2018 4-H Youth Conference Workshop

This week the Iowa 4-H Youth Conference came to campus. This is an annual event that occurs every June. Approximately 900 teenagers descend onto Iowa State University’s campus for three days filled with workshops, speakers, community service activities, and an assortment of social events. This year, I partnered with Iowa State University Library Instruction Librarian Cara Stone and offered a workshop about preserving family history. Our goals were to help participants identify past, present, and future artifacts. We also addressed basic ways they could keep their stuff safe and provided resources for further information on both preservation resources and what cultural heritage institutions reside in the state.

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We had a great time with the 4-H youths and hope they had fun also, and learned a little too, of course.

National Ag Day 2017

black-and-white photograph, young woman on tractor in field.
Extension photograph from University Photographs

Today is National Ag Day 2017. National Ag Day is organized by the Agriculture Council of America (ACA), you can check them out on their Facebook page. ACA is a nonprofit organization composed of leaders in the agricultural, food and fiber community. The ACA was founded in 1973, and their mission is:

To educate all American’s about the importance of American Agriculture.

In celebration of National Ag Day, check out some of our agricultural collections.

4-H boys and girls posing with their sheep
Extension photograph from University Photographs

Drop in some time to do some research. Our reading room is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

New Exhibit Highlights Iowa Pioneers in Cooperative Extension

May 8 marked the Centennial of the Smith-Lever Act, or Agriculture Extension Act, passed by the United State Congress in 1914, creating a nationwide system of cooperative extension services that provide outreach activities through land-grant universities.

Perry Holden seated at a desk covered in papers and ears of corn.
Perry Holden, circa 1903-1912, seated at desk with papers and ears of corn. University Photograph Collection, Box 1360, Folder 6.

In celebration, the Special Collections Department at the Iowa State University Library put together a small exhibit on Extension pioneers in Iowa before and after the Smith-Lever Act. Iowa, in fact, was a leader among the states in Extension activity. In 1906, the Iowa General Assembly appropriated funds to establish a Department of Extension at Iowa State College eight years before Smith-Lever, but the earliest activities that would become the Cooperative Extension Service began even earlier. Let’s look at the stories of two Iowa pioneers in Extension work: Perry G. Holden and Jessie Field Shambaugh.

Perry G. Holden, known for his energy and charisma, has been called the “father of Extension in Iowa.” At the recommendation of a former colleague, he was hired by Iowa State College to teach a trial section on corn as part of a short course offered to farmers on new agricultural methods. The committee did not believe farmers would be interested in such a boring subject as corn production, but when Holden arrived with his charts, demonstration materials, and engaging personality, the farmers demanded more! When President Beardshear got wind of this, he hired Holden as a full-time professor of agronomy, and he was able to continue his outreach activities to farmers.

Holden is perhaps best known for his “Seed Corn Gospel Trains.” He used the train cars as traveling exhibit and lecture halls to reach masses of people, demonstrating his methods of testing seed corn in order to improve crop yields. Stopping in designated rail stations, he brought the research of the university out to the farmers where they were. The first tour began April 18, 1904, making 50 stops between Gowrie and Estherville. By his own estimate, Holden lectured to three thousand people during his first tour. The trains drew such large crowds that sometimes the train car windows had to be opened so that people outside the cars could listen.

Group of farmers stand on tracks outside a train car, while a man lectures to them from the platform.
Oat Train stop in Waukon, Iowa, 1911. Overflow of farmers who couldn’t get on the train were lectured by Paul C. Taff, later Assistant Director of Iowa State Extension Service, while he was still a student at Iowa State College. University Photograph Collection, Box 1364, Folder 2.

In 1906, Holden was appointed the first superintendent of Extension, a post he held until 1912 when he left to run for governor of Iowa. During his tenure, he established the three main branches of outreach that formed the core of early Extension work in Iowa: demonstration farms, short courses, and education trains.

Portrait of Jessie Field Shambaugh as a young woman, holding a bouquet of flowers.
Jessie Field Shambaugh, ca. 1906-1912. RS 16/3/60, Box 2, Folder 4.

Jessie Field Shambaugh, or “Miss Jessie” as she was known to her students at the Goldenrod School, is regarded as the “Mother of 4-H.” Born in 1881 in Clarinda, Iowa, Shambaugh began her teaching career in 1901 at the age of 19. The Goldenrod School in Page County, Iowa provided her the opportunity to innovate in something she felt passionate about – rural education for rural children. While at Goldenrod School, students took courses related to farming and homemaking. This practical approach to education garnered enthusiasm in the community and among the students. At the school, Shambaugh organized “Boys’ Corn Clubs” and “Girls’ Home Clubs,” and as county superintendent in 1906 she expanded these into the regular curriculum for 130 rural schools. Goldenrod School is credited as being the “birthplace of 4-H.”

