United States Boy ScoutUniforms: Chronology -- The 1910s

Figure 1.--Here we see an unidetified American Boy Scout troop from the earky 1910s. Notice the 47 star flag that was flow unil Arizna joined theUnion (1913). Also notice the jacket ifirm the boys are wearing. Some of the boys do not yet have their uniformd, showig uspopular fashions durng the 1910s. Put your cursor on the image to see the rest of the troop.

The BSA triumphed over competitive groups in large part because it management to appropriate the major national symbols. In this regard, nothing seemed more patriotic than the uniforms that khaki-green uniform that millions of Americans were putting on to fight in the War. The BSA was very similar to the U.S. army uniform which closely associated BSA Scouting with national service. The uniform was a major issues in early American Scouting. Not every new Scout was equipped with the same items. Early portraits of Scout troops often shows substantial variations in how the boys were equipped. Acquiring the full official uniform was strongly encouraged by many units. This tended to make the Scouts a middle-class organization as often poor boys who could not afford the uniform decided against Scouting or was made to feel uncomfortable. One historian reports, "... acquisition of full uniforms soon became a test of commitment." [Macleod, p. 178.] The BSA gave individual Councils the authority to require them by 1918. (When the new uniform was introduced in 1922, it was made mandatory. There was no "activity uniform" in early Scouting. The Scouts wore their uniform for every activity. The same uniform was used for hiking and camping that was used for dress occasions such as parades. The BSA was determined to present their boys as well ordered young men and not uncouth mountain men. A historian reports, "... leaders wanted all who met them to know that they were sepoys, not savages; the uniform made it clear that control outweighed free-ranging woodmanship". [Macleod, p. 178.] As in Britain, American Scouting was not without critics. The principal one was the military as opposed to the wood craft approach to Scouting. The early Scouting movement in actuality had not decided to what extent that Scouting should be seen as preparation for military service. Certainly the choice of uniform gave that impression. We know of no actual agreements between the BSA and the military. Among many BSA officials, however, "So closely, however, did patriotism, discipline, and military service seem to be related that Boy Scout leaders had trouble telling them apart." [Macleod, p. 178.]


Macleod, David I. Building Character in the American Boy: The Boy Scouts, YMCA, and Their Forerunners, 1870-1920 (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1983), 315p.


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Created: 11:01 PM 5/1/2015
Last updated: 11:01 PM 5/1/2015