Exploring the Oregon State Fair: Dear Mr. Spitzbart

One Man's Lasting Influence

Hundreds of students form a giant 4-H logo
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Hundreds of students participating in the annual 4-H Club Summer School at Oregon State College in Corvallis form the 4-H logo. (Oregon State Fair and Exposition Center)
Leo Spitzbart, manager of the State Fair from 1935 to 1957, grew up in Salem on his father’s prune orchard overlooking the fair. “In fact, he was so close that he could look over the grounds, and it was natural that he was around the grounds a lot,” the Salem Statesman reported in 1955. Spitzbart remembered “the first nickel he ever earned was at the fairgrounds.”

A favorite part of Spitzbart’s job was awarding thousands of scholarships to 4-H students who exhibited their work at the fair. The scholarships allowed students to attend a two-week, 4-H camp at Oregon State University, where Spitzbart received a degree in agriculture. 

In 1948, 4-H awarded 1,800 scholarships worth $24 each, for the 10-day, annual 4-H Summer School on the OSU campus.

Spitzbart's efforts did not go unrecognized. The students who received scholarships during Spitzbart's tenure showed their appreciation by writing countless thank you letters to him, a few of which are shown below. And, Oregon State University now offers the  Leo G. Spitzbart Memorial Scholarship to an outstanding 4-H member who has participated in the State Fair and who plans to attend OSU.

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Read Letters

Here is a sampling of letters written by grateful children to Spitzbart. Click on a letter to enlarge it.


A letter from George Massingle to Leo Spitzbart

George Massingle of Beavercreek wrote this 1943 letter to State Fair Manager Leo Spitzbart about the many 4-H Summer School activities on the campus of Oregon State College. (Oregon State Archives, State Fair Records) Transcript of this letter

A letter from Ida Lou Hagg to Leo Spitzbart

Ida Lou Hagg of Reedville sent this circa 1940s letter to State Fair Manager Leo Spitzbart about trying out to play the piano on KOAC radio on the campus of Oregon State College.  (Oregon State Archives, State Fair Records) Transcript of this letter



A letter from Glen Arnett to Leo Spitzbart

Glen Arnett commented that he couldn't list all of the fun things to do at 4-H Summer School in this 1949 letter to State Fair Manager Leo Spitzbart. (Oregon State Archives, State Fair Records) Transcript of this letter

A letter from Ann Roth to Leo Spitzbart

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Ann Roth marveled at seeing synthetic rubber made "right before out eyes" at 4-H Summer School in this circa 1940s letter to State Fair Manager Leo Spitzbart.  (Oregon State Archives, Oregon Fair Records) Transcript of this letter


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