Figure 1.--Scouts around the world wore short pants uniforms. American Scouts mostly wore knickers, except for camps and the jamboree. The Boy Scout Association, however, incouraged boys to wear the short pants uniform.
The world Scouting movement traces its origins to England at the beginning of the 20th Century. The movement owes much to British General Robert Stevenson-Smyth Baden-Powell, better known as Lord Baden-Powell. He had written a booklet-called Aids to Scouting--about his methods of Army training. Americans like Ernest Seaton also contributed to the early Scouting movement. After the Brownsea Island camp, B.-P. finished his classic book Scouting for Boys and in 1908 it was published in eight fortnightly parts, each costing one penny. B.-P. had expected that Scouting for Boys would be used by youth organizations which were already in existence, but boys all over the country formed themselves into Scout groups--leading to a separate, more secular movement. B.-P. was surprised to find that Scouting was appealing to boys outside the Commonwealth and in other countries. Younger boys were also interested and Wolf Cubbing was founded. The Scouting Movement grew rapidly in Europe and America after World War I. The rise of Fascism and Communism impeded the movement, but it florished where no banned by totalitarian governments. The registered membership of the Boy Scouts of America in 2000 was about 4 million and in recent years has been rising. Most ofthese are youth. Worldwide there are about 21 million Scouts.
The world Scouting movement traces its origins to England at the beginning of the 20th Century. The movement owes much to British General Robert Stevenson-Smyth Baden-Powell , better known as Lord Baden-Powell . (His formal title, granted in 1929, 22 years after the founding of the movement, was "Sir Robert Baden-Powell, Lord Gilwell", or sometimes, "Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell".) Baden-Powell had written a booklet-called Aids to Scouting--about his methods of Army training. It was published in England during the siege of Mafeking, a South African town attacked by the Bohers during the Boer War. When the General returned home to England from South Africa, he was surprised to find that a lot of boys had bought the booklet and had got together in small groups on their own to practice Scouting. They called themselves Boy Scouts.
Baden-Powell (or B.-P. as he was called in England) decided to re-write the book especially for boys. He incorporated the ideas of other youth leaders like the Americans Daniel Carter Beard and Ernest Thompson Seaton. In later years both men would accuse Baden-Powell of stealing their ideas. Baden-Powell in 1907 he decided to try out his ideas of Scouting with a group of boys. He wanted a place where he would not be interrupted by newspapermen, who were always interested in what the hero of Mafeking was doing. Some friends owned Brownsea Island in Dorset, which provided an ideal location. At
the end of July, 1907, B.-P. and some other helpers took 21 boys and his nephew to camp for a week on the island. Some of the boys were sons of B.-P.'s friends, and others came from the Bournemouth and Poole Boys' Brigade-another English youth group.
The boys had quite an exciting time. They apparently had never known anything like it before, because in those days no one went camping for their holidays! The boys swam, signalled, tracked, cooked, hiked and played games. Every evening they sat round a camp fire and listened as B.-P. told them about his adventures in many parts of the world. The camp was a great success and the Scouting movement as we know it today was underway.
After the Brownsea Island camp, B.-P. finished his classic book Scouting for Boys and in 1908 it was published in eight fortnightly parts, each costing one penny. B.-P. had expected that Scouting for Boys would be used by youth
organizations which were already in existence. However, all over the country, boys were forming themselves into Scout Troops and asking adults to lead them. B.-P. was still an officer in the Regular Army. He received hundreds of letters from boys telling him of their adventures and he had to open a small office.
Before the end of 1908, boys had started Scouting in Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.
Scouts (over 11,000 boys and 7 girls) from all parts of the country got together for a rally at the Crystal Palace in London. 6,000 other girls had already registered as 'Girl Scouts', and B.-P. thought the girls needed a special scheme of their own. His sister Agnes agreed to help and the Girl Guide movement was started. King Edward VII, who had attended the rally, summoned B.-P. to Balmoral Castle in October, 1909, and made him a Knight for his outstanding service as a
soldier, and for giving the country Scouting.
B.-P. was pleased, but surprised, to find that Scouting was appealing to boys outside the Commonwealth. By 1910, Scouting had started in 16 countries and was still spreading quickly. B.-P. felt he should retire early from the Army and give all his time to Scouting. A lot of younger boys wanted to be Scouts, but it was difficult for them to do the things described for older boys in Scouting for Boys. B.-P. realized that boys between the ages of 8 and 11 needed a scheme especially for themselves. He found just the right background in The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling, in which there are stories about Mowgii, the man cub, growing up in the jungle with wolves, obeying Akela the wise old wolf and learning the law of the jungle from Baloo the bear, Bagheera the panther, Kaa the snake, Chil the kite, and Raksha the mother wolf. The Wolf Cub Section of the Scouts was started in 1916. Wolf Cubs are now called Cub Scouts. The Cub Scouts of today do different things from the first Wolf Cubs. The first jungle story is still told to new Cubs, and within the Pack the adult Leaders (Scouters) are called after the jungle animals. The Cub Scout Leader is always called Akela, and the Assistant Cub Scout Leaders take their names from the other animals.
Figure 2.--Cub uniforms, like the one worn by this Canadian cub, now vary greatly from country to country.
An American publisher, William D. Boyce of Chicago, one day in the
fall of 1909 recalls stopping under a street lamp to get his
bearings. London was in the grip of one of its infamous dense fogs.
Out of the gloom a boy approached him and asked if he could be of
assistance. Boyce happily accepted the offer. He told the boy that
he wanted to find a business office in the center of the city.
I'll take you there, said the boy. When they reached the destination, the American put his hand in his pocket for a tip.
The boy quickly stopped him. No, thank you, sir, he said.
