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United Nations Flag and 4-H

The 1950s had barely begun when hopes for world peace were shattered. North Korea attacked South Korea on June 25, 1950. The decisive action taken by the United Nations aroused the interest and support of many Americans who had previously been unfamiliar with the fledgling world organization or who had felt it to be unworkable. Suddenly, communities wanted to fly the United Nations flag in observance of the fifth Annual UN Day.

The National Citizen's Committee for United Nations Day was overwhelmed with requests for flags. Hampered by an inadequate supply and by authorization of only two flag manufacturers, the UN committee and Extension turned for help to the National Committee on Boys and Girls Work (later National 4-H Service Committee and National 4-H Council). Would the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work make available materials and patterns for sewing the UN flag? Would the Committee encourage women and girls to make and display the flag as an expression of hope for the world? The National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work would... and it did!

The flag kits were available on September 1. And, by October 12, 35,000 orders had been received. The UN flag kits were priced at 50 cents each and contained two hot-iron transfer patterns of complete design; a center design (exclusive of wreath) printed on blue cloth; and directions for making the 3 foot by 5 foot flag.

Eighty patriotic, civic, religious, farm and youth organizations sponsored this modern-day Betsy Ross project and two 4-H girls presented to President Truman the first UN flag made by farm women and girls.

In its report on UN Day 1950, the National UN Citizens' Committee commented on... "the extraordinary job of organization performed by the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work"... which produced and distributed the flag-making kit. All other work of the Committee had been postponed for a period of six weeks to fill the orders that poured in at a peak rate of over 1,000 orders per day.

In an October 19, 1950 memorandum to staff, Kenneth H. Anderson, Associate Director, National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work states:

"To The Staff:

"Perhaps you have been wondering about the United Nations Flag-Making program - why it was started and our part in it.

"The project was not conceived by the Government but rather by Mr. Albert Johnson of the National Grange, which is one of the leading farm organizations.

"The project was launched as a means of (1) symbolizing the high hopes for peace for which the United Nations organization stands, (2) providing a means for women and girls to express their patriotic interest in United Nations peace efforts and (3) to encourage a better understanding of the United Nations organization. It won the immediate and enthusiastic approval of the Federal Extension Service and the National Citizens Committee for United Nations Day. Among the 75 member organizations of the Citizens Committee, which is spearheading United Nations Day observances, are such organizations as the American Legion, Red Cross, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Catholic War Veterans, Federal Council of Churches, Kiwanis International, National Association of Manufacturers, National Catholic Educational Association, National Educational Association, Rotary, Veterans of Foreign Wars, YMCA and YWCA.

"In view of the high regard which the Extension Service has for the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work and our close working relationship with Extension, Director Wilson asked the National Committee to support this program by developing plans for the home making of the United Nations Flag and supplying kits and packets.

"Since the program was without precedent, there was little basis for determining how popular it might be. As we now know, 4-H Clubs, Home Demonstration Clubs and scores of other organizations have responded magnificently. The demand for United Nation Flag materials was beyond everyone's estimates and expectations.

"Home-made United Nations Flags have been presented to President Truman, Trygve Lie of the United Nations and to many Governors. During United Nations Week thousands of Betsy Ross "United Nations Flags" will be flown on schools, business and public buildings and in homes in the United States and in foreign countries. As a result of overseas broadcasts about the project on Voice of America there have been several orders from abroad.

"The Extension Service and other groups have been mindful and appreciative of the extra effort and sacrifice which our staff has made in putting across this campaign. Director Wilson has been very personally interested, and in his summary of flag-making activities sent to State Extension Services on October 6 he points out that the `staff of the National Committee has spent weekends packing and shipping kits and has impressed everyone from top to bottom.'

"Along with the praise has come some criticism of the United Nations flag-making activities. Although it is not our place publicly to answer the criticisms, since we are suppliers of materials rather than administrators of the program, I should like to call attention to the attached press release issued by the four major National farm organizations. Also attached is an excellent editorial from the Wilmington Delaware Morning News.

"All of you have earned a debt of gratitude for your untiring efforts in this worthwhile endeavor. Director Wilson of the Extension Service and Mr. Fox of the United Nations Citizens Committee have both asked to have their sincere appreciation expressed to you. Kenneth H. Anderson"

NOTE: The criticism referenced in Ken Anderson's memo is explained in the following release and editorial, but very much becomes a part of the history of this story:

"For Immediate Release. 10/12/50. Kremlin propagandists who have been attempting to discredit the United Nations have been given invaluable assistance by uninformed and bigoted American groups seeking to block display of the UN flag on October 24, United Nations Day.

"This campaign is deplored by the American farm organizations which have vigorously supported the United Nations as a means of attaining World Peace. The more than 80 patriotic national organizations which are supporting United Nations objectives will not be swayed from that support by the misguided and misinformed leadership of a few groups.

"The farm organizations unanimously reaffirm their confidence in the United Nations as the greatest single instrument for peace in the world.

"The making and displaying of the United Nations flags on UN Day, as conceived and sponsored by these farm organizations, is designed as an expression by the American people of their faith in the United Nations. The project, originally conceived as a demonstration of farm unity behind the United Nations efforts for World Peace, was accepted immediately by numerous other national labor, business, veteran, civic, fraternal and educational groups.

