The BSA initially sold Scout uniforms and equipmet through its Department of Scout supplies. BSA publications show that this was a major undertaking by 1919, probably earlier as well. Uniforms have also been sold through mail order firms. I believe that Penny's Sears, and Ward have all sold Scout uniforms under contract with the BSA. I'm hazzy on this, but I sem to recall in the 1950s going to a Sears store to be fitted for my Cub uniform. Penny's for example appears to have been the major distributor in the 1970s. Scout shops as were common in Britain, appear to have been less common in America. Today the internet is a major way of distributing Scout uniforms.
The U.S. Boy Scout Association (BSA) Supply Division, formerly the Department of Scout Supplies, is the ONLY authorized distributor of official BSA merchandise, uniforms, insignia and accessories for Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts/Varsity Scouts, Venturers and their adult leaders and professional members. The BSA's Supply Division grants "distributorships" on a national and local basis based on the potential amount of sales and the availability of it's outlets to the greatest segments of Scouts/Scouters. A special seal with the BSA logo is displayed in the front and within the Scout sales section of those stores certified by the BSA to sell official uniforms, insignia and accessories. Of the national department store chains, only Penney's and Sears carry this seal; and only the BSA's Supply Division approves retail outlets to offer and special-order BSA merchandise.
We have begun to collect some details on how American boys have ordered their Scout uniforms over time.
The BSA initially sold Scout uniforms and equipmet through its Department of Scout supplies. The Boy Scouts of America was incorporated in 1910. The United States Congress in 1916 granted a federal charter to the Boy Scouts to protect their name and to authorize uniforms similar to U.S. military uniforms. Thus no one could compete with the BSA in the sale of uniforms. BSA publications show that the mail order sale of uniforms and equipment was a major undertaking by 1919. The BSA bragged about their efficent office workers. Presumably this mail operation was begun almost as the BSA was established to make uniforms available to Scouts around the country. mail order suppliers were already well established in the United Sates and thus consunmers were used to ordering clothing, and just about every thing else including the kitchen sink, by mail.
Uniforms have also been sold through mail order firms. I'm not positive when that began. I believe that Penny's Sears, and Ward have all sold Scout uniforms under contract with the BSA. Rumes were tough in the Depression era of the 1930s. Many Scouts dyed shirts and pants rather than buying the expensive official gear.
A Texas Scout in the 1940s remembers purchasing his Scout uniform at Penny's and a local department store which also handled Scout uniforms. He says though that some Scouts still dyed shirts and pants rather than buying the expensive official gear.
I'm hazzy on this, but I sem to recall in the 1950s going to a Sears store to be fitted for my Cub uniform. A HBC reader from Texas with a better memory reports, "In the late 1950s in our town Sears (still called Sears and Roebuck by many then!) had a section of for
BSA items - clothing and gear) in the boys' section (where else?!). I remember the BSA section was placed very close to the escalator in that store, so it was
visible and easy to find."
By the late 1950s and early 60's most boys were buying their uniforms and gear from Sears, or perhaps some camping equipment might have been handed down from older brothers who were Scouts. With the post-war prosperity, few boys had to dye clothes to come up with uniform parts. As a result, the "home made" look was frowned upon by BSA troops. Official BSA clothes and goods were generally strongly encouraged.
Penny's for example appears to have been the major distributor in the 1970s. We begin many Cubs wearing jeans rather than the officing BSA uniform pants.
A reader reports that in the 1990s that Penney's sold uniforms and equipment in a
section of the boys' wear, just as Sears did back then. Penney's in the late 90s began publishing a separate catalog for BSA uniforms and gear. BSA items were previously found on just a few pages of Penney's larger catalog.
Today the internet is a major way of distributing Scout uniforms. The BSA no longer has exclusive suppliers. Many firms now offer official BSA supplies over the internet. Some specialize in Scout gear. Some companies that handle school uniforms, have added Scout uniforms as a side line. In 2002 both Penny's and Sears were handling Scout supplies. Sears is a national distributor of official BSA items, but their
website is not available for ordering those items online. You can however, order uniforms
and some basic books by going to any Sears store and placing a special order; or by
calling the local Sears store. (As you may be aware, Sears no longer has a retail
catalog.) The internet has even made possible a Uniform Bank to help Cuba and Scouts get their uinforms at low cost. Some Councils sponsor Uniform Recycling Centers to provide clean, "slightly experienced" uniforms to boys at low cost.
Scout shops as were common in Britain, appear to have been less common in America. E do notice, however, a number of Scout Shops and Scout Stores around the country. They often sell Boy and Girl Scout uniforms and supplies as well as camping equiment in general.
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