. In America we have only one title to nobility and that is achievement. You 4-H'ers have won that title."

(The above story was related by T. A. "Dad" Erickson, State 4-H Leader, Minnesota)