From these boys’ and girls’ clubs came the 4-H clubs. In 1906, Shambaugh created the three-leaf clover pin to encourage children to participate in Junior Achievement Shows. Each leaf contained an “H,” which stood for “Head, Heart, and Hands.” Like 4-H, the 3-H motto was “Learning by Doing, to Make the Best Better.” Not long after, a fourth leaf was added, with its “H” standing for “Home.”

Tents among trees at the Boys Farm Camp.
Boys Farm Camp, set up by Miss Jessie Field, 1910. University Photograph Collection, Box 1349, Folder 3.

Jessie Field Shambaugh held the first Farm Camp in 1910. This was the forerunner to today’s 4-H camps, and was for boys only. The following year, she held the first girl’s camp, the Camp of the Golden Maids, as the girls thought they should have the same opportunity. Each of these camps focused on different roles in rural life. At Farm Camp, the boys judged corn and horses, took classes in grain study and rope tying, practiced military drills, and played baseball. The Golden Maids cooked, sewed, and learned how to keep a proper home. Today, 4-H clubs and camps are coeducational and the boys and girls have the same opportunities open to them.

Cover of program booklet for "Third Annual Iowa Boys and Girls Club Contest" showing a drawing of a boy in a corn field and a girl in a kitchen.
Cover of the “Third Annual Iowa Boys and Girls Club Contest” program booklet, 1912. RS 16/3/56, Box 1, Folder 16.

These are just some highlights from the exhibit. We hope you stop by Special Collections to see the full exhibit!

To learn more about Extension collections in the Special Collections Department, visit our University Archives Collection Inventory page for Extension as well as our Extension subject guide.


What’s that? You don’t like 4-H? Are you crazy or something?

This month your usual reporter, Laura, is getting a break. Instead you get to read about the exciting world of the University Archives from me, Brad Kuennen, Library Assistant. Please note: Laura had nothing to do with this blog post other than asking me to do it. She may yet regret that decision.

This week Iowa State welcomes over 1000 teenagers to our campus for the 2012 Iowa 4-H Youth Conference. In honor of their visit I will be sharing my 4-H story, though it is pretty much limited to working with the historic 4-H records that we have here in the archives.

I’ll admit it, I was never in 4-H. I never wanted to be in 4-H. I never much cared for livestock or animals. When I was younger the barns were the one place I used to stay far away from when our family went to the county fair. Maybe it was just the smell, but I always preferred the tractor sheds to the animal barns.

So you can imagine my less than enthusiastic response when I learned that I was being assigned to organize our Iowa 4-H records. That was over two years ago and now that the work is finished I have to admit that I have gained newfound respect for 4-H.

Jessie Field Shambaugh
Jessie Field Shambaugh. In 1904 she brought the idea of boys and girls clubs to her school in Page County, Iowa.

As every good 4-Her knows, 4-H was started in Iowa. Well, not really. Apparently someone in Ohio beat us to the punch, but Iowans played a crucial role in the development of the 4-H movement. Iowans like Cap E. Miller, Jessie Field Shambaugh, and O. H. Benson helped guide the movement of “club work” for rural youth from a local level to one of statewide and national recognition. Even today, Iowa maintains one of the strongest 4-H programs in the country which is definitely something we can be proud of.

In the early years of 4-H in Iowa, the clubs were strictly separated between boys and girls. Boys studied agriculture and girls studied home economics. Boys competed in livestock shows and corn growing while girls competed in baking contests and dressmaking. There may have been some girls who showed livestock, but that was very unusual at that time.

One of the best parts about going through our earliest records is looking at all of the photographs. Each annual report, and there was one report made for boys clubs and one for girls clubs every year, is full of photographs, reports, and programs. Our collection of Iowa 4-H records also includes scrapbooks created by the State 4-H Club Historians. Sorry guys, but the girls tended to do a much better job of scrapbooking than you did. One notable exception is a photo scrapbook created by Paul Sauerbry which provides a wonderful account of 4-H in the 1920s. Sauerbry was a member of the 1928 Iowa delegation to the National 4-H Camp and must have created this scrapbook several years later.

