A Brief History of 4-H: A Visual Timeline - Modern Farmer

A Brief History of 4-H: A Visual Timeline

A look through 4-H's past.

1912 Marius Malgren, who joined one of the many young-farmer clubs that would eventually coalesce into 4-H, poses atop the 209 bushels of corn he coaxed from a single acre in Hickory, VA - at a time when the national per-acre yield averaged only 29 bushels.

1912

Marius Malgren, who joined one of the many young-farmer clubs that would eventually coalesce into 4-H, poses atop the 209 bushels of corn he coaxed from a single acre in Hickory, VA – at a time when the national per-acre yield averaged only 29 bushels.

This timeline accompanies 4-H: Indoctrination Nation, from our summer 2017 issue.

1921 Harold Willey (left), an agri- cultural agent, helps 4-H member Forest Kellison treat his sheep for parasites in Virginia's Pocahontas County. A decade or so later, ag agents would prove key to convincing 4-H parents to adopt government- recommended practices.

1921
Harold Willey (left), an agri- cultural agent, helps 4-H member Forest Kellison treat his sheep for parasites in Virginia’s Pocahontas County. A decade or so later, ag agents would prove key to convincing 4-H parents to adopt government- recommended practices.

1927 At the first National 4-H Camp in Washington, D.C., attendees from 41 states pitched tents outside USDA headquarters. Today, delegates sleep at the National 4-H Center in Chevy Chase, MD, and present briefings to federal officials on Capitol Hill.

1927
At the first National 4-H Camp in Washington, D.C., attendees from 41 states pitched tents outside USDA headquarters. Today, delegates sleep at the National 4-H Center in Chevy Chase, MD, and present briefings to federal officials on Capitol Hill.

1929
4-H girls in North Carolina learn to preserve fruits and vegetables. The following year, a manual from the Iowa Extension Service (above right) depicts the female 4-H ideal as an impractically dressed Little Bo Peep look-alike, trapped inside a glass jar.

1938
An overall-wearing 4-H participant in Seward County, NE, weighs his baby beef cow. Now the use of growth hormones is a prevalent 4-H practice.

1940
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and wife Eleanor visit with national 4-H delegates, a tradition that began with Herbert Hoover and continues to this day. 4-H’s oldest living alum, Martha Ann Miller, age 105, fondly recalls swinging her legs as she sat atop Hoover’s desk.

1940s
During World War II,4-H posters encourage young patriots to support troops abroad by spurring food production at home. The resulting victory gardens went on to seed the organization’s early urban clubs.

1950s
North Carolina 4-H members William (left) and Cecil Brown share pasture-improvement advice. Despite the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, 4-H will remain segregated until the 1964 passage of the Civil Rights Act.

1961
Insensitive cultural appropriation takes center stage at a 4-H camp. Eventually, a 2002 dustup between West Virginia 4-H and concerned Native American groups will put an end to face painting, feather headdresses, and “stereotypical motions and dances.”

1963
A Guatemalan club member instructs Salvadoran President Lieutenant Colonel Julio Adalberto Rivera on proper poultry inoculation. Since World War II, America has used its international 4-H chapters to spread an anti-communist, pro-agribusiness agenda to more than 70 foreign countries.

1986
The TV series Blue Sky Below My Feet – a collaboration with NASA that was partly shot at the Johnson Space Center in Houston – features 4-H alumni who became astronauts.

1988
4-H’s “Bedford-Stuyvesant Beautifiers” line the streets of their Brooklyn neighborhood with flower-filled planters. More than half of current 4-H members live in cities and suburbs.

2017
Budding farmers in Franklin, TN, learn that a drone can detect cows in heat and pastures in need of replanting – all part of 4-H’s increased focus on the core STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math.

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