Linden Scheff no longer has the blue corduroy jacket he wore to the National FFA Convention when he was a member of the Fredericktown, Ohio, FFA. “That jacket would be 85 years old,” he points out. Scheff, who is now 99 years old, didn’t realize at the time how historic his jacket would come to be. Neither did his fellow FFA member, Neil Overly, who is also 99.
Back in 1933, their FFA advisor, J.H. “Gus” Lintner, came up with the idea for FFA jackets. He simply didn’t want members of the local FFA band to get cold when they traveled to Kansas City to perform at the National FFA Convention. Previously, the convention had been held in the summer, but that year it was moved to October, and Lintner thought the weather might be chilly. When Overly, Scheff and the rest of the band showed up at the convention with their new jackets, other delegates were so impressed that they adopted the jackets as the official uniform for members across the country. Since then, more than 3 million jackets have been issued to FFA members.
Home of the FFA jacket
Scheff and Overly recently helped commemorate that moment in FFA history when they unveiled an Ohio Historical Marker that recognizes Fredericktown as the home of the FFA jacket. The marker is located near Fredericktown High School, and six additional signs are posted along roads leading into town.
Matt Chrispin, superintendent of Fredericktown Local Schools, coordinated efforts to verify the jacket history for the historical marker application. He realized how special the jackets are several years ago, when he attended the National FFA Convention as vice principal for Marysville Schools. “As far as the eye could see — blue corduroy jackets,” he recalled during the Sept. 8 marker dedication.
Jeff Ward, chief financial officer for the Ohio History Connection, noted that the jacket marker is unique among the many historical markers that describe people, places, things and events from Ohio’s past. “This is the first Ohio Historical Marker to honor an item of clothing,” he explained.
For Holly McClay, Ohio FFA vice president and a former president of the Fredericktown FFA, the marker is a symbol of honor, faith and pride, just as FFA jackets are to members. When people ask where she’s from, she usually has to explain that Fredericktown is a small town that’s 50 miles north of Columbus, Ohio. People may not be familiar with the town, but they are familiar with the jackets, she noted: “The FFA jacket is recognized nationally.”
Original FFA emblems replicated
During the marker dedication ceremony, Mark Hoops, owner of the Universal Lettering Co., presented Overly and Scheff with plaques embroidered with replicas of the emblems from the original Fredericktown FFA jackets. Lintner worked with the company, based in Van Wert, Ohio, to design and make the original jackets, and the company continues to produce FFA jackets. For the last three years they’ve sold about 80,000 every year.
Guests at the ceremony were invited to bring or wear their FFA jackets, and jackets displayed by the crowd showed a few changes in emblem design over the years. Dale Crabtree, one of the directors of the National FFA Organization, told Hoops that another design change might be helpful for former members who can no longer zip their jackets. “Please find a way to keep them from shrinking in the closet.”