1929 National 4-H Camp Delegation from Iowa
1929 Iowa Delegation to the National 4-H Camp. Paul Sauerbry, who makes a mean scrapbook, stands second from the right.

As I was working with these materials I caught myself thinking about what life must have been like on a farm in rural Iowa. For most kids life was the farm. Sure, there was school to go to, but after school was finished there were a lot of chores to finish on the farm. Socializing with the kids down the road was probably not an option most afternoons. When boys and girls clubs were introduced, it had to be very exciting for the kids. Yes, they were going to learn some useful skills, but the club meetings also provided an opportunity to socialize. At a time when many farms were still without telephones and electricity, the chance to talk with other kids must have been quite a treat! And the trips some kids got to take! A lot of kids at that time hardly ever left their own county, but during the summertime hundreds of kids would gather at Iowa State for the annual convention. And each year several lucky kids would get a chance to attend the National 4-H Congress in Chicago or attend the National 4-H Camp in Washington D.C. In the 1920s and 1930s, that had to be an amazing experience!

Iowa 4-H Girls Convention 1929
Photograph of Iowa girls 4-H members who attended the 1929 annual convention. This formation was created on the lawn in front of the home economics building at Iowa State.

Going through the boxes I came across some other books. These had me a little confused. They looked like scrapbooks, but they were full of project records and some had photos and writings. I was told by our resident 4-H expert (so titled because she was in 4-H as a youngster) that these were record books. As it turns out we have record books of several former members. The James Kearns Papers contain his 1934 award-winning record book along with many of his medals and ribbons.

James Kearns Record Book and Artifacts
A page from the 4-H record book of James Kearns along with his beanie hat from the 1934 National 4-H Congress and other medals and ribbons.

Speaking of medals and ribbons and stuff, the University Artifact Collection also contains dozens of other 4-H items. For example, we have samples of each of the incarnations of the girls’ 4-H uniform through the years. The early dresses were all homemade. Other artifacts in our collections include pins, buttons, belt buckles, mugs… the list goes on and on.

4-H Poultry Club, circa 1920s
4-H Poultry Club, circa 1920s. This image is from the Paul Sauerbry 4-H Scrapbook.

If I have learned one thing about 4-H after spending many hours waist-deep in these records it’s that my perception of 4-H was completely wrong. I always assumed it was just for people who liked to take a nap with farm animals at the county fair. Don’t get me wrong, it is for those people, but for so many others as well. What struck me most was that aspect that has been a part of 4-H since the earliest days–teaching children and young adults about leadership, responsibility, and taking pride in one’s work. That pride is evident on the faces of kids from the 1920s and, I can only imagine, will be displayed just as cheerfully on the faces of kids in the 2020s.

If you have Iowa 4-H records or artifacts you would like to donate to the University Archives, please contact us. We would love to give those materials a permanent home here so that future researchers can look back in time and see what role 4-H played in the lives of Iowa’s youth.

Head, Heart, Hands, and Health: The Iowa 4-H Experience

We are excited to announce that we now have a new exhibit in our Reading Room:  “Head, Heart, Hands, and Health: The Iowa 4-H Experience”.  Read about and see some fun artifacts related to the history of 4-H:  4-H camp, the 4-H emblem, state conferences, early 4-H pioneers who were influential in its formation, and 4-H uniforms.  Although there is no longer really an official 4-H uniform for 4-H, in years gone by 4-Hers were required to wear uniforms – we even have an example of a 4-H uniform for you to see in the exhibit!

During the early state 4-H conferences, the attendees would have a group photograph in a different formation every year.  In 1934, it was the state of Iowa enclosing 4 H’s.  The photograph was taken on central campus.  Beardshear and the Campanile can be seen in the background.  The exhibit contains examples of more formations.

Iowa was extremely influential in the formation and development of 4-H.  The origins of 4-H clubs in Iowa can be traced back decades before the formation of the Extension Service and the formal organization of what we now know as 4-H Clubs. Interest in agricultural training for youth started as early as 1857 when the Iowa State Agricultural Society conducted a statewide corn growing contest for boys. This contest established some of the principles that were later used in the formation of 4-H: a contest was organized, a record of the project work was kept, the work was supervised, and a report was made. Subsequent contests were commonly held by institutes and fairs to provide educational and competitive opportunities for rural youth. Contests were also conducted by newspapers and agricultural magazines such as Wallace’s Farmer and Successful Farming.

1929 Annual Iowa 4-H Girls’ Convention formation.  Margaret Hall (burned in 1938) can be seen on the left, and Mackay Hall in the background.  For more information on the state 4-H conventions, see our earlier blog post.

