Iowa 4-H Foundation

Posted on April 6, 2011 at 12:45 PM by Global Reach

O.H. BensonO. H. Benson - Wright County, Iowa School Superintendent

4-H Efforts: Benson helped to establish agriculture and domestic science in Wright County Iowa schools. Along with Jessie Field in Page County, he began to use a 3 leaf clover symbol in his youth work. At the Farmers' Cooperative Extension Work office in Washington, he helped to establish the 4-H clover symbol and the meaning of Head, Heart, Hands and Health.

"The Boys' and Girls' Demonstration work represents a 'four-Square' training of the members of the 'Four-Square' needs of citizenship and home- life. The four H's represent the equal training of the head, heart, hands, and health of every child." - From a 1912 circular prepared by O.H. Benson and O.B. Martin.

Oscar H. Benson became Wright County school superintendent in 1906. As a school teacher, Benson was recognized for introducing agriculture and domestic science into his teaching. While superintendent, he pushed to include agriculture and domestic science into elementary school work. He encouraged students to exhibit their work at school fairs, much as 4-H'ers do today. Benson and Jessie Field in Page County created a 3 leaf clover symbol on pins and pennants awarded to students. In 1909 the clover design included an "H" on each leaf for Head, Heart, and Hand, and an ear of corn at the center. Benson went to work at the Farmers' Cooperative Extension Work office in Washington, DC in 1911.

As Benson traveled the country for Cooperative Extension and spoke to groups, he began to speak of a fourth H - "Hustle." Boys and girls club leaders meeting in Washington adopted the 4-H symbol in spring of 1911, along with O.B. Martin's suggestion that the fourth "H" stand for Health. Benson later created 4-H clover pins for youth demonstration work. Benson moved to the Office of Farm Management in 1912 as the first federal agent employed to develop boys' and girls' club work in the North and West. He established some cooperative agreements with state youth programs, leading to the inclusion of youth work in the 1914 legislation that created the Cooperative Extension Service.

Tribute Gift

Oscar Benson is the older brother of my Great Grandfather(Clarence). What a great work he accomplished in his life in education that continues today and into the future. Your work inspires me as a teacher, Uncle Oscar!
Joanna Tapasa | 3/20/23 at 3:16 AM
Oscar Benson was my Great Uncle and my Dad (Hugh Benson) spoke of him often. We are proud that Uncle Oscar began something so significant and enduring. 4H has had a tremendous impact on generations of children. Thanks, Uncle Oscar!
Lisa Benson Ray | 3/20/23 at 3:16 AM
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