Youth Group Chronology: Century Trends

HBC is developing information on developments in youth organizations and overall uniform trends in boys' uniform organizations worldwide. Youth organizations are modern developments. The appearance of youth organizations is strongly related to the industricalization and urbanization of European society in the 19th century, especially the late-19th century. Boys in rural areas during the 19th century commonly began working from an early age and there was generally no lack of jobs that needed to be done. And there were ampel oportunities for recreational. Boys had no trouble finding recreational activities in rural environments. Boys in the city had far fewer opportunities and juvenile delinquency began to grow as a serious social problem. This was the origin of the first youth organization--the British Boys' Brigade. Another early thread was that in the growing, polluted cities, boys were often cut off from healthy enviroments and the great outdoors. This was the genesis of the German Wandervogel. It was, however, in the 20th century that youth organizations emerged as a major social force. Baden Ppwell's Boy Scouts began as an offshoot of the Boys' Brigade but developed as the major international youth organization. The initial impetus was to get boys into healthy outdoor activities. The Scouts developed with a less sectrarian program than the Boys' brigade. Initially a British movement, Scouting geadually developed an international orientation. After World War I, new groups appeared with political orientations, both Communist and Fascist groups. Some had xenephobic and racist ideologically based programs. The most important of these movenents was the Hitler Youth. After World War II, Fascosm was descreited, but the expansion of Communism resulted in the appearce of Young Pioneer movements in many different countries. Unlike Scouting, membership was basically mandatory. Scouting continued to be important after World War II sround the War. At the end of the 20th century, however, Scouting has declined, in part because of the many different recreational and educational opportunities available to youth. The collaose of Communism in Eastern Union and the Siviet Union essentially meant the end of the Young Pioneer program, although it continues in Cuba and Asia.

The 19th Century

Youth organizations are modern developments. The appearance of youth organizations is strongly related to the industricalization and urbanization of European society in the 19th century, especially the late-19th century. Boys in rural areas during the 19th century commonly began working from an early age and there was generally no lack of jobs that needed to be done. And there were ampel oportunities for recreational. Boys had no trouble finding recreational activities in rural environments. Boys in the city had far fewer opportunities and juvenile delinquency began to grow as a serious social problem. This was the origin of the first youth organization--the British Boys' Brigade. The Boys' Brigade began in Scotland, but spread to England. It has a strong Protestant religuous program element. Another early thread was that in the growing, polluted cities, boys were often cut off from healthy enviroments and the great outdoors. This was the genesis of the German Wandervogel. Wandervogel was a secular program. Youth group membership was very limited during the 19th century, bith in terms of mational programs and actual membership.

1840s

The Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) was founded during 1844 in London. The first association was founded by George Williams, an apprentice at a drapery store, who organized 12 associates into a group to promote Christian standards of conduct among their fellow apprectices. The concept rapidly spread throughot Europe and in only a few years had crossed the Atlantic. While not a uniformed group, The YMCA was the first association directed at youth activities. For the first time adults conceived of an organized group to direct youth activities into positive chnanels.

1850s

The Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) which had been organized in England during the 1840s reached America in the 1850s. The first YMCA was organized in Boston and Montreal in 1851. This came about largely from entusiastic letters home from young Americans and Candanias living in London. American and Cannadian YMCAs held their first conference in 1854 and the convention agreed to a loose confederation, annual convention, and the creation of a central committee. The first world conference was held in Paris during 1855 and formed a World Alliance. The YMCA was initially conceived as an association for young men, but work with boys, not forseen by the founders, was to become a key activity for the new organization. Two giants in the foundation of boys' uniformed youth groups were born in the 1850s. Daniel Carter Beard was born during 1850 in America. Robert Baden Powell was born in England during 1857.

1860s

Two important guiding lights in the foundation of uniformed boys' groups were founded in the 1860s. Ernest Thompson Seton was born in America during the 1860s. Author and proponent of British colonialism, Rudyard Kipling, was born in England during 1865. A major development in 1860 was the opening of the first American Boys Club in Harford, Connecticut. The organization was not a uniformed group, but was one of the earliest attempts to provide recreational opportunities and a safe environment for the city poor.

1870s

The idea of organized boys groups began to receice increasing attention in the 1870s. The founders of the clubs at the onset focused on the problem of street boys and addressed the increasngly serious problem of preventing juvenile delinquency. The growing YMCA movement, originally untended for young men had by the 1870s begun to give some attention to the need to work with boys. The first U.S. Boy's Club was established in America (Harford, Connecticut) in 1860. The idea spread to many other U.S. cities. A Boys Clun was established in New York during 1876. A good assessment of the ealy clubs is avaiable in the chapter on boys' clubs in David Macleod, Building Character in the American Boy: The Boy Scouts, YMCA, and Their Forerunners, 1870-1920 (1983).