In 1902, A. B. Graham in Ohio began formalizing clubs for boys and girls to promote vocational agriculture as an extracurricular activity. His clubs, considered to be the founding clubs of 4-H, incorporated meetings, officers, and projects. In Iowa, Cap E. Miller, superintendent of schools in Keokuk County, was an early adopter of boys and girls club work. He began organizing Boys Agricultural Clubs and Girls Home Culture Clubs as early as 1903. O. H. Benson of Wright County and Jessie Field Shambaugh of Page County quickly adopted the club idea as well. Both would make major contributions to 4-H. Shambaugh wrote the “Country Girls Creed” and Benson is credited with creating the 3-H and later helping to create the 4-H clover emblem which became the official emblem of 4-H.

For more on the history of 4-H in Iowa, please take a look at the historical note in the Iowa State University 4-H Youth Development Records.  And then come on up to see our exhibit in the Special Collections Department Reading Room, located on the 4th floor of Parks Library!

For their help in putting this exhibit together, we would like to thank:

  • Suzanne LeSar and the Department of Apparel, Educational Studies, and Hospitality Management
  • Phyllis Mondt and Iowa 4-H Youth Development

Women’s Suffrage and the 1920 Iowa State Fair

Margaret Dougherty and Blanche Kreiter, 1921 Champion 4H clothing demonstration

August 26th of this year, when the 19th amendment became law, marks the 90th anniversary of women’s right to vote.  What were Iowa women doing on August 26th, 1920?  Some were attending the Iowa State Fair!  August 26th was the second day of the 66th annual Iowa State Fair, which was held from August 25th through September 3rd in 1920.  Did fair goers in Iowa know about the passage of the 19th amendment when attending the fair?  I did not find any mention of women’s suffrage or the 19th amendment in the records I went through, but we can see a little bit of what young women were doing in 1920 at the State Fair, and in the years following the passage of the amendment, in the Iowa 4H Records (RS 16/3/4).  This collection includes the Iowa 4-H Girls’ Clubs Annual Reports.  (The finding aid/collection description for this collection is not yet online, but will be shortly.)  Perhaps more out of coincidence than anything else, the first annual report for Iowa girls’ clubs was produced the same year as the passage of the 19th amendment (1920).

1923 Clothing Garment Demonstration

4H, then as now, provides hands-on experiences to help young people reach their full potential and includes opportunities for youth to develop their leadership skills. In the early part of the 20th century 4H was a great way for young women to advance their leadership skills, and learn what they were capable of, in order to more fully take advantage of their newly won right to vote.  The 1920 Annual Report of 4-H Girls Club Work is also a wonderful window into the beginnings of 4H clubs.  According to the writer of the report, very few if any girls’ clubs existed in Iowa on April 1st, 1920, and those which did existed only on a temporary basis, mostly in the spring and summer.  The early 4H Girls’ Clubs in Iowa were divided into 5 different groups: canning, food study, meal preparation, garment making, and own your own room.

The 1920 Annual Report briefly mentions what the 4H girls did at the 1920 Iowa State Fair.  There were:

  • 9 canning demonstrations
  • 6 garment demonstrations
  • 4 meal preparation demonstrations
  • 5 food preparation demonstrations
  • 6 Own Your Own Room Demonstrations

In addition, the annual report states that “A Boys’ and Girls’ club Pageant was put on one day of the Fair. The girls’ club department had five floats.  A float all in while labeled ‘The Queen of the Home’ headed the girls.  One of the mothers all in white sat on her throne.  The three girls all in white, the sunshine of the home, holding the reins.”  Even though this first annual report of 1920 does not contain photographs, our university photograph collection does contain an image of the Queen of the Home float, pictured  below.

The Iowa 4H Records also contain the historian books for Iowa 4H Girls’ Clubs.  The historians books begin in 1921 and contain more detailed information on 4H activities, including the Iowa State Fair.

State 4-H Conferences: conference programs and the history they tell

1929 Annual 4-H Girls' Convention General Assembly held in the State Gym.
Programs for the boys' short courses

This week, starting today, over 1,000 4-H members will be coming to the Iowa State University campus for the State 4-H Conference (June 29-July 1).  The history of the state 4-H conferences has been tied to the Iowa State campus since at least 1916, since the state conference (then called a short course) was held here at Iowa State in 1916. Then, as now, faculty and staff here at Iowa State actively took part in the state conference. In fact, on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, our collections archivist will be giving a workshop and tour of our department for State 4-H Conference attendees.

