The Boys' Brigade was organized in America during 1887. Sir William Smith helped bring the Boys Brigade to America. Units were founded in several different cities. Given the strength of Christianity in America, one might have thought that the BB would have become a very important organization. President Theodore Roosevelt comnmended Smith for his service to boys. We are not sure why the BB was so sucessful in Britain and had such limited success in America. We note a few BB groups in America, but going on the photographic record, there were not very many. The Brigade never experienced great success in America. The exclusive church-based approach was one factor limiting its growth--even among the many religious families. The more diverse American Christian community was surely a facgtor. The Brigade was a Protestant movement and did not appeal to Cathlolics. And there were even problems with various Protestant denominations. The association with Britain probably was not an advantage in America. And eventually the groups that were formed were rapidly engulfed by the more secular Boy Scout movement. Today few American boys have even heard of the Boys' Brigade.
The Boys Brigade originated in Scotland. It was the first uniformed youth orgaization in the world. It is stronrst in Britain, but groups have spread to many other countries, primarily British colonis that are now independent. Sir William Alexander Smith founded the Boys Brigade on October 4, 1883 when he formed a company of 35 Boys at Free Church Mission Hall, North Woodside Road, Glasgow. William Smith, a Sunday School teacher and an officer of the 1st Lanark Rifle Volunteers devised a unique system of church activities for boys based on religion and discipline. The Boys' Brigade was organized in America during 1887. Sir William Smith helped bring the Boys Brigade to America. Units were founded in several different cities. President Theodore Roosevelt comnmended him for his service to boys. We have not yet found any 19th century photographs, but we have found a few images from the early-20th century. The organization was, however, engulfed by the Boy Scout movement. The Scouting program proved to be much more popular with the boys than the more austere Brigde progrm. Today few American boys have even heard of the Boys' Brigade. The Brigade contuinues, however, to be active in Britain and former British colobies.
Sir William Smith paid a visit to America at the cordial invitation of General H.P. Bope who was Commander-in-Chief of the United Boys' Brigades of America (UBB). Sir William saw Boys Brigade work in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago and St. Louis. He met the President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, who thanked him for all he had done for Boys throughout the world. Smith found `the American Boy a very charming product of civilization, well set up, keen and alert, with a fascinating frankness and brightness which are simply irresistible'.
There seem to have been elaborate uniforms loosely based on Civil War styles. This was very differentthan the Brigade's approach in Britain. We suspect that Sir William would not have approved of the extravagant uniforms observeable in early-20th century photographs. We see ranks and uniforms - Officers all dressed up with swords, braided tunics, peaked caps and crests. The basic style seems to have been Federal Civil War uniforms. The Boys wore blue drill jackets with seven brass buttons, a black leather belt, white duck trousers, brown leggings and a French chasseur cap with cross guns in front. They were festooned with medals and decorations of every kind. We are not sure how clisely the varrious units formed complied. The New York group here seems to have complied fairly cliosely (figure 1). Other images suggest that there was no closely defined style other than Federal Cicil War styles.
Sir William noted that age limits were not strictly kept at either end. Unlike the future Boy Scouts, there was no important national organization to spell out regulations in great detail. Rather individualunit settled such matters largely on their own. "Some mere children of 9 years were to be observed, while in several cases the 'Boys' in the ranks were of such mature age that they were able to refer to their wives!' We note a wide, but poorly define age range in the few photographs we have managed to find.
The Brigade never, however, experienced great success in America. The exclusive church-based approach was one factor limiting its growth--even among the many religious families. The Brigade did not appeal to Cathlolic and many other denominations--especilly findamentalisy sects. The organization was engulfed by the Boy Scout movement. Today few American boys have even heard of the Boys' Brigade.
Navigate the Historic Boys' Uniform Chronology Pages:
[Main chronologies page]
[The 1880s] [The 1890s] [The 1900s] [The 1910s] [The 1920s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1950s] [The 1960s] [The 1970s] [The 1980s]
Navigate the Historic Boys' Uniform Web Site:
[Activities] [Biographies] [Chronologies] [Countries] [Essays] [Garments] [Organizations] [Religion] [Other]
[Introduction] [Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Questions] [Unknown images]
[Boys' Uniform Home]
Navigate the Historic Boys' Uniform Web organizatiion pages:
[Return to the Main Boys' Brigade country page]
[Return to the Main Boys' Brigade page]
[Return to the Main American Boys' organizations page]
[Church Lads] [Camp Fire] [Hitler Youth] [National] [Pioneers] [Royal Rangers] [Scout]