United States Boy Scout Trends: The 1910s--Annual Developments

Figure 1.--Here we see a newly organized Ametican Boy Scout troop. They are unidentified. The photograph was taken in the very early-1910s. It might veven have been take in the late-1900s before the BSA was firmaly founded. Interesting grouping of kids, one with his faithful pooch. Only four boys have uniforms or at least uniform-looking shirts. We do not see any actual BSA uniforms. There are some hats with the fleur de lis. Notice that there are no neckerchiefs, but quite a few neckties. Put your cursor on the image to see the rest of the troop.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) was founded by William D. Boyce and several associates (1910). Boyce was a businessman with an interest in youth work. His critical contribution to Scouting was to organize the BSA as a business. He incorporated the organization, choosing Washington, DC, rather than Chicago to emphasize its national character. It was in Washington that the BSA was incorporated on February 8, 1910. The BSA chose an army lool-alike style complete with the Baden-Powell lemon squeezer hat. We see many troops organizing throughout the countru=y during the 1910s. Many early troops did not have the uniform. Often only a few boys had the uniform. Th BSA was bnew anf getting the cuniform was a ptoblkem logistically. By the ebd if the decade, trioops were becoming much better uniformed as scouting became increasingly established. The uniform was poular and most boys swanted to wear it. They either petered their parents or went out and earned the money, Scouting very quickly becane part pf the american landscape and American boyhood. It was a phenomenal achievement for such a novel socia movenent.


The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) was founded by William D. Boyce and several associates (1910). Boyce was a businessman with an interest in youth work. His critical contribution to Scouting was to organize the BSA as a business. He incorporated the organization, choosing Washington, DC, rather than Chicago to emphasize its national character. It was in Washington that the BSA was incorporated on February 8, 1910. Boyce recruited key youth professionals, primarily from the YMCA, to design and operate the program, and he provided essential funding for the fledgling organization. The Scouts held their first camp held at Silver Bay, Lake George, N.Y. in 1910. The YMCA and Seaton were heavily involved in that first camp. Boyce turned the administration of the BSA over to Edgar Robinson and the YMCA. Robinson recruited famed naturalist Ernest Thompson Seaton to join his Woodcraft Indians with the BSA. Boyce and Seaton began and active campaign to absorb all other Scout-type youth organizations into the BSA. Indeed, only one such organization held out past 1912--publisher William Randolph Hearst's militaristic American Boy Scout organization. Seaton prepared the original American Boy Scout manual. Decisions taken in 1910, especially the decision to allow the Councils to approve new troops were to result in the exclusion of blacks from the movement, especially in the South, even an attempt to form a segregated unit of black Scouts (the Lincoln Scouts) was rejected.


James West takes over as BSA executive on January 1. The BSA National Scout Office opened in New York with 7 employees in 1911. West oversaw the publication of the Handbook For Boys which replaced Seaton's first Scout manual. The new handbook included the American Scout Oath, Law, advancement requirements, uniforms, badges, and much information on woodcraft, nature lore, camping skills, athletics, first aid, life-saving skills, patriotism, and citizenship. The BSA presented its first Heroism award. The photograph here is how many troops looked in the first years of Scouting (figure 1).


The BSA by 1912 Scouts had enrolled from every State. The first National Good Turn: A Sane and Safe Fourth of July was begun in 1912. The BSA purchased Boy's Life in 1912. The BSA in 1912 adopted Sea Scouting as part of the Scouting program. The first Eagle Scout was awarded in 1912.


The Boy Scout movement continued to growvery rapidly. The BSA charted the first local councils in 1913. The BSA created Scouting Magazine in 1913. The BSA published the Handbook for Scoutmasters in 1913. We note a wide range of publicity efforts to acquaint the public with the growing movement. We note one troop with an exhibit at the Ohio State Fair. It looks like a rustic building made of logs and timbers. We are not sure what kind of activities were conducted for the public. Not all of the participating boys had uniforms yet. They managed to attract note other than Buffalo Bill Cody looking evry bit of the part from his Wild West shows. We do not know of any official relationship between the Scouts and Cody. Of course Cody began his fabeled career as an Army Scout. There was, as a result, a certain affinity. He passed away a few years after this appearance.


The BSA troop committee plan was developed in 1914. World War I began in Europe during August 1914 when German declared war on France and attacked through Belgium. The Scouting movement was mobilized by the combatant countries to assist in the War effort. America stayed out of the War, however, until 1917.


William Boyce organized the Lone Scouts of America in 1915. The Order of the Arrow was founded in Philadelphia during 1915. The BSA in 1915 issued 57 merit badge books. West managed to push Seaton out of the BSA in 1915. The BSA, without Seaton, quickly established a national office, developed a temporary handbook, sought out Baden- Powell's endorsement (which they got), and began to work to get a Congressional Charter from the US Congress. The boys were just beginning to get their uniform.


A key development was the BSA after several years effort finally convinced Congress to grant a Federal Charter on June 15, 1916. Although the measure's sponsors assured a Texas congressman that the BSA would not be, the new charter was actually quite broad, giving the BSA in essence a monopoly on Scouting in America. The BSA received exclusive rights to not only the emblems and badges it had developed, but also to the "words or phrases now or heretofore used by the Boy Scouts of America...". Congress in 1916 also prohibited civilians from wearing uniforms which resembled American military uniforms. One exception was made--the BSA. While not fully understood at the time, these measures gave the BSA an enormous advantage over existing and future uniformed boys groups. It is the reason that there is only one significant Scout association in America, unlike the multiplicity of associations in many European countries. This Federal legislation in 1916 in effect made the BSA a truly national institution, providing the legal basis for a BSA monopoly on Boy Scouting." [Macleod, p. 157.] The exclusive right to use a military-looking uniform was especially important and proved to be an enormous advantage with American entered World War I in 1917. The BSA in 1916 also adopted a constitution and by-laws.


The BSA established the Veteran Scout program in 1917. America declared war on Germany in April 1917. A wave of patriotism spread like a tidal wave over the country. The BSA was able to take advantage of this patriotic spirit. The BSA after the entry of America in World War I, begins home-front service in 1917 with the "Help win the war". The Scout motto, "Be prepared" was put into action. The Scouts pursued many home-front activities. Scouts planted "war gardens" with the slogan, "Every Scout to feed a soldier". They sold over 2 million war bonds. Another project was to collect peach pits which were used to make charcoal for gas masks. These patriotic projects helped to make the Boy Scouts enormously popular.


The War ended with the Armistice on November 11, 1918. The BSA rendered Nation-wide first-aid service in 1918 during the influenza epidemic. The BSA in 1918 established standards for Boy Scout camps.


The BSA in 1919 held the first annual National Boy Scout Week. Resorting to the federal courts, and aided by their Congressional Charter and testimony from Baden-Powell, the BSA finally obtained a favorable ruling against the "US Boy Scouts" (the old American Boy Scouts) in 1919.


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Created: 3:55 AM 1/26/2015
Last updated: 3:55 AM 1/26/2015