Recently made available online as part of the “Better Living in North Carolina” collection, a collaborative project between NCSU Libraries and the F.D. Bluford Library at North Carolina A&T State University, are over 300 4-H Club publications dating from the 1930s through to the 1980s. These publications cover a wide array of topics and formats, from monthly newsletters highlighting the activities of the state 4-H office to leaflets and pamphlets instructing readers on how to iron their clothes, efficiently arrange their bedroom, or prepare their cattle to be exhibited at events like the National Dairy Show. The objective of the “Better Living” project is to make digitally accessible the annual reports and publications of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, the body that administers 4-H club work and is itself based at both NC State and NC A&T. While this collection does not represent the entirety of 4-H club publications from this time period, it does show the wide array of areas of instruction that were offered to youth throughout the state. Prior to the internet, these publications may have been the only way young North Carolinians could get the latest information about topics that could improve their agricultural and domestic activities or learn when the annual 4-H summer camps were taking place. Here we have selected a few items which cover the different types of 4-H publications in our collection.
This newsletter from 1972 was used to keep 4-H club agents up-to-date on the latest news from the state’s head office, which they were then to disseminate to club leaders and members. This issue includes a reminder about a scholarship deadline, a request for slides to be used in a collage highlighting efforts to improve the environment, and the advertisement of a 4-H member summer exchange with Dubois County, Indiana.
In 1985, the Cooperative Extension Service (then known as the Agricultural Extension Service) rebooted its 4-H newsletter. The result of this was Communicating 4-H, which was similar in appearance and content to 4-H News. The target audience remained extension agents, but the newsletters were longer, opening with short essays from different individuals linked to 4-H and containing more news bulletins and advertisements, reflective of the organization’s expanded programming. This example from April 1988 offers a rumination on the importance of developing good citizenship traits, an advertisement for space camp, and a list of leaders recently certified as “Master Volunteers.”
4-Hward preceded both of these publications, beginning in the 1940s. While it did act as a newsletter for 4-H agents, it was primarily filled with programming content for their meetings, such as songs, poems, and exercises and activities. Each year, a special camp issue was published, which would guide counselors through the camp program, including the daily schedule, their responsibilities, and how meetings and ceremonies were to be conducted. This issue from 1954 even contains instructions on square dancing.
The 4-H Club Series began publication in the 1930s. Its purpose was to instruct 4-H youth on various aspects of agricultural and domestic life, and over its approximate 30 year history, covered myriad topics. The ones shown here, the “Fat Steer Manual,” “Tree Identification Manual,” and “Canning,” are a fraction of what is now available online.
These photos and lots more related to 4-H club publications are available as part of the NCSU Libraries’ Rare and Unique Digital Collections, which provides access to thousands of images, video, audio recordings, and textual materials documenting NC State history and other topics. While you’re at it, check out the Historical State timeline on the Cooperative Extension Service. The history of 4-H in North Carolina was further documented as part of the SCRC’s “Green ‘N’ Growing” project, and can be found here. Finally, 4-H is still going strong in North Carolina. More details about their current programing and resources can be found on their website.