History of the 4-H Clover

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     Happy St. Patrick’s Day! This holiday is often associated with shamrocks, which are 3 leaf clovers. But what about the infamous 4 leaf clover associated with 4-H? How was a 4 leaf clover chosen as the organization’s emblem? 

     According to the National 4-H History Preservation Program, the clover leaf became the emblem around 1907. This first emblem was only a 3 leaf clover, but by 1908 it became the 4 leaf clover that we know today.

The 4-H Logo over time

“As the story goes, one sunny June morning in 1906 at a one-room country school near Clarion, Iowa, 11 pupils were spending their recess outside searching for four-leaf clovers. They had plucked seven clovers when a visitor drove up, the Superintendent of schools. At the teacher’s suggestion, the children surrendered their good luck charms and placed the seven clovers into the hands of the superintendent. He said, “I’ve been looking for an emblem for the agricultural clubs and the schools of the county, 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 known as “four-square education,” which was based upon education, physical, moral, and fellowship development.

Although a good story, it may not be totally accurate as in 1907 Benson had designed, along with Jessie Field Shambaugh, from Page County, Iowa, a 3-leaf clover with “H’s” standing for Head, Heart and Hands which was used as an emblem on several different items. Nonetheless, the H’s and the clover emblem – regardless of whether we’re talking three leaves or four leaves – is credited to O. H. Benson and to Clarion, Iowa.

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, at a meeting of club leaders in Washington, DC they approved the present 4-H design. O.B. Martin is credited with suggesting that the H’s signify Head, Heart, Hands and Health – universally used since then.”

To learn more about the history of 4-H check out 4-Hhistorypreservation.com. Contact our 4-H Agent, Hannah Peeler if you have questions about local youth development programs.



Compiled by National 4-H History Preservation Team. (2012, January 1). 4-H emblem. 4H History Preservation News