Thomas E. Wilson Day
Thomas E. Wilson Day was a key event during the National 4-H Congress week in Chicago from 1921 – 1958. J. Alice Smith’s “Thomas E. Wilson Day” pennant, program, and souvenir booklet became valued keepsakes Alice treasured from her “Chicago” experience.
Thomas E. Wilson was one of the founders of the National Committee on Boys’ and Girls’ Club Work; the entity that created the National 4-H Congress. He served as the Committee’s President from 1924 – 1958 when he passed away. Wilson was also the founder of Wilson and Company, the third largest meat packing company in the country and creator of Wilson Sporting Goods, one of the most recognizable brand names in the world.
Beginning in 1917, as a means to market his company, Wilson invited Extension Youth Club Members attending Chicago’s annual National Livestock Show to spend the day with him, touring his company and other points of interest in the Chicago area. It was only natural that when the National Committee on Boys’ and Girls’ Club Work organized their first National 4-H Congress, the schedule would include a “Thomas E. Wilson Day.”
Wilson took great pride and enjoyment in meeting these young people, especially after his company began sponsoring National 4-H Congress trips the young people could win. For his “day” during the Congress event, he continued to fill it with educational tours and concluded it with a huge banquet followed by an evening of entertainment. The Wilson Day banquet became noted for the guest appearances that Wilson arranged of famous people, such as aviator Amelia Earhart, explorer Admiral Richard E. Byrd, baseball legend Ted Williams and Hollywood star James Cagney to name only a few.
See also National 4-H History Preservation website for more information.