Not for doing a good turn.
And why not? asked Boyce.
Because I am a Scout. And a Scout doesn't take anything
A Scout? And what might that be? Boyce asked.
The English Scout told the American publisher about himself and other English Scouts. Boyce was interested in what he heard. After finishing his errand, he had the boy take him to the British Boy Scout office. There the boy saluted and disappeared and to this day has never been identified. At the headquarters Boyce met Robert Baden-Powell. Boyce was so impressed with what he learned about Scouting that he decided to introduce it to America.
Boyce and a group of other prominent Americans interested in the
welfare of boys incorporated the Boy Scouts of America on February 8, 1910, in Washington, D.C.,. That date has since been observed as the birthday of American Scouting. At the British Scout Training Center at Gilwell Park, England, there stands a statuette of an American buffalo. It represents the highest award of the Boy Scouts of America, the "Silver Buffalo," given for outstanding service to boyhood. It was put there in 1926 in honor of the "Unknown Scout" whose good turn brought the Scout movement to the United States.
The modern Scouting leadership training program emerged immediately after the First World War in 1919. On the morning of September 8, 1919, a 61 year-old retired British Army general stepped into the center of a clearing at Gilwell Park, in Epping Forest, outside London, England. He raised the horn of a Greater Kudu, one of the largest of African antelopes to his mouth and blew a long sharp blast. Nineteen men dressed in short pants and knee socks, their
shirt-sleeves rolled up, assembled by patrols for the first Scoutmasters' training camp held at Gilwell. The training camp was the inspiration of Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the World Scouting Movement. When they had finished their training program Baden-Powell gave each man a simple wooden bead from a necklace he had found in a Zulu chieftain's deserted hut when on campaign in South Africa during 1888. The Scoutmasters' training course was a great
success and continued to be held year-after-year. At the end of each course the wooden beads were used to recognize the successful completion of the training program. When the original beads ran out, new ones were whittled to maintain the tradition established by Baden-Powell. Because of these beads, the course came to be known as the Wood Badge Course. It continues to this day in England and around the world as the advanced training course for Scout leaders.
Although an experimental course was conducted in 1936, Wood Badge
training was officially inaugurated in the United States in 1948. Since
that time it has grown and developed and become a key motivating force in the training of volunteer leaders in the Boy Scouts of America. For 10 years, Wood Badge courses were conducted by the Boy Scouts of America exclusively for the purpose of training representatives from councils in methods of training and how to help with the leadership training programs of their own councils. Participants were required to subscribe to an agreement of service to this effect.
Figure 3.--Scouting spread rapidly in America during the 1900s and 1910s, but unlike European boys, American boys mostly wore knickers as part of their uniform.
The Scouting Movement grew rapidly in Europe and America after World War I. Scouting existed in all European countries as well and soon spread to Latin American and European colonies in Africa and Asia. The development of the movement was truncated by the Nazis, Communists, and Japanese militarists. Scouting was outlawed by the totalitarians which sought to dominate schools and youth groups to thoroughly indoctrinate children. No group proved, however, as popular to boys in
countries where the movement was free to operate the movement now extends to virtually every country around the world. After the defeat of the Nazis and Japanese, the movement soon flourished in liberated countries. The fall of Eastern European Communist Governments in the late 1980s reopened these countries to the Scouting movement. The disolution of the Soviet Union opened in 1991 opened several new countries. The registered membership of the Boy Scouts of America in 2000 was about 4 million and in recent years has been rising. Most of
these are youth. Worldwide there are about 21 million Scouts.
Given the Baden-Powell's role in the Scout movement, the original
English Scout uniforms had a decidedly military look--although the Scouts were in many ways less militrized than the Boys' Brigade. The early American Scout uniform followed the English example. The English and some Europeans have given great attention to the uniform, more so than in the more easy growing United States and many other counties. Uniform inspections have been more common in England. At events such as Scout Band competitions, the inspections can be quite rigorous. The English tend to have a stricte national standard. When
the English Scout movement decided to shift to long pants in 1969, virtually all troops followed suit. In American, Scouting is much more identified with outdoor events where uniform standards were less rigorous. In addition, individual councils and even troops are allowed considerable leeway on how to wear the uniform and over the year a great diversity of hats, kerchiefs, knickers, long and short pants, can be observed at Cub and Scout groups.
Over the years the Scout uniform in different transformed in to more suitable field uniform. Scout leaders in each country adopting the movement made a variety of changes, incorporating elements of national dress. Special uniforms were developed for the younger Cub Scouts as well as Sea Scouts and groups for older Scouts, such as the Explorers in the United States. Today younger Scouts very much like their uniforms and older Scouts in America tolerate them. Many European Scouts have virtually abanded their uniforms.
The American Scout uniform has been markedly changed [except the Sea Scouts] three times since 1910, each time becoming somewhat more European. The last time was in 1980, ostensibly being redesigned by Oscar de la Renta, who produced something curiously resembling a French uniform of about 1960. The Girl Scouts (a separate and smaller organisation) in America change their uniforms much more often and allow for individual choices amounting to fashion statements. They are also less strict about their use.
The Scout movement which developed before World War I had a
significant impact on boys' fashions. The short pants introduced as part of the uniform were to dominate boys' clothing in Europe for five decades. The shorts proved less popular in America where most Scouts wore knickers.
We are building a separate satellite web site to provide details on the development of the Scout and other uniformed youth group uniforms along with many historical photographs. You might find these and other Scout-related pages of interest. We would be very interested in any information you may have on the topic. The Scouts is one of the many youth groups pursue in great detail in HBC's Historic Boys' Uniform site. We survey the uniforms worn by Scouts as well as other youth groups all over the world.
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