The Special Collections Department here at Iowa State University holds records documenting the history of 4-H, especially here in Iowa. One can even find out a little about the history of Iowa’s state 4-H short courses, conventions, and conferences by just looking at the conference programs.

Programs for the girls' short courses and convention

The  short courses (patterned after the Extension’s short courses for adults) began around 1916.  The year 1916 is used since this is the first short course program for 4-H members in our collection. More digging in the archives is necessary to find out if this is actually the first year an annual meeting was held! It is interesting to note that the 1916 Junior Short Course was for both boys and girls, although with separate programs for each. There was a home economics program for girls, which included cooking, literature, recreation, first aid and an excursion to the dairy building.  The boys attended an agricultural program which included lessons on construction (concrete floor and electric wiring), soils, sheep and pigs, first aid, and the use and care of farm machinery. The 1916 Junior Short Course was held January 31 through February 5 in Morrill Hall.

Program for the 1916 Junior Short Course

The next year, in 1917, separate short courses for boys and girls began.  However, the boys’ and girls’ short courses were held at the same time and some of the activities were for both boys and girls. These early girls’ and boys’ short courses were not, however, held in the month of June.  Instead, they gathered here at ISU in the winter, sometime in the cold months of December, January or February.

The first conference (then called a convention) held in 1928. For many years, the group photo of the girls attending were in a formation. The caption reads "First Annual Iowa 4-H Girls Convention, June 11-15, 1928, Iowa State College, Ames, Iowa."

The first actual convention for girls was held June 11-15, 1928, and it appears that this was the first time the state meeting was held in June.  The boys continued to hold short courses (except for a brief period of time when they had short courses and a convention in the late 1930s and early 1940s).  Another interesting aspect to note is that when the girls started having conventions instead of short courses, the annual meetings for boys and girls usually did not fall on the same days.  Sometimes the boys had their meetings in June, and at other times in midwinter as before. Finally, the first State 4-H Conference, for both boys and girls, was held June 12-15, 1962.

There’s a lot more that could be learned from looking at the state 4-H meeting programs, but I’ll stop here. Come and visit us if you would like to learn more.  Please note, however, that for now, the collection where most of the programs reside (RS 16/3/4) is in the process of being put together for public use (what archivists call processing), but if you ask we can bring the boxes out for you to look at. Most of the finding aids for processed 4-H collections can be found online: http://www.lib.iastate.edu/spcl/arch/inventories/16extension.html. Scroll down past the Extension collections for the 4-H records, which include historian books and other records for Story County 4-H, record books, photographs, and scrapbooks. 4-H records can also be found in the records of organizations and individuals involved in 4-H, such as the Burchett Papers which were described in earlier posts.

Images from the Burchett Papers

Below are a few images from the Burchett Papers (MS-355) described in the previous post.  Hopefully it will be remembered next time to include images with the original text!

Wayne Burchett, 10 years old, in the spring of 1930 with his first 4-H Hereford calf which was shown at the Iowa State Fair. Records related to the cattle on the farm can be found in the cattle and farm operations folders.

This is the original Orval and Alice Burchett homestead where Wayne grew up.

Showing the compassion and helpfulness which continues to this day among Iowa farmers, this image shows a group of neighbors and friends (the Burchetts included) coming to together to help their neighbor Mary Palmer harvest her family’s corn crop soon after her husband had died.

It is always fun to find images of Iowa State in the manuscript collections outside of the University Archives records.  Here is a group of 4Hers at a state convention, standing outside of Friley Residence Hall.  At least one of Wayne and Gayle’s daughters are probably in the photograph, since both were members and Gayle was a 4H leader for the Richland Ridge Runners.  A folder related to the family’s 4H activities and Cathy Burchett’s record books are included in the collection.

This is an interesting little cookbook that was given out to brides by the Merchants of Bakersfield (based in California). It’s unclear who this originally belonged to, but the book was published around the end of World War I. Inside is a copy of a 1918 endorsement written by the Home Economics Department of the United States Food Administration for California certifying that the recipes follow food conservation principles, allowing the housewife to perform her patriotic duty.

The poem on the cover reads:
We may live without poetry, music and art;
We may live without consciences and live without hearts.
We may live without friends, we may life without books;
But civilized men cannot live without cooks.
-Owen Meredith

For more information on the Wayne O. and Gayle Carns Burchett Papers, please see the finding aid on the Special Collections webpage.

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