July 2011 Item of the Month: United States Department of Agriculture #11 (190) Negative No. 29123-B and #10 (190) Negative No. 29127-B

In 1914 Congress created the Cooperative Extension System at USDA which included the work of boys’ and girls’ clubs established to support rural youth and to introduce new agricultural technology to the community.  The clubs were formalized nationally as 4-H (Head, Heart, Hand and Health) Clubs. By 1922, “health took hold in the 4-H program with a health contest in which State Leaders were invited to have their youth select the boy and girl from their delegations whom they deemed healthiest. These candidates were thoroughly examined by physicians from the Elizabeth McCormick Memorial Fund, a health foundation. The idea of presenting a farm boy and a farm girl as the ‘healthiest in the United States’ had an appeal that fired journalistic imaginations and won headlines….the health contest produced more newspaper and magazine space than any other single feature – and in spite of its defects- the contest focused attention on the importance of health to boys and girls. The contest waned after World War II, and the remaining programs in health seemed ‘vague and disparate’.” (From the National 4-H Headquarters Fact Sheet)

The lantern slides of Winners in Girls’ and Boys’ 4-H Club Health Contest, 1923 are part of the Albert E. Wilkinson Collection, Cooperative Extension Service Records.  Wilkinson began serving as Extension Vegetable Gardening Specialist in 1930 and performed the extension duties of the Horticulture Department at the University of Connecticut. Explore the collection guide for the Cooperative Extension Service Records.

Kristin Eshelman, Curator of Multimedia Collections

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