1880s

Rising concern registered in the late 19th Century with the number of boys behaving roudily in public places. Growing numbers of boys were entered the monied economy. Poverty was rife. But there were more and better paying jobs than ever before. Boys could get jobs and as a result had more buying power than ever before. European populations were becoming increasinly urbanized. This meant that in the anonamous city, a boys behavior was no longer constantly monitored by family. After work they wanted to kick up their heels a bit. And in the anonamous city boys felt fewer constraints than they would have in a small village. Groups of rowdy boys raised eyebrows and adults discussed how to deal with the growing problems. One of the answers, prooted primarily by churc groups, was to sponser youth groups to channel boys' energies. Boys' youth groups began to appear to channel their energies. Most of these groups were uniformed groups.

1890s

The first uniformed boys' youth group, the Boys' Brigade, appears in Scotland and spreads to England, adopting paramilitary uniforms and military drill. The Wandervogel movement appears informally in Germany and adoptes short pants--but less militarized uniforms.


Figure 2.--Germany before the NAZIs seized power in 1933 had one of the largest and most diverse youth movements in the world. There were German Scouts, but the movement was not as important as in other countries. Many groups were formed by religious and political groups. There were also sports clubs with youth auxilleries..

The 20th Century

It was in the 20th century that youth organizations emerged as a major social force. Baden Powell's Boy Scouts began as an offshoot of the Boys' Brigade but developed as the major international youth organization. The initial impetus was to get boys into healthy outdoor activities. The Scouts developed with a less sectrarian program than the Boys' brigade. Initially a British movement, Scouting geadually developed an international orientation. The Scouts developed variously in different countries. The ethos at first was strongly British, but after some consideration shifted to a national orientation. Scouting became very important in many European countries, America, and Canada. The Scouting movement with its middle-class orientation proved especially important in America which developed the largest Scouting movement. Race proved to be a grear hurdel for Scouting to deal with. After World War I, new groups appeared with political orientations, both Communist and Fascist groups. These groups were very different from the family-based Scouting program. Some had xenephobic and racist ideologies which they fused with a youth activities program heavily borrowed from Scouting. All rejected the basic tenents of liberal democracy. The most important of these movenents was the Hitler Youth which effectively prepared young Germans in the space of only a few years to for another world war and genovide. After World War II, Fascism was descreited, but the expansion of Communism resulted in the appearce of Young Pioneer movements in many different countries. Unlike Scouting, membership was basically mandatory. Scouting continued to be important after World War II around the War. Scouting which became an international movement early on finally after World War II began to address the race issue. At the end of the 20th century, however, Scouting has declined, in part because of the many different recreational and educational opportunities available to youth. The collapse of Communism in Eastern Union and the Soviet Union essentially meant the end of the Young Pioneer program, although it continues in Cuba and Asia.


Figure 3.--Germany before the NAZIs seized power in 1933 had one of the largest and most diverse youth movements in the world. There were German Scouts, but the movement was not as important as in other countries. Many groups were formed by religious and political groups. There were also sports clubs with youth auxilleries..

The 21st Century

Many youth groups continue to operate in the 21st century. The best known is the Boy Scouts which is active in many countries around the world. Scouting has changed a great deal. Cubbing which began as a junior part of the larger Scouting movvement is now the largest part of the program in most countries. Scouting suffers from the fact that there are many more activities available for boys than was the case in the early 20th century. And Scouting has to compete with the fact that modern children with computers, games consuls, and other electronic devives have many ways of diverting themselves at home. As a result the memberships of Scouting groups have declined from peak levels reached in the 1950s-60s in many countries. Scoters differ as to how to confront this problem. Some want to maintain a traditional program. Others have tried to introfuce modern program elements to interest more boys. Scouting in America also faces challenges in the increasingly sharp divisions between religious beliefs and an increasingly secular society. The Young Pioneers disappeared in many countries with the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The Young Pioneers continue in Cuba and the Communist Asian countries. These are mandatory programs and as a result include very large numbers of members, especially of course in China. There are also a variety of different smaller groups in various countries around the world.







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Created: 12:02 AM 3/26/2009
Last updated: 12:02 AM 3/26/2009