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James F. Kearns papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: RS 16/3/66

Scope and Content

This collection (1926-2004) contains 4-H records of James F. Kearns, including artifacts, biographical information, essays, newspaper clippings, photographs, programs, and a record book. Biographical information includes newspaper clippings regarding his 4-H activities, a college resume, and a letter from his daughter, Betty Jane Kearns. Betty Jane also donated a transcribed copy of one of James’ 4-H essays in which she added a footnote containing information about Kearns’ career after his graduation from Iowa State.

Kearns’ 4-H record book is an excellent example of the kinds of records kept by 4-H members and documents the activities and events Kearns participated in as a member of 4-H. The record book contains lists of his livestock entries at the Iowa State Fair, letters of recommendation, record books for corn and livestock projects, program meeting booklets for local 4-H club meetings, listings of club activities Kearns participated in from 1926-1934, photographs of livestock projects and farm activities, news clippings documenting his work in 4-H, and ribbons (many of them folded) won from showing livestock.

The trip the Iowa delegates made in 1934 to Washington, D.C., for the National 4-H Camp is documented quite well by Kearns. The bus ride out was shared by delegates from several Midwestern states and Kearns collected many photos of the delegates as well as cities and sites along the route, including Chicago, Niagara Falls, Philadelphia, and the camp at Washington, D.C. Other related materials include a program, a directory, and newsletters circulated at the National 4-H Camp.

The collection also contains a number of interesting and unique artifacts related to Kearns’ 4-H work. These items include the beanie Kearns received as a delegate to the National 4-H Congress, Iowa State Fair ribbons, a leather billfold containing an identification card with Kearns’ information, a National Dairy Exposition medal, and various 4-H ribbons, medals, and pins.


  • 1926-2004

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Open for research.

Use/Re-use Restrictions

Consult Special Collections and University Archives


James F. Kearns was born May 24, 1914, to Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Kearns of Fort Dodge, Iowa. When he was five, his parents moved to and rented a farm near Duncombe in Webster County. As a youth, he joined 4-H as a member of the Duncombe Hawkeye Livestock Club where he completed projects related to corn, pigs, horses, beef cattle, dairy cattle, and forestry. He served as Secretary (1934) of the Iowa State Boys’ 4-H Club and was one of the Iowa representatives to the National 4-H Club Congress in Chicago (1934). Kearns was also one of four chosen to be an Iowa Delegate (1934) to the National 4-H Camp (National Conference) in Washington D.C. He received this honor by submitting his 4-H record book to a contest sponsored by the Des Moines Register and Tribune.

Kearns earned his B.S. (1939) in animal husbandry from Iowa State College (University). After graduation, he was hired by the Iowa State College Extension Service as the 4-H club agent in Jones County. He was later named County Agent. He eventually went into farming and raised Guernsey cattle, beef cattle, and hogs. While guiding his daughters through 4-H projects, Kearns remained active in 4-H himself, serving as chairman of the Story County Extension Council. He later returned to work for the Extension Service and retired as Adams County Extension Director.

Kearns passed away in 1999 from Parkinson’s disease.


1.6 Linear Feet (1 half-document box and 1 oversize box)


This collection is organized Alphabetically.

Items in related collections

RS 16/3. Iowa State University. Cooperative Extension Service in Agriculture and Home Economics records

Processing Information

Released on 2018-11-01.

RS 16/3/66. James F. Kearns papers, 1926-2004
January 23, 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives Repository

403 Parks Library
701 Morrill Road
Iowa State University
Ames Iowa 50011-2102 United States
(515) 294-6672