"The U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Cooperative Extension Service endorsed the project. The Extension Service has provided valuable leadership for promoting the United Nations Day observance through its cooperating state and county units. The ridiculous attacks on the loyalty and patriotism of Department of Agriculture officials including its Director of Extension are contemptible and un-American.

"Display of the United Nations flag along with the American flag on October 24 will be an expression of the same unity on the home front that exists on the battlefields of Korea where the men of free nations are fighting and dying under the United Nations banner in defense of Peace for all mankind."

Joint statement by: American Farm Bureau Federation, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Farmers Union and National Grange.

Flag of Peace and Freedom - Editorial from Wilmington Morning News, Wilmington, Delaware. October 10, 1950.

"Somebody should tell the policy-makers of the Veterans of Foreign Wars that the United Nations is not un-American. It must be conceded that the UN is not 100 percent American, since foreigners are not only tolerated but welcomed. It is also obvious that the UN has Communist members, though they do their best to betray it. But every American should recognize that the highest ideals of what is called Americanism - which, incidentally, are shared by people throughout the world - are embodied in the UN Charter and symbolized in the blue-and-white UN flag.

"It is therefore hard to understand the clucking alarm of National Commander Charles C. Ralls of the VFW at the news that the Department of Agriculture is making efforts to encourage the flying of UN flags, especially over American schools. This "apparent effort to flood the country with UN flags," he is quoted as saying, is an "effort to sell the UN flags as a symbol to superseded the American flag," and loyal Americans should speak out "against these attempts to steer us away from the traditions of our forefathers."

"This is the sheerest nonsense. Nobody that we have heard of has proposed to supplant the American flag with the UN flag, and if the proposal were made it would obviously get nowhere. Mr. Ralls has no evidence of such a proposal - or if he has, he has neglected to present it. He does imply the Russians have a hand in it somewhere, which makes no sense either.

"Mr. Ralls should know that Russia is anything but friendly to the UN, which Russia says is run by a `mechanical majority' of American stooges. For the greater part of 1950, she was boycotting UN agencies. She has vetoed UN Security Council decisions by the score, and has defied General Assembly resolutions repeatedly. In Korea, the UN administering her greatest post-war defeat. No UN flag flies over Russian schools. All in all, the Russians are likely to take more satisfaction than anyone else from Mr. Rall's strange outburst."

Truman Addresses United Nations' Citizen's Committee

On September 7, 1950, in the Rose Garden at the White House, the President spoke to the National Citizen's Committee for United Nations Day:

"Mrs Roosevelt, and members of this United Nations Committee:

"It is a very great pleasure for me to have you here today, and it is also a very great pleasure to me to have received that first flag presented by these lovely 4-H girls. That pledge they made is a wonderful one, and I wish every citizen of the United States would take it. I am sure they will, in the long run, because the United Nations is our one hope to which we can look for a peaceful world. We must see that the United Nations itself is a successful and going organization.

"The Government of the United States is trying by every means at its command to support the United Nations with all it has - men, arms, and efforts for peace.

"We are carrying on this action in Korea for a peaceful world, not for conquest. We have no ambition in Asia except for a peaceful Asia. We have no ambition in Europe except for a peaceful Europe, and we have no ambition in South America except for a peaceful South America. That is our only ambition.

"I hope that you will see that everybody in your community understands that our only interest in this whole situation is a peaceful world, where our children and our grandchildren - if we have any - may grow up and become citizens of the world, as well as citizens of this great Republic of ours.

"You are doing a great work, I appreciate it. And I am very happy that Mrs. Roosevelt was here to make the presentation and to state what your ambitions are, and ours are. I thank you very much, Mrs. Roosevelt."

(In his opening words the President referred to Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, chairman of the National Citizens' Committee for United Nations Day. Mrs. Roosevelt had introduced two 4-H Club members, Charlotte Ingrain and Mary Anne Long, who presented the President with a specially made United Nations flag. The Committee, appointed by the Secretary of State to coordinate plans for the observance of United Nations Day (October 24) consisted of the heads of some 60 prominent national organizations.)

In its report on UN Day 1950, the National UN Citizens' Committee commented on... "the extraordinary job of organization performed by the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work"... which produced the flag-making kit. All other work of the Committee had been postponed for a period of six weeks so that all staff could help to fill the orders that poured in at a peak rate of over 1,000 orders per day.

September 7, 1950 was a momentus day in the history of the United Nations and 4-H when 4-H Club members Mary Ann Long, 19, of Shelby, Virginia and Charlotte Ingram, 15, of Ellendale, Delaware, present a United Nations flag to President Harry Truman as Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt looks on.

This photograph appeared in the October 1950 edition of National 4-H News (Vol. XXVIII, No. 10.)

4-H Given Citation

As a part of the United Nations 10th anniversary in 1955, at the recommendation of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work, along with several other organizations, received a citation from the United States Committee for the United Nations expressing the Department of State's appreciation for the support of the United Nations.

Principal author: Larry L. Krug

Compiled by National 4-H History Preservation Team.

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