By Hannah Anderson, County Extension Agent, 4-H Youth Development
St. Patrick’s day is coming up, which means that stores are full of green shamrock decorations, or as I see them- green clovers. I enjoy looking at all of these seasonal decorations; sparkly clovers, banners and even clover-shaped glasses. For me, this clover has a different meaning than the celebration of St. Patrick.
The first thing many that comes to mind at the mention of “4-H” to most people is the green, four leaf clover emblem. The emblem has become a familiar symbol to Americans for over 100 years. The four-leaf clover is a symbol of growth for 6 million youth members and over 500,000 volunteers nationwide.
During the early 1900’s, what is now 4-H was given various names – boy’s and girl’s clubs, agricultural clubs, home economics clubs, corn clubs, tomato clubs, cotton clubs, canning clubs, etc. The first emblem design used for boy’s and girl’s clubs was a three-leaf clover, introduced in 1907 by O.H. Benson of Iowa. By 1909 some of these groups were called 3-H clubs, and in 1911 the name of 4-H was adopted.
The three-leaf clover emblem was used on pins and the three H’s stood for head, heart, and hands. A few years later, a four-leaf clover design was introduced rather than the previous three-leaf. Benson said that the H’s should stand for “head, heart, hands, and hustle…head trained to be useful, helpful and skillful, and the hustle to render ready service to develop health and vitality…” At a meeting in Washington, DC in 1911, club leaders adopted the present 4-H design, a green four-leaf clover with a white H on each leaf. O.B. Martin, South Carolina, suggested that the 4-H’s stand for head, heart, hands and health to represent the equal training of each in every child.
If you are like me, next time you see green clover decorations in the month of March, you might think of the 4-H emblem instead of St. Patrick.
K-State Research and Extension, Harvey County
Courthouse, PO Box 583, Newton, KS 67114-0583