History of 4-H in Canada



History of 4-H


4-H Name

The first use of the term “4-H Club” in aUSA federal document appeared in 1918 in a bulletin written by Gertrude L. Warren. By 1924, wider usage of the name “4-H” was adopted. This was used thereafter throughout the world.


4-H Emblem

The first emblem design was a three-leaf clover, introduced by O.H. Benson, sometime between 1907-08. From the beginning, the three “H’s” signified Head, Heart and Hands. A four-leaf clover design with H’s appeared around 1908. 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, 4-H club leaders approved the present 4-H emblem design. O.B. Martin is credited with suggesting that the H’s signify Head, Heart, Hands and Health — universally used since then. The 4-H emblem was patented in 1924 and Congress passed a law protecting the use of the 4-H name and emblem in 1939, which was slightly revised in 1948. 


The Origin of the 4-H Emblem

The following information is excerpted and adapted from the Iowa State 4-H website where you can read more about the history of 4-H.
Club work for rural youth was organized many years before the term “4-H” or before the four-leaf clover emblem was used. O.H. Benson, Wright County school superintendent, reported a gesture of good will by Iowa School children that led to choosing the four-leaf clover as the emblem for 4-H throughout the world. One sunny June morning in 1906 at a one-room country school near Clarion,Iowa, 11 pupils spent their recess outside searching for four-leaf clovers. They had plucked seven clovers when a visitor drove up. Their teacher recognized the guest as Superintendent O. H. Benson. At the teacher’s suggestion, the children surrendered their good luck charms and placed the seven clovers into the hands of Superintendent Benson.

He said, “I’m looking for an emblem for the agricultural clubs and the schools of the country, 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 a part of the schools, but it was known as “four square education” then.) Several years earlier he had come across ideas for four-square education. The four main ideas for four-square education included educational development, fellowship development, physical development, and moral development.

In order to link home life with school subjects of agriculture and home economics, Benson organized agricultural and home economics clubs in eachWrightCountyschool. Picnics, fairs, short courses, and play festivals also were held. “In general, these built a greater brotherhood and community spirit amongst the people,” Benson said. ThroughWrightCountyschools, Superintendent Benson linked these clubs with four-square development. He saw these ideas in use at the one-room country school he had visited. This setting along with the good will bouquet of four-leaf clovers, led him to link the clover to the clubs for the first time.

Superintendent Benson recalled that three emblems were sketched in his office–a three-leaf clover, a four-leaf clover, and a five-pointed star. In 1907 and 1908, Superintendents Benson and Shambaugh began to use an emblem of a three-leaf clover with an “H” on each leaf, one each for the head, head, heart, and hand. This was to be the membership badge for every boy and girl member of the Wright County Agricultural and Homemaking Clubs. Superintendent Benson said, “Out of the hearts, hands, and heads of these farm children was born the significant 4-H emblem.”

The emblem was used on placards, posters, literature, shields, caps, uniforms, badges, and labels. In 1909 he wrote that the first pins with the clover emblem came into use. In 1911, O.H. Benson worked inWashington,D.C.to help organize club work throughout theUnited States. He and others suggested ideas for a national emblem to represent the developing club program. The four-leaf clover emblem suggested by Benson was chosen.

At that time the fourth “H” came to stand for “health.” The four-leaf clover became the national membership badge. In the next 15 years all the agricultural and home economics clubs that had been developing acrossIowaand the nation were joined by a common name “4-H Clubs,” a name that came from the emblem that represented them. Other countries, also, accepted the clover emblem as 4-H clubs started throughout the world.

“Thousands have helped develop 4-H club work as it is today, including men and women of national affairs, officials of state and country, preachers, teachers, and businessmen; but for the inspiration for the ideas as wrapped in the 4-H emblem, we owe our thanks to the group of 11 farm boys and girls who, through their bouquet of good luck clovers, sent the 4-H message to the rest of the boys and girls of rural America.” O.H. Benson




4-H didn’t really start in one time or place. It began around the start of the 20th century in the work of several people in different parts of theUnited Stateswho were concerned about young people.

The seed of the 4-H idea of practical and “hands-on” learning came from the desire to make public school education more connected to country life. Early programs tied both public and private resources together for the purpose of helping rural youth.

During this time, researchers at experiment stations of the land-grant college system and USDA saw that adults in the farming community did not readily accept new agricultural discoveries. But, educators found that youth would “experiment” with these new ideas and then share their experiences and successes with the adults.

So rural youth programs became a way to introduce new agriculture technology to the adults. A.B. Graham started one such youth program inOhioin 1902. It is considered the birth of the 4-H program in theU.S.When Congress created the Cooperative Extension Service at USDA in 1914, it included boys’ and girls’ club work. This soon became known as 4-H clubs – Head, Heart, Hands, and Health.

Nearing its 50th anniversary, 4-H began to undergo several changes. In 1948, a group of American young people went toEurope, and a group of Europeans came to theUnited Stateson the first International Farm Youth Exchange. Since then, thousands of young people have participated in 4-H out-of-state trips and international exchanges. 4-H began to extend into urban areas in the 1950’s.

Later, the basic 4-H focus became the personal growth of the member. Life skills development was built into 4-H projects, activities and events to help youth become contributing, productive, self-directed members of society. The organization changed in the 1960’s, combining 4-H groups divided by gender or race into a